Peru has a new national park, and it's bigger than Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Tokyo and Mexico City combined.
At a whopping 2,147,166 acres, the Yaguas National Park was established by the Peruvian government on Jan. 11 and provides a safeguard to hundreds of species of flora and fauna and the ancestral lands of more than 1,000 indigenous people who live in the region.
"This is extremely good news — we need to buffer the planet from climate change, and protecting the rainforest is the easiest way to do that," Corine Vriesendorp, a conservation ecologist at The Field Museum who led the scientific efforts in protecting the region, said in a statement released by the museum.
"We want to recognize and celebrate Peru for their remarkable leadership in creating this outstanding national park."
The park is located in a remote northwestern region of Peru, near the Colombian border, that runs along the Putumayo River. The area has a long history of exploitation for logging, mining and rubber production, some of it illegal. According to the Field Museum, the exploitation extended to the indigenous people of the region for long stretches of the 20th century. They "were forced to collect rubber from the forest under highly abusive conditions, where they faced murder, mutilation and systemic rape."
With the national park designation, the land and the people on it are now protected.
Similarly protected are more than 3,000 plant, 600 bird and more than 150 mammal species in the area, many of them threatened or endangered. As for fish, well, more than 300 fish species — including some that haven't been officially named yet — call the various rivers that flow in and out of Yaguas National Park home.
The announcement of the park is part a larger trend in South America of creating vast stretches of protected wilderness. The country created a 3.3-million-acre park, Sierra del Divisor, in 2015, and Chile set aside 10 million acres for national parks at the end of January.
Such moves are a clear sign that the leaders and citizens of these countries are aware of just how valuable their wilderness areas are, both from a cultural and environmental perspective.
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