The Tambopata river basin that is home to Tambopata National Reserve and our own Private Conservation Area is situated to the south of the Madre de Dios (“Mother of God”) River. It is bordered to the north by the Peruvian province of Tambopata, to the east by Bolivia and the Madidi National Park, to the south by the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, and to the west by the Kotsimba Indigenous Community.
In total, the National Reserve covers an area of 278,284 hectares. The lands of the Kotsimba Indigenous Community to the north cover an area of 186,450 hectares and serve as the Reserve’s protective buffer zone, extending as far as the Heath River, which is itself home to a fascinating wetland ecosystem filled with unique fauna.
Because the Tambopata National Reserve forms part of an immense conservation corridor totaling more than 3,000,000 acres of protected forests, rather than existing as a fragment of primary forest within a wider, exploited area, the biological diversity of this part of southeastern Peru’s tropical and subtropical forests exists within an area sufficient to ensure that major species requiring extensive ranges for hunting and foraging are able not just to survive, but to thrive.
The Tambopata river basin is recognized as one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. It is the variety of ecosystems within Tambopata National Reserve which accounts for the extraordinary biodiversity it harbors. In total, Tambopata National Reserve protects eight distinct ecosystems: subtropical humid forest, tropical humid forest, subtropical high-humidity forest, subtropical high-humidity foothill cloud forest, subtropical rainforest, tropical cloud forest foothills, subtropical lower foothill cloud forest, and semi-flooded subtropical lower foothill cloud forest.
These ecosystems are composed of an incredible array of plant life, including rainforest species that are exploited elsewhere in the Amazon basin, such as cedar (Cedrela odorata), mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) and the brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa).
It is thanks to this remarkable ecosystem diversity that in the forests around the Tambopata River naturalists have recorded 632 species of birds, 120 butterfly species, 169 different mammals, 205 species of fish, 103 amphibian species, and 67 species of reptile.
Species of Amazon fauna that are classified as threatened or vulnerable elsewhere in Central and South America are protected by Tambopata National Reserve. Major species that visitors can hope to see during their time at Tambopata Ecolodge include the squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus boliviensis), red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), tapir (Tapirus terrestris), yellow-spotted side-necked river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis) and green anaconda (Eunectes murinus).
Other species protected by Tambopata National Reserve include the jaguar (Panthera onca), harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), the pacarana (Dinomys branickii), black spider monkey (Ateles paniscus), giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), and the South American short-eared dog (Atelocynus microtis), which our own Tambopata Ecolodge camera trap studies have shown to be present in the forests of the Tambopata River basin.
Tambopata National Reserve is also the home of the world’s largest known macaw and parrot clay lick, one of the two major macaw clay licks accessible from Tambopata Ecolodge and included in some of our itineraries. The bright colors and raucous calls of the different species of parrots and macaws which gather daily at the clay licks of Tambopata offer visitors the chance to witness a dramatic spectacle. Species seen frequently at clay licks include red-and-green macaws, mealy parrots and blue-headed parrots.