Flora and fauna in Cusco

Cusco is located in the heart of the Andes Mountains. Its mountainous geography is home to a great diversity of plant and animal life. However, this region of Peru also has a tropical ecosystem where many other species inhabit. Learn about the flora and fauna of this region where the Incas settled.

Flora and fauna in Cusco
Flora and fauna in Cusco


The Andean condor

The Andean condor
The Andean condor

The Andean condor ( Vultur Gryphus) is the largest non-marine flying bird in the world (it can measure 1.42 meters (4.6 ft.) tall and 3.30 meters (10.8 ft.) wingspan. Its natural habitat is the Andes Mountains in South America, encompassing mainly the countries of Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela and Bolivia. Belongs to the family ‘Cathartidae’, which feed mainly on carrion. For millions of years, the condor had a leading role in the man of South America. For the Incas the condor was immortal and had the function of communicating the world of the living and the dead.

Description

Habitat in Cusco

The condor and the Incas


Camelids in Cusco

Camelids in Cusco
Camelids in Cusco

Camelids are a species of mammals belonging to the ‘Camelinae’ subfamily that, in addition to the Andean camelids include camels. In the Andes Mountains of South America (from Patagonia from Argentina to the mountains of Colombia including Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador).

There are 4 different types of camelids in South America: llamas and alpacas (domesticated camelids) as well like guanacos and vicuñas (non-domesticated camelids). Since the time of the Incas, the wool of the camelids have long been used to manufacture clothing. Today, vicuña wool is one of the most fine on the planet and, like alpaca wool, are exported to the rest of the world.

The Llamas

Alpacas

The vicuñas

The guanacos

Camelid habitat in Cusco

Cusco is home to llamas, alpacas and vicuñas. There are no guanacos in Cuzco. However, it can appreciate in the department of Arequipa very close to the Inca territory. In the Historic Center of Cusco, tourists can photograph the peasant women in typical costumes who travel the streets with their llamas and alpacas.

The camelids and the Incas


The spectacled bear

The bear with glasses
The spectacled bear

The spectacled bear ( tremarctos ornatus) is a mammal of the ‘ Ursidae‘ family (brown bear, panda bear, etc.) that is the only one in its species that inhabits the tropical mountainous territories of South America. Its name is due to the whitish spot on its face (similar to glasses), which however varies from one bear to another. The Incas used to hunt them for their meat. However, the real danger to its conservation occurred in the 20th century, after the deforestation of its territory and indiscriminate hunting.

Description

Habitat in Cusco

The spectacled bear in Machu Picchu


Cock-of-the-rocks

The cock of the rocks
The cock of the rocks

The cock-of-the-rock (rupicola peruvianus) is a species of bird that inhabits the mountainous jungles of South America. It is considered the national bird of Peru due to the beauty of its reddish and black plumage. It also inhabits the territories of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. The male has colorful feathers while the female has a duller color without the characteristics of the former.

The Incas also valued Tunqui (name of the cock of the rocks in Quechua, the language of the Incas). During the Inca Trail it is common to observe These birds perch on the trees. Today, this bird is hunted indiscriminately because of its high value in the illegal market. Its conservation status is of ‘least concern’.

Description

Habitat in Cusco


The orchids

Orchids in Cusco
Orchids in Cusco

Orchids (orchidaceae) are the plant family with the greatest diversity of species (it is calculated up to 30 thousand) on the planet. Its flowers are distinguished by the beauty of their color as well as the symmetry of their petals. According to various investigations, orchids are more than 60 million old. They are in the most of the world, except in extreme cold and desert climates. Its size varies according to the species, being able to reach just a few millimeters or a height of up to 13 meters.

In Peru there are more than 3,000 species of orchids due to the great abundance of microclimates. Among the most striking are the ‘Sobralia altissima’, the tallest terrestrial orchid in the world (13 meters). Wave ‘Masdevallia veitchiana’, known as one of the most beautiful orchids in the world. The latter is present in an Inca oral tradition. Today, in Machu Picchu there are more than 400 species, some of which are in danger of extinction.

Description

Habitat in Cusco

Orchids in Machu Picchu

Orchids and the Incas


Kantu, the flower of the Incas

The flower of Kantu
The flower of Kantu

The cantuta flower (cantua buxifolia) is a species of plant native to the high Andean areas of Peru and Bolivia. It is precisely considered the ‘national flower of Peru’ and ‘one of the national flowers of Bolivia’. It is characterized by its tubular crown flowers and a pistil in the middle. Colors may vary but they preferably use red, pink, yellow and white. Its bush is bushy and branched with abundance of leaves.

The cantuta flower has been admired since pre-Inca times. According to oral tradition, when the Inca moved from one place to another during religious ceremonies, his subjects dropped flowers of cantuta in its wake. In addition, it is stated that the young people graduated from a ceremony where the cantuta it was used as an ornament on their heads. Today, the flower of the cantuta is considered as’ the flower of the Incas’. It continues to be a widely used ornamental flower.

Description

The sacred flower of the Incas

Uses in Cusco today

 

By Machupicchu Terra – Last updated, July 19, 2021


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