Located along the Pacific coast, the Paracas National Reserve is an ideal example of Pacific subtropical coastal desert influenced by the effects of the Humboldt Current's cold water that flow from the south.
Paracas is an important protected coastal-marine system in Peru and one of the most biologically productive marine areas in the world, serving as a major food source for fish, birds and marine mammals. A group of guano islands in the park serves as a breeding refuge for anchovies, an important link in the food chain.
The reserve also contains nearly 100 archeological sites from the Paracas indigenous people.
Paracas National Reserve encompasses 827,450 acres (335,000 hectares) of Peru’s southern Pacific coast, 166 miles (265 kilometers) south of the capital city of Lima.
Whales, orcas, sea lions and sea otters are among the 36 species of marine and land mammals found in the reserve. Other marine animals include scallop, crab, abalone and octopus, as well as green, leatherback and hawksbill turtles.
More than 215 species of migratory birds spend at least part of their lives in Paracas, of which approximately 60 migrate between Peru and the United States. Several of Paracas’s avian residents and visitors have been declared endangered or vulnerable by the Peruvian government, including:
- Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti)
- American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)
- Peruvian diving petrel (Pelecanoides garnotii)
- Blue-footed (Sula nebouxii), Peruvian (Sula variegata) and masked boobies (Sula dactylatra)
Anchovy, sardine, hake, smooth dogfish and spotted dogfish are some of the more than 160 fish species that swim Paracas’s nutrient-rich waters.
Diverse marine vegetation includes several species of phytoplankton and 254 recorded species of marine algae. A lack of precipitation means land plants are scarce. Fourteen herbaceous species and several lichen species are recorded.
How The Conservancy Has Helped
Uncontrolled tourism, overfishing, and industrial waste from nearby fish-meal and fish-oil factories threaten Paracas’s natural habitats.
The Nature Conservancy, Pro Naturaleza and the Peruvian park service collaborated with local stakeholders — including conservationists, fishermen and tourism operators — to create a management plan that identified solutions to overfishing, uncontrolled tourism and waste dumping.
The Conservancy and its partners refurbished a key park-ranger post, provided vehicles for rangers, and arranged for rangers to have first-aid and search-and-rescue training. A new five-year management plan was developed.