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Amazon Refuge: Amazon River
Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve
Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is located in Peru's Amazon region, 100 miles west from Iquitos. The Reserve is a triangular shaped area between the Maranon and Ucayali rivers. These rivers intersect at the northeastern tip of the Reserve, marking the beginning of what is considered the Amazon River proper. Most visitors access Pacaya-Samiria through the nearby city of Iquitos.

Private boat is the only way to access the reserve, which is large enough to cover the entire U.S. state of New Jersey. The basins of the Pacaya and Samiria rivers have been protected by the Peruvian government since 1940. The area was declared a National Reserve in 1972 and enlarged to its present size of 5,137,000 acres in 1982. The altitude of the Reserve is between 263 to 675 feet above sea level. The Reserve is the largest in Peru, the second largest in the Amazon region, and the fourth largest in all of South America.

There are over 80 lakes in the Reserve, the most important ones are the Hatun Cocha, Pastococha, Shinguito, Maldonado, Ungurahui, Yanayacu, Zapote, Yarina, Tamara, Cotococha, Achual, and El Dorado.

The approximately 50,000 people who live in the Reserve most are located in villages along the edge of the Reserve. Only a few villages are found in the interior of the Reserve. The average family has six to ten people and their main food staples are plantains, yucca, and fish. Their houses are made from materials found in the forest.


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Animal and plant life is abundant and extremely varied in the reserve. There are over 132 species of mammals, 13 of which are primates. The reserve's waters are home to gray and pink dolphins, Amazonian manatees, Giant river Otters, Black Caimans and giant South American River Turtles. Land species include Jaguars, Capuchin Monkeys and Spider Monkeys. The Black Spider Monkey, the Orange-chested Spider Monkey, the Woolly Monkey, and the Howler Monkey are all considered endangered.

More than 300 species of birds live in Pacaya-Samiria, including five of the eight species of Macaw found in Peru. The prehistoric-looking hoatzin bird is seen here as well.

Wildlife and local villagers rely heavily on two species of palm for food. The fruit of the Moriche Palm is critical to the diets of parrots and mammals such as the Tapir. Humans use the fruit in drinks and ice cream. Birds and mammals feed on the fruit of the Chonta Palm, while humans harvest the palm's heart. No other protected area in Peru is as directly linked to the economic well-being of such a large human population. At least 100,000 "ribere˝os", or river people, living in and around thisápart of the Amazonian rain forest rely on its aquatic and terrestrial resources for food and income. Another 600,000 Peruvians live nearby.

The native San Juan de YanaYacu Indians protect 200+ acres of private land on the YanaYacu River, near the confluence of the Maranon, Ucayali, and Amazon rivers. Here the Amazon Refuge wildlife center provides excellent access for a visit to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve.

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