is located in
a region that is part of the High Jungle or "Brow of the Jungle".
It is an area with great environmental heterogeneity that, together
with its jagged relief and its climate, makes the existence of numerous
life zones possible, in accordance with the Holdridge classification
system, between 2,000 and 6,000 m. above sea level.
The ecology of the Sanctuary is extremely diverse and complex, since it includes ten wildlife zones, from the low, dry mountain forest - by the side of the valley- to the level of the mountain range summits. In terms of altitude, this means that it reaches from 1,725 m. at the level of the Urubamba River, up to 6,271 m. at snowy Salcantay's summit . As a consequence, these geographical variations, and the singular topography, originate a really wide range of flora and wild fauna.
This whole region possesses dramatic biodiversity, a feature of each and all of the types of ecosystems that form it, and the wet forest formations are its richest resource. The species of fauna and flora that have been registered in this habitat represent a high proportion of those present in the country, plus the species restricted to the area. It is calculated that between 10 and 20% of these are endangered.
The varied environmental conditions of this area have originated
a very diverse and wide-ranging flora, from that of the closed forests,
going through that of the "brow" of the forest, to the thinly vegetated
mountain summits. The exuberant foggy forests covering the precipitous
hillsides and mountains are used as a frame for this magic place,
a refuge for countless species of wild flora, among which delicate
orchids, bromeliads and arborescent ferns are prominent. In a place
between Wiñay Wayna and the Inca city of Machu Picchu
90 arboreal species with a diameter of over 10 cm. were found in
a sample hectare, one of the highest available figures for the brow
of the forest. Because of all this, Machu Picchu has
been described as a "botanist's paradise".
The forest vegetation is represented by timber species such as cedar, "romerillo" or "intimpa", laurel, etc. Besides the mentioned species, there are some types of bushes that prevail, like "Qeuña" (Polylepis racemosa), "Muña" (Minthostachys glabrescens), "Ocotea", "Pedocarpus", "Guarea", "Weinmania", "Clusia", "Cedropia", "Cinchena" and "Eritrina" or "Pisonay" (Erythrina falcata) among others. Similarly, many species of begonias and "puyas" grow here. Yet, as is obvious, when one considers the flora typical of the area, what most attracts people's attention are the orchids. More than 30 kinds and at least 350 species of these have been identified, many of which are in danger of extinction.
The fauna in Machu Picchu
is as abundant as it
is varied. This is the home of spectacular creatures, some of which
are on the road to extinction. The diversity of the fauna registered
in the Sanctuary up to the present is enormous.
Several species exclusive of the zone stand out, like the "spectacled" bear (the Andean bear or "ucumari" - Tremarctos ornatus), the only "ursid" in South America, the rare miniature deer (Mazama chunnyil), and the "sachacabra" (Pudu mephistopheles). This is why the Peruvian government has declared the zone a Protected Nature Area.
Many other species of mammals live here, like the puma ("concolor" Puma), the Andean fox, the river otter, the "tanka taruca", the wildcat and the ferret.
Among the reptiles we can find the "jergón bothrops" and the "choral micrurus", dangerous because of its strong poison; lizards, frogs, chiroptera and a large Andean and Amazon "entomo-fauna", making the Sanctuary a place where observation and study adds attraction for both tourists and researchers.
Among more than 423 species of registered birds, some are outstanding: the "Gallito de las Rocas" ("Rock Cockerel", Peruvian Rupicola) -Peru's national bird- the quetzal (Pharomacrus auriceps), the "Pava del Monte" (mountain turkey hen, Penelope montagnii), the condor (Vultur gryphus), the caracara, hummingbirds, the torrent duck (Merganetta armata) and a bird of very restricted distribution: the "Cucarachero Inca" (Thryothorus eisenmanni); parrots and other smaller birds of varied colors.