Peru contains the second largest portion of the Amazon rain forest, and with it, a spectacular range of biodiversity. It harbors 25,000 plant species and 2,000 species of fish, both of which account for 10 percent of the world total or their respective categories. It is also home to 1,736 species of birds. Currently, there a total of 222 endangered species in Peru’s forests. Thirty-one of these are facing extinction. Eighty-nine are categorized as vulnerable. Twenty-two are rare species, and 80 have an indefinite status. Because of anthropogenic threats like climate change and deforestation, conservation of the Peruvian Amazon has become increasingly important.
Peru has taken heed, and the 2014 EPI rewards it for its performance. Peru is the only country to have demonstrated improvement on the Critical Habitat conservation indicator. Although improvements in the conservation of critical habitats can be attributed to many factors, a primary driver has been the Peruvian government’s determination to protect its own environment and biodiversity.
In June 2010 the Peruvian government bolstered habitat protection for endangered birds such as the Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant, the White-browed Tit-Spinetail, and the Royal Cinclodes. It announced the creation of several new community-owned private conservation areas: Choquecaca, Mantanay, and Sele. These will significantly enhance ongoing efforts to protect habitat for endangered bird species in the country.
In July 2010, Peru’s Ministry of the Environment further emphasized its commitment to biodiversity conservation by creating the National Program for the Conservation of Forests and Mitigation of Climate Change. The initiative strives to preserve 54 of the 72 million hectares of the Amazon rainforest within 10 years. Researchers will identify and map areas to conserve, and on the ground initiatives will promote the development of sustainable forest-based products and improvement of forest protection capabilities within regional and local governments, farming communities, and indigenous groups.
The creation of the program followed through on Environment Minister Antonio Brack’s pledge that Peru would conserve 54 million hectares of forest by reducing logging rates and forest fires to 0 by 2020 to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas contributions. By reducing deforestation, this program has directly contributed to biodiversity conservation.
In 2012, the Peruvian government continued its habitat conservation trend by creating three new protected areas in the northern Amazon territory of Loreto, spanning nearly 600,000 hectares. Protection of these areas, collectively a world hotspot of biological and cultural diversity, consolidated the Putumayo Trinational Conservation Corridor, a joint effort at regional-style management by the governments of Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia.
The efforts undertaken by the Peruvian government to protect those habitats critical for biodiversity conservation within its boundaries represent a success on both a national and global scale. Although Peru’s ranking in the issue category of Biodiversity and Habitat is not as strong as some others, it is important to recognize Peru as one of the few countries that has improved at conserving critical habitats, particularly at a time when others have either remained flat or declined.