The Equatorial-Pacific Seasonally-Dry Forests of south-west Ecuador and north-west Peru (also known as the Tumbesian region) are amongst the most unique and biodiverse forests on earth. These deciduous, tropical forest habitats have evolved in isolation, in a relatively constant climate, maintained by the cold Humboldt current.
The area is isolated by the Pacific to the west, the Andes to the east, the wet forests of the Chocó to the north and the Peruvian Coastal desert to the south. The constant climate and isolation has led to the evolution of many species unique to the region. The area supports 65 endemic bird species, 21 of which are considered to be globally threatened, and nine endemic mammal species, of which six are considered threatened. Up to 60% of the amphibians and reptiles are endemic.
This endemism, combined with high rates of forest cover loss in recent years, has led to the area becoming one of the most threatened on earth, with many species in danger of extinction.
The original coverage of the dry forests has been decimated through the past five centuries, with the rate having accelerated with road building programmes in the last half century. Now only approximately 4% of the original forest cover remains in good condition.
Located 75 km (46 miles) from Chiclayo, this 34,412 hectare area was declared a reserve in 2001 and is the number one dry forest site in the north.
The reserve is managed by the local community of Santa Catalina de Chongoyape, in conjunction with a local conservation development organisation, Asociacion Naymlap.
It is named after Chaparri Mountain, which separates the villages of Batan Grande and Chongoyape, and which locals consider to be sacred.
The Reserve is renowned for its biodiversity, boasting some 122 varieties of plant, 23 species of mammal, 21 species of reptiles, four species of amphibians and five species of fish. It is particularly well-known for its vast variety of bird species - 250 in total.
Key bird species: Largest protected population of the threatened Andean Condor, King Vulture, Sulphur-throated Finch, Tumbes Pewee, Tumbes Tyrant and White-winged Guan.
Additional key bird species: Baird's Flycatcher, Black-cowled Saltator, Black-faced Ibis, Black-tailed Trogan, Brush-headed Duck, Comb Duck, Henna-headed Foliage-gleaner, Spotted Rail, Tyrannulet Grey & White, Tumbes Sparrow and White-tailed Magpie.
Among the endangered mammals that can be seen are the Puma, the Ocelot, White Tail Deer and the Sechuran Fox.
But perhaps the biggest draw is the Spectacled or Andean Bear, of which there are no more than 500 in Peru. As well as a small, wild population, the Reserve also has a rescue and breeding programme to save abandoned or abused bears, with the aim of rehabilitating them and releasing them back into the their natural habitat, if possible.
Pomac Historical Sanctuary:
Located in the Department of Lambayeque, Pomac is one of four areas categorized as 'historic sanctuaries' in Peru, on account of it being a rare example of dry, equatorial forest.
The typical tree is the algarrobo, which has various names in English: kiawe, huarango and American carob. It is a thorny legume, native to Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, thriving in dry, coastal areas, owing to a long taproot, that is very efficient at extracting moisture from the soil. The tree grows quickly and can live for over a millennium.
The pods of the algarrobo can be used in various forms: livestock fodder, flour, and molasses (used in a classic Peruvian cocktail, the Algorrobino!)
The sanctuary is also home to sites of archaeological interest, most notably Batan Grande (also known as Sican) which is the most important ruin of the Lambayeque culture, dating from the 8th to 12th Century. It is made up of 20 pyramids, some reaching as high as 30 m (98 ft), constructed of adobe.
Archaeologists have uncovered a number of graves within these pyramids, containing metal and ceramic artifacts of great artistic merit, such as ceremonial knifes and funeral masks, along with the human remains.
The most famous of these is the tomb of The Lord of Sican, found by Japanese archaeologist Izumi Shimadi in 1991 and containing a high-ranking dignitary of the Lambayeque culture with his personal effects.
Batan Grande was declared a Peruvian National Heritage Site in 2009.
Key bird species: Peruvian Plant cutter, Rufous Flycatcher, Snowy-throated Kingbird, Tumbes Swallow.
Laquipampa Wildlife Refuge:
Located 70 km (43 miles) north east of Chiclayo, in the Ferreñafe district of Lambayeque, Laquipampa covers 113 square kilometres (43 sq miles) with altitudes ranging from 400 m (1,300 ft) to 2,600 m (8,500 ft) above sea level. This topography has resulted in a variety of dry forest habitats, with the types of tree species depending on the level of moisture.
Established in 1982 with the principal aim of preserving the endangered white-winged guan (Penelope albipennis), the refuge is also home to other key bird species:
Red-masked parakeet, Bearded guan, Piura chat-tyrant, Koepcke's screech owl, Blue seedeater, Fasciated tiger-heron, Andean slaty thrush, Andean condor
Mammals to be found in Laquipampa include the Spectacled Bear, Collared Peccary and Anteater.
How to Visit: The endemic species to be found in Pomac Dry Forest, and its convenient location on the way from Chiclayo to Chachapoyas, mean it is a destination on Peru North's birding routes:
Chaparri Ecological Reserve and Laquipampa Wildlife Reserve can be visited as an extension, before or after the above birding tours ... or any tour for that matter. Just ask us how.