March 14, 2011
San Diego Zoo Global will play a key role in helping to conserve the Amazonian rainforest by taking on management responsibility for a conservation and research station located in the Manu Biosphere Reserve in Peru.
This will be the first South American-based field station for the San Diego Zoo and marks a significant extension of its commitment to the region.
Manu National Park is located in the western Amazon and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and, as such, is protected as a biosphere preserve.
It is one of the most biodiverse lowland tropical forests in the world and is considered one of the most pristine ecosystems on the planet.
"Cocha Cashu Biological Station, which is part of the Manu Biosphere Reserve, represents a significant expansion of our conservation efforts," said Allison Alberts, Ph.D., chief conservation and research officer for San Diego Zoo Global.
"We are inheriting a legacy of inestimable value and look forward to the challenge of understanding and conserving the unique and important biodiversity of Manu."
Through the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation ResearchTM, San Diego Zoo Global currently manages field programs in more than 35 countries around the world.
The new Peruvian-based station will be an important addition to the organization's existing conservation research stations, including three field stations in Cameroon's Ebo Forest, a California condor release site in Mexico, endangered bird breeding centers in Hawaii and San Clemente Island, and the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in Nevada.
Encompassing almost 6,000 square miles, the Manu Biosphere Reserve is protected as a national park by the Peruvian Department of Protected Areas in the Ministry of Environment.
San Diego Zoo Global, which will officially take over management of the field station at the beginning of summer, will be working with an existing team of Peruvian scientists in a collaborative effort to develop conservation science-based projects that study the many high-profile species that live in the Amazonian ecosphere.
"Manu is unrivaled in its biodiversity," said Ron Swaisgood, Ph.D., director of applied animal ecology at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation ResearchTM. "This project will allow us to expand our conservation efforts and develop partnerships with some of the key organizations and scientists working in the area."
The Park is estimated to be home for more than 1,000 bird species, 200 species of reptiles and amphibians, 125 species of mammals and 40 species of fish.
Living in the area of the field station are such rare and charismatic species as jaguars, giant river turtles, Goeldi's monkeys, black caimans, lowland tapirs, and giant river otters. The only human inhabitants of the region are indigenous groups including the Machigenga tribe and five other tribes that remain "uncontacted" by Western society.