Macaw clay lick at the bahuaja-sonene National Park
One of the several macaw clay lick within the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park.

Bahuaja-Sonene National Park

The Bahuaja-Sonene National Park is the largest multi-national tropical protected area in the world. The park connects 1’091,416 hectares in Peru with Bolivia’s adjacent Madidi National Park. These national parks are part of nearly adjacent chain of national parks that range south to south central Bolivia. The Heath River, which originates in Lake Titicaca in the Peru-Bolivia’s high Andes, separates the Bahuaja-Sonene and Madidi National Parks and constitute the border between these two countries. Pampas del Heath National Sanctuary, a tropical savannah nested in lowland Amazon Rainforest, is share by Peru and Bolivia, and lays to the northeast of the two parks.

The Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, which includes de Tambopata National Reserve, harbors some of the wildest and least impacted habitats in the world. Rainforests and tropical savannah meet in a land where roads have never existed and rivers are the only mean of access. This huge wilderness gets its name from the Ese-Eja native Amazonian words for “Tambopata” (Bahuaja) and “Heath” (Sonene). These are names for two prominent rivers in the region.

Interactive map. Click the plus (+) sign on the bottom right corner to zoom. Then click and hold down your cursor to drag the map around as needed.

The rainforests in the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park are thought to have gone through dry periods associated with glaciation in other parts of the Amazon during the last million years. As climate in some parts of the Amazon basin became drier and converted rainforests into savannahs, the area encompassed by the national park and much of southeastern Peru are believed to have retained their forest cover. Support for this idea is provided by southeastern Peru being one of the most biodiverse areas of the entire Amazon basin, and the existence of several species of plants and animals that are endemic to the region.

Pampas del Heath in the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park
Savannah habitat nested in lowland Amazon Rainforest in the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. Photo credit: Fauna Forever.

During most of their history, the rainforests of Bahuaja-Sonene were untouched by people. People who currently reside in the tropical forests and savannahs of Bahuaja-Sonene belonged to the Ese-Eja culture. Living in small communities, they cultivated manioc (yuca), foraged for wild fruits and plants in the forest, and hunted for wild animals such as tapirs, deer, and game birds.

Otter in the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park
The once endangered Giant River Otter is pretected within the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park.

The animal and plant diversity in the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park is as high as that in the nearly adjacent Manu National Park. The number of species of plant and other groups of wildlife is lower in the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, due the fact that unlike Manu National Park, Bahuaja-Sonene does not include middle and high Andean elevations within its limits.