Some experts put the total number of butterfly species in Peru at an astonishing 3700, representing some 20% of the world’s known butterfly species. More species of butterfly have been reported in Peru than in the whole of sub-equatorial Africa. In South America, only Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil come close to rivaling Peru’s extraordinary butterfly population. However, scientists believe that butterfly species in Peru are under-recorded, and that there may be as many as 4200 species in the nation’s biologically diverse natural areas. The enormous variety of Peru’s overall butterfly population is due to the uniquely broad range of ecosystems found throughout the nation’s territory.
In Peru, as elsewhere on our planet, the greatest threat to the survival of butterflies is the degradation and destruction of their habitat. Tambopata National Reserve is just one of the protected natural areas in Peru where butterflies are ensured a safe haven from the encroaching modern world. However, in Peru the threats faced by butterflies remain less severe than those observed in some neighboring countries. There is no evidence to suggest that any of Peru’s butterfly species have become extinct.
The greatest diversity of butterflies is found on the eastern slopes of the Andes and in Peru’s Amazon basin. At altitudes below 800 meters, butterflies exist in incredible numbers and variety. At certain places within the Amazon basin, hundreds of individuals from many dozens of species can be observed in a single day.
In the Madre de Dios region of Peru, which is home to Tambopata National Reserve, more than 2000 butterfly species have been identified, with new species being recorded every year. Today, Madre de Dios is one of the regions of Peru most studied by lepidopterists from all over the world.
Visitors to Tambopata National Reserve who have been particularly fascinated by the butterfly species they have observed during their stay should also consider visiting the Tambopata Butterfly Garden in Puerto Maldonado, while waiting for their return flight to Cusco or Lima. This 600 square meter refuge situated close to Puerto Maldonado’s airport is protected by nets, and visitors are free to wander through a kind of enchanted garden of fruit-bearing trees and other plants, where hundreds of butterflies live and breed. Staff members at the Butterfly Garden are used to keeping visitors informed regarding the departure times of their flights.