West of the 97% of Peru’s hyperdiverse forests in the Amazonian lowlands in Loreto, an isolated mountain range rise, where incredible montane forest and waterfalls flourish, product of winds carrying fog and rain. These waters will run east to the Huallaga and Marañón Rivers. Roughly 20.000 Shawi Indigenous people live here, and several boulders filled with petroglyphs points to inhabitants living there for centuries.
Known as Casa de Cumpanamá, the biggest boulder depicts images of wildlife, nature, forest and humans with their hands extended upwards. Similarly, the Shawi celebrate these mountains for their gifts, and unlike neighboring region, they have kept their territories in the Cordillera Escalera roadless and a forested wilderness harboring diverse and endemic species including Astroblepus fishes that scale waterfalls, healthy populations of critically endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkeys.
The future of these forests and the Shawi people depends on their protection. For the current changing climate, the flora and fauna here need an altitudinal variation to migrate towards cooler temperatures. Protecting Cordillera Escalera-Loreto and the adjacent mountains in San Martín will create a seamless conservation landscape of approximately 2.5 million ha of montane forests stretching from Cordillera Azul National Park through the Escalera, Manseriche, and Kampankis mountains, all the way to the Cordillera del Cóndor at the Peru-Ecuador border.
Photo by Álvaro del Campo