Peru’s several climates and contrasting surface features have produced a rich diversity of Peru flora and fauna.
Perennial shrubs, candelabra cacti, and intermontane pepper trees account for much of the western slope vegetation in the higher altitudes and forests of eucalyptus have been planted. High-altitude vegetation varies from region to region, depending on the direction and intensity of sunlight.
Tola grows at 3,400 meters in the southern volcanic regions; bunch puna grasses may be found at 3,700 meters. On the brow (ceja) of the eastern slopes, mountain tall grass and sparse sierra cactus and low shrub give way at 900 meters to rain forests and subtropical vegetation.
As the eastern slopes descend, glaciers are remarkably close to tropical vegetation.
The native plants as sarsaparilla, barbasco, cinchona, coca, ipecac, vanilla, leche caspi, and curare have become commercially important, as well as the wild rubber tree, mahogany, and other tropical woods.
Discover the Colca Canyon by horse ride
Fauna in Peru
For centuries, vast colonies of pelicans, gannets, and cormorants have fed on the schools of anchovies that graze the rich sea pastures of the Humboldt Current and have deposited their excrement on the islands to accumulate, undisturbed by weather, in great quantities of guano.
This natural fertilizer was used by the pre-Inca peoples. Forgotten during the days of colonial gold greed, guano attracted the attention of scientists in 1849, when its rich nitrogen content was analyzed as 14–17%.
The rich marine plant life off the Peruvian coast attracts a wealth of marine fauna, the most important of which are anchoveta, tuna, whale, swordfish, and marlin.
Characteristic of the Andes are the great condor, ducks, and other wild fowl. The vizcacha, a mountain rodent, and the chinchilla are well known, as is the puma, or mountain lion. Peru is famous for its American members of the camel family—the llama, alpaca, huarizo, and guanaco—all typical grazing animals of the highlands.
The humid forests and savannas of eastern Peru contain almost half the country’s species of fauna, including parrots, monkeys, sloths, alligators, paiche fish, piranhas, and boa constrictors, all common to the Amazon Basin.
The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) has an important ecological role as a scavenger.
By quickening the decomposition rate of dead animals, thus diminishing the risk of disease associated with the slow rotting of cadavers.
It also has evolutionarily importance due to its sense of smell, unique in its genus and unusual in the bird kingdom. It has a long lifespan, comparable to humans, with up to 50 years in the wild, and up to 80 years in captivity.
It is around 142 cm tall and its wingspan can reach 330 cm. Its distribution range spreads through the Andean countries of Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia, from the north of Colombia to the extreme south of the Chilean and Argentine Patagonia.
Since ancient times, the Andean condor has been an important part of the Andean mythology and traditions.
One of the most important places for watching the condor’s fligh is the Mirador de la Cruz del Condor in Arequipa region.
10 facts about the Andean Condor:
Its name in quechua is kuntur and the Incas believed it was immortal.
The distance between the points of its spread wings (3.3 meters) represents the largest wingspan of any terrestrial bird.
The Andean condor is part of four national shields, where it represents different values: Bolivia (boundaryless pursuit), Chile (strength), Colombia (liberty and order), and Ecuador (power, grandeur, and valeur.
This bird is monogamous and both parents incubate the egg. Its chicks stay with its parents up to 2 years before facing the world.
In certain seasons of the year (October in Peru), the Andean condor flies from the peaks of the Andes to the Pacific coast to eat sea lion carcasses and discarded placentas.
It’s one of the only predators that can break the hard guanaco skin.
Andean condors mature sexually late in life (a minimum of 5 years, with reports of the first chick at 11 years), and they only have one chick every 2-3 years.
They form part of the family Cathartidae, which comes from the Greek word kathartes meaning “he who cleans.”
Andean condors are thermal soarers, which means that they rise with the air current, helping them spot carcasses from great heights and descend upon them without wasting much energy.
The Andean condor displays sexual dimorphism– this is when animals of the same species have different body forms based on biological sex.
The male Andean condor has a white collar and a crest, while the female Andean condor does not.