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Piura’s Green eldorado
Where they say a city drowned, an amazing biodiversity outcrops.

By Nelson Peñaherrera / FACTORTIERRA.NET. Photos by André BaertschCámbialo a español

A project led by Nature and Culture International, logistically and socially as well.

SAPALACHE*, Peru – A decade and a half later. The first time we learned about Chinguelas Mount was not in favoring terms. Approximately since the millenium began, mining exploration and exploitation was made in the very same place where another people looked for biodiversity and the western tributary of Amazon River starts.

Is there
gold? Since it was apparently submitted to volcanism in geologic past, the probability exists. But the reference haven by some people of El Carmen de la Frontera District (Huancabamba County) went back too a legendary past, indeed… spectral, to be pretty right.

It is supposed the city of
Chicuate (pronounce “Cheekwatteh”) was located on the same name’s mountain side, and its prosperity was based on gold extraction until a strong earthquake swallowed it down making a lake to emerge despite, what still exists. There is information since 19th century when people tripped until there to collect gold little stones those appeared in the water pond and the creeks borning out from it.

Persons affirm the actual adventurers who wish to get the appreciated metal must take care of the ‘mountain charming’, that produces a sudden fog, disorientates, and vanishes.

Perhaps, the city of Chicuate is not longer legendary at all. Actually, science recognizes a phenomenom called
soil liquefaction that can be produced when a highly violent event, like an earthquake, removes the soil, permeating it before the presence of a massive freatic mantles. The soil goes down, the water comes up.

Huancabamba Valley is a seismic zone until now. Even not having 200-year-old or 300-year-old or older records - it is actually known that an estimated actual
Mercalli scale’s VIII-intensity quake in 1912 broke out there, shaking all actual Piura State.

The fog doesn’t have anything magic neither because is a common phenomenom in that place. It has been clinically proven under extreme cold conditions, such as Piura’s moors, disorientation and up coming death are highly possible.

Unveiling the look
But fog also gives abundant life despite. That is what interested to Nature and Culture International (NCI) four years ago, which detected another type of riches in Chicuate and close Chinguelas Mounts as well: a great biodiversity , maybe a syntheses of the existent across Peru.

Both mountains are part of Segunda y Cajas (pronounce “Segunda ee Cahas”) Farmer Community, that became notorious for
leading a war against corporate mining projects since 2004 fearing damage to environment, although illegal mining is developed in Abaspite (pronounce “Abaspeetteh”) town and Samaniego River.

In many farmers’ mind was enough wearing explorer clothes and speaking an accent different to local for being accused as a miner… and NCI people just looked-like-so when they approached to community leaders to propose an ambitious project that could protect Chinguelas and Chicuate’s cloudy forests and moors, all their biodiversity attached.

Building trustness lasted two years until Segunda y Cajas’ president Samuel Labán stepped ahead. Helped by NCI, advised by Natural Areas Conservation Regional System, he started the tricky long processs to justify the need for creating a Private Area of Conservation (PAC) before the Peruvian Government.

In the challenge, Pronamp, ecoAndes, Profonampe, and Condesan got involved. World Land Trust funded the initiative.

A mixture of both sides
Las June 2nd, Peru’s Ministry of Environment released the resolution 138-2016 that allows to preserve 271.07 sq km of moors and cloudy forests for the next five years with option to renew, turning into the largest in Piura State, and the third largest of its kind across Peru.

NCI specifies “it hosts the third part of cloudy forests according to Regional Economic and Ecologic Zonification” and benefitted lots are legally recorded. In fact, all needed steps were followed in order to guarantee all the place were environmentally attractive and formally possible.

This is an achievement of Segunda y Cajas Community, that assumed the leadership of the proposal,” NCI’s responsible Kathy Carrillo states.

The today's protected territory has 487 plants species, 11 among them under threatening, (plus) high commercial value wood species as the pink cedar (Acrocarpus fraxinifolius). 162 birds species, 44 mammals species, and 15 reptiles and anphibes species,” NCI explains.

Chicuate-Chinguelas PAC is located in a critic spot where Andean Range raises below 4000 meters altitude, known as the
Huancabamba Deflection, a sort of big depression beginning in Paita, Peru coast in the Pacific, and enlarging almost until Africa’s western coast.

The PAC’s lowest altitude is 1300 meters nearby Abaspite and Huachumo (pronounce “Wachoomo”) towns, in the so-called High Jungle at east. Then, it jumps up to 3850 meters in the North, beside Pacaipampa (pronounce “Pakaaypampa”) District moors (Ayabaca County)where Quiroz (pronounce “Keehros”) River begins.

This favors Amazonic transfer, humidity pass from one of the largest jungles in the planet at east, and its eventual meeting to raising humidity from the Pacific at West. As a result, there are combined flora and fauna of both slopes into one of Andean-Amazonic type in a territory similar to quite more than a half Andorra or 1¾ Liechtenstein, both Europe countries.

This makes possible the presence of three types of ape those were only recorded before in Amazon basin: red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), white-fronted capuchin (Cebus albifrons) and Nancy Ma’s night monkey (Aotus nancymae),” NCI details.

Andean tapir (
Tapirus pinchaque) spectacled bear (Tremarctus ornatus) and toucan (Ramphastos toco) were also found, and maybe the most amazing sighting is the Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana) , Peru’s national bird.

The today's protected space is a representative sample of moors and cloudy forests corridor in Northern Andes,” NCI underlines.

It is estimated 4900 people live in newly Chicuate-Chinguelas PAC ,who will have to work now for not breaking out for hazardous activities , what also could legally unprotect the whole zone. There is not clear the impact on mining exploitation projects as
Río Blanco and even nearby detected mineral mills yet.

On so-called ‘water guardians’ depends the treasure they are preservating before everybody’s watch doesn’t drown beneath the soil.

* Pronounce it “Sapalachah”
Text: © 2016 Asociación Civil Factor Tierra. All Rights Reserved. Photographs: © 2016 André Baertschi. All Rights Reserved. Reproduced by courtesy of te author and Nature and Culture International.
Another initiative which NCI is involved on: Liquid shelter.

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