CHICAGO - (Reuters) Peru yesterday created a national park bigger than the state of Connecticut and populated with a broad spectrum of species, some endangered and others still likely to be discovered, U.S. scientists said.
The 5,225-square-mile (13,530 sq km) Parque Nacional Cordillera Azul protects one of the last remaining large tracts of undeveloped, uninhabited rain forest. It is about 50 percent larger than Yellowstone National Park in the United States and ranges from lowland forest to 7,900-foot-high (2,400 metre) peaks.
Before the park was set aside, scientists from Peru and Chicago's Field Museum conducted a quick, 21-day biological inventory of the area's extraordinary biodiversity.
The scientists said they identified at least 28 previously undiscovered plant and animal species. They recorded just 1,600 of an estimated 6,000 different plants believed to be growing in the park, along with 500 bird species, 82 amphibian and reptile species, and 71 mammal species -13 of them endangered.
"The Cordillera Azul still offers the rare opportunity to act before habitat fragmentation and degradation forever transform the landscape," Debra Moskovits, director of The Field Museum's Environmental and Conservation Programs, said in a statement.
Scientists said the area was prized by loggers, but now has been preserved. The project was partially funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago, which also funds the so-called "genius grants" to people in many fields.