Peruvian rainforest 22 times the size of Chicago named a national park

Peruvian rainforest 22 times the size of Chicago named a national park
A scientist suspended from a helicopter is cabled down into the Sierra del Divisor mountain range in Peru in 2005. Credit: © Guillermo Knell, The Field Museum.

The Peruvian government announced on Sunday the designation of 3.3 million acres of Amazonian rainforest as a national park in the Sierra del Divisor mountain range. Chicago's Field Museum played a key role in the international effort that led to the creation of this conservation area.

For the past 15 years, The Field Museum has been leading Rapid Inventory programs in South America to discover the biological importance of remote regions and to work with local peoples to understand their use of the forests and their vision for the future. The Field did an initial fly-over of the site in 2002, and completed an inventory in 2005 that led to the discovery of more than 20 species new to science. Sierra del Divisor, a mountain range with unique geology, rises right up out of the middle of the Amazonian plain.

For ten years, The Field Museum has worked for the creation of the national park. The last four years have been devoted to partnering with indigenous people to develop conservation and quality-of-life plans.

The Field Museum's MacArthur Senior Conservation Ecologist and Director of the Andes-Amazon Program, Corine Vriesendorp, emphasized the collaborative nature of the project, explaining, "This is not a one-person effort, this is the culmination of ten years of numerous organizations working together—that's how you make conservation happen."

The land is home to thousands of plant and animal species, including birds, fishes, frogs, and plants found nowhere else in the world. But this biologically rich area is threatened on all sides by illegal logging, mining, coca plantations, and the oil industry. Protecting Sierra del Divisor as a will help safeguard the area's wildlife and provide a safe haven for the uncontacted Iskonawa who live there.

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