Gallito de las Rocas
At a glance...
Location: Cusco Department, Peru
Size of the concession: 10,000 hectares (~25,000 acres)
Nearest town: Pillcopata (pop. <4,000)
Distance from Cusco (as the macaw flies): ~90 km (~56 mi)
Map of the Gallito de las Rocas conservation concession in SE Peru. Map: Geoff Gallice
The rainforest in the concession is rugged, biodiverse, and beautiful. Photo: Geoff Gallice.
‘Gallito de las Rocas’ is the Spanish term for the Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana), both Peru’s national bird and an iconic symbol of the unique biodiversity found in the cloud forests of the eastern Andes. The birds are most famous for their lekking behavior, in which males gather daily at the lek site and display—a raucous show of color and song—in order to impress and win the right to mate with a female. This extraordinary behavior has become a major draw for birdwatchers and ecotourists to the Manu region, with visitors coming from the world over to witness one of the most fascinating shows in nature.
Most of the publicly-owned land in the Peruvian Amazon, which covers nearly 70 percent of the national territory, is divided into ‘concessions,’ the majority of which are designated for logging, mining, or the extraction of fossil fuels. However, several years ago Peru took the bold step of opening up vast tracts of these public lands to private management, not for the extraction of natural resources, but rather for their conservation. The world’s first conservation concession was granted, in 2001, to a Peruvian non-governmental organization, which was given rights to manage the 150,000 hectare (~370,000 acres) Los Amigos Conservation Concession for a period of 40 years. Since then, the number of conservation concessions has proliferated, making an enormous contribution to Peru’s protected area network, and thus the protection of biodiversity in this mega-diverse country.
Gallito de las Rocas is a ca. 10,000 hectare concession dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity, strategically located where the towering Andes Mountains meet the sprawling Amazon basin. It is bordered by several other protected areas, including the territory of the indigenous Q’eros community and the >1,500,000 hectare Manu National Park, one of the largest and most remote tropical wilderness areas remaining on the planet. This unique geography is an important reason for the concession’s nearly unmatched biodiversity—here, spectacled bears from the Andean cloud forests roam the same area as jaguars from the lowland rainforest, as do myriad other plant and animal species; the region’s extensive forest cover also allows the persistence of healthy wildlife populations that are not possible in landscapes that have been fragmented by human activity. Although it is widely accepted that the region harbors more diversity of life than almost anywhere else on earth, detailed distributional data and information regarding natural history remain unavailable for the vast majority of species in the region, making basic biological inventories of key importance in efforts to understand patterns in biodiversity and how best to protect it.
The concession is managed by the Asociacion para la Conservacion del Valle de Kosñipata (APCONK), a Peruvian non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity in the Kosñipata Valley that is based in the Kosñipata district capital of Pillcopata. In addition to restricting access to the protected area by illegal loggers, hunters, and other illicit resource extractors, APCONK is working to promote science and ecotourism as alternatives to unsustainable resource extraction. This expedition is part of both APCONK’s and the Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon’s long-term strategy to achieve biodiversity conservation in the Manu region.