It is a mammal that is very difficult to see and coexists with the great variety of monkeys, fish, reptiles, birds and more species that inhabit this area that can be explored even by children and the elderly. (Editor: Carlos Díaz)
15 minutes from the center of Rioja, one of the 10 provinces of the San Martín region, is Santa Elena, an ecological reserve in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon. It is characterized by being a natural forest that, between December and April, can become a large swamp due to the flooding of the rivers that cross it.
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Thanks to its tropical climate and vast floral diversity, it is the perfect place for wildlife to develop. Among the canopy of its trees, more than six species of apes swing, such as the Red Howler Monkey or Cotomono, the Friar Monkey, the Sloth, among others. While more than 10 varieties of fish swim in its waters, among them the Carachama, Mojarra, Pejesapo, etc. stand out.
Red Howler Monkey or Cotomono. (Photo: Karina Mendoza / PROMPERÚ)
Apart from the species of mammals, reptiles and butterflies that coexist in Santa Elena, this reserve has become a paradise for birds: more than 300 varieties have been identified.
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There are four species of Kingfishers (Large Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, and Rufous-Green Kingfisher). In addition, visitors can observe the Yellow Woodpecker, the Black-billed Toucan, the Blue-throated Guan, among others.
A Kingfisher perched on a tree branch.
Now, the name of one of the inhabitants of this ecosystem is preparing to go around the world. A recent exploration among its wetlands and aguajales managed to spot an animal of which there was no record.
Since you arrive in Santa Elena you feel in contact with nature. After walking along a wooden pier, you have the possibility of entering the Peruvian jungle aboard canoes that travel the dark waters of the Río Negro.
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In total, you can choose between three routes. In each of them, it is the community’s own residents who guide you and share the experience of what it is like to live day by day with all the animals in the area, which you will also be able to experience firsthand.
The first of the routes takes you along the Romero River and lasts two hours, ending when you reach the El Abuelo resting place. The peculiarity of this tour is that it can also be done at night.
Beginning of route 1, in the Romero River.
For its part, the second route is completed in four hours. It begins when the first one ends and concludes at the El Matorral resting place. Finally, the third route passes through the Romero River, the Negro River and the Mayo River, until reaching the resting place of the Mayo River, with a duration of six hours.
To take advantage of the authentic natural spectacle, it is best to start these tours with the first rays of the sun. The community members indicate that between 7 and 9 in the morning is when the most birds and mammals can be seen. A great experience of hearing the majestic howl of several monkeys as they cross over your canoe while they swing through the treetops.
“This is the perfect place for those who want to have a more intimate contact with nature and be able to observe the flora and fauna of the Peruvian jungle up close. Several observation activities take place here, such as birds, butterflies, and more animals,” commented one of the local residents.
Canoe ride to cross the ecological reserve of Santa Elena, in San Martín. (Photo: Karina Mendoza / PROMPERÚ)
“There are many animals here, some of them are very difficult to see, if you do see one, it may be the first and last time it happens. You will never see it again in life,” Alex Castillo, counselor of the Santa Elena ecological reserve, told Infobae Perú.
Months ago, he participated in the discovery of an animal never before identified in the Peruvian jungle. According to what he told this medium, they found a specimen the size of a giant rat thanks to an exploration work together with specialists from Conservation International (CI), a non-profit organization that seeks the participation of society in the conservation of the services that nature offers and that are the basis of human well-being.
“It’s very big, as if it were a vintage. Rather, at first we thought it was an old thing, but in the end it wasn’t, because it was already very big. We confused it, but after the study of biologists and scientists who came here, they confirmed that it was a new species that had never been recorded. “They were experts in flora and fauna,” he told our media.
The never-before-identified animal resembles an añuje. (Photo: Diffusion)
Castillo was proud of this discovery, which he hopes will go around the world. “He is going to carry the name of Santa Elena along with the name of the person who found him, which is that of one of the scientists, but they are going to put him in Awajún,” he revealed.
“In a few months they will give us all the details about what it will be called. His photo and technical details have not yet been published. The IC will notify us when it is detailed so that everyone knows its species, the name, where it was found, where to find it, everything,” he added.
The counselor also revealed that in a few weeks another study will begin that will comb the entire area in more detail and will last six months “to see what other unidentified species there are in Santa Elena.”
Santa Elena Ecological Reserve, a different way to explore the jungle. (Photo: Karina Mendoza / PROMPERÚ)
The ecological reserve works due to the work and commitment of the Association for the Conservation of Aguajales and Renacales Río Romero (ACARR), a group of locals from the hamlets of Santa Elena and Tambo.
Since 2003, they have been cleaning the Romero and Negro rivers with the objective of preserving the area and taking advantage of its biodiversity and natural wealth. In this way, they can also improve the quality of life of local residents.
“Santa Elena is a self-sustaining community enterprise, it is supported by the income obtained from visitors. Everything is with resources that tourists leave when visiting this area. Thanks to this, improvements can be made to the reserve,” added Castillo.