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Portada / About Peru /  Machu Picchu Information / Ecology in Machu Picchu

Ecology in Machu Picchu

The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu not only possesses its impressive cultural allure but also a significant biodiversity. Here we present all the natural wonders that Machu Picchu holds.
Llamas en Machu Picchu
The flora is one of the main attractions in the Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu is the must-visit spot for anyone arriving in Cusco. However, it's not just its rich cultural heritage that makes it attractive, but also its impressive biodiversity.

The flora and fauna found in the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary have become another spectacular attraction for all tourists.

The Machu Picchu citadel covers an area of more than 32,592 hectares, where the Andes Mountains and the tropical jungle converge. With an altitude ranging from 2,000 m to 6,000 m, it facilitates the creation of microclimates, making its great biodiversity possible.

The ecological importance of Machu Picchu

The biodiversity present in Machu Picchu is of global importance, as its conservation involves protecting various habitats, each with an immense variety of flora and fauna species.

The conservation area of the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary possesses an immense amount of biodiversity. Inside, it harbors approximately 20% of Peru's total flora and 12% of the national fauna.

This remarkable diversity makes Machu Picchu an ecosystem of vital importance for the study and conservation of Peruvian biodiversity.

Flora present in Machu Picchu

The diversity of flora present in the Machu Picchu citadel includes almost 3,400 different species, approximately 20% of those present throughout the national territory, reaffirming the importance of this protected area.

Among the most prominent flora species are orchids, carnations, ferns, puyas, floripondios, molles, cedars, queñuales, among others.

Orchids of Machu Picchu

Orchids (Orchidaceae) are plants that attract attention for their extraordinary beauty, colors, and aromas, becoming the main attraction in terms of flora.

Around 400 species of orchids were found within the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary, and it is believed that there are still undiscovered species.

The destruction of their habitat, caused by forest fires and indiscriminate extraction by illegal traders, has led to a significant decrease in the number of species.

Trees and Shrubs

Machu Picchu hosts a wide variety of trees and shrubs that contribute to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the region. Among the abundant vegetation, the following stand out:

  • Intimpa or Pino de las Alturas (Podocarpus glomeratus): It is a tree belonging to the Podocarpaceae family, used in the construction of houses due to its resistant wood. It has an association with Andean spirituality.
  • Queuña (Polylepis spp): This rustic tree only grows at altitudes exceeding 3,000m. It plays a crucial role in protecting water sources, preventing soil erosion. The Incas used it as food for Andean animals.
  • Molle (Schinus molle): This tree is known for its medicinal properties and ceremonial use.

Fauna present in Machu Picchu

The richness of fauna in the Machu Picchu citadel is impressive, with the presence of more than 582 species of animals, mostly endemic. Among these, the nearly 300 species of butterflies that can only be found in the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary stand out.

Among the most emblematic fauna species are the spectacled bear, the Andean cock-of-the-rock, various species of hummingbirds, the puma, the Andean fox, the taruca deer, and a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians.

The Spectacled Bear

The spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus) or Ukumari is one of the most representative animals of the area. It has black fur with spots around the eyes that resemble glasses (hence its name).

It inhabits the dense forests of the Inca citadel. It has a pollinating function within the ecosystem; its diet is based on fruits and leaves. It measures approximately 1.80 m tall and weighs between 100 and 175 kg.

The Diversity of Rodents

Rodents play a very important role in the biodiversity of Machu Picchu. Some of the rodents that stand out the most are:

  • Andean Vizcacha (Lagidium peruanum): It is very similar to a rabbit and is responsible for controlling the vegetation of the place, in addition to serving as prey for other predators.
  • Pacarana (Cuniculus paca): This rodent feeds mainly on vegetation and serves as a seed disperser.
  • Andean Forest Mouse (Thomasomys kalinowskii): This small rodent serves as prey for predators.

The Andean Cock-of-the-rock

The Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus) is the national bird of Peru, as well as being emblematic of Machu Picchu. Its plumage of intense red and orange colors in males contrasts with the lush green of the cloud forests, only enhancing its beauty.

This bird feeds on fruits and seeds and lives in small groups of no more than 20 individuals, playing a role as seed dispersers.

Hummingbirds

Among the diversity of birds found in the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, we can observe a great variety of hummingbirds. During the visit to the citadel, several birds can be seen fluttering among the vegetation, showing an impressive variety of colors.

These small birds have a vital pollinating function in maintaining biodiversity, transporting pollen, ensuring the reproduction of many native plants.

Butterflies

Machu Picchu is one of the places with the greatest variety of butterflies, enriching the biodiversity of the sanctuary. There are more than 400 species identified only in the Machu Picchu Sanctuary.

Each of them contributes to pollination and maintains local flora, which gives them greater importance.

Endangered Species and Conservation

The Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary harbors a large amount of biodiversity, among which are many endangered species that require urgent actions for their conservation. Among them are:

  • Spectacled bear, the only South American bear, is threatened by habitat loss and poaching.
  • The Andean cock-of-the-rock, Peru's national bird, faces risks due to deforestation and climate change, which alter its natural environment.

These species are not only vital for the ecological balance of Machu Picchu but also part of Peru's rich natural heritage. Their protection is of vital importance, not only to preserve the beauty of Machu Picchu but also to maintain the ecosystems.