Chaparri is a conservation area run by the small community a few kilometres from Chiclayo. They were given the idea around 15 years ago and decided to set aside some of their community lands for the project.
The reserve really was in the middle of nowhere, around 16km along a bumpy track from the local community village. It’s very small and the guides are all locals. Our guide gave us a fantastic tour around, explaining how the locals use all of the various plants for medicinal purposes. There seems to be a plant for pretty much every ailment. We did see a few types of cactus, among them the famous San Pedro cactus which the ancient cultures used for its hallucinogenic properties. Apparently if you eat it raw nothing happens; you need to cook it before eating it. Also different people have very different tolerances to it. I think I’ll give it a miss.
They also explained very clearly about animals in captivity. They receive various types of animals from the police which are then kept in enclosures just until they’re able to be released (i.e. they’ve had any health problems sorted out and have sussed out how to fend for themselves in the wild). All of the outdoor enclosures that we saw were empty except for the bears.
The bears are spectacled bears. Of the two we saw, one had been rescued from the circus, who had removed his front teeth, so he won’t ever be able to fully fend for himself and will need to spend the rest of his life in captivity. The female in the same enclosure will be released at some point, but not just yet as someone is doing a study on the mating habits of spectacled bears!
They also have a small hut to show some nocturnal species. We saw some snakes, a small iguana-like thing with 3 tails and a frog. These are caught and only kept for a maximum of 20 days. They then release them and catch another one.
The snakes were interesting. Apparently they only catch male snakes (and they can tell which are male and which are female by their movements; females move in tighter curves and males move more in a straight line). The reason for not catching females is that they might be pregnant, and in moving them an egg might get dropped on a path, which could end up being quite dangerous as baby snakes can be very aggressive.
We saw a few other things wandering around – pigs, llamas, and an Andean fox – but there are plenty of other things in the area. A German institute had given the project some cameras which they’d set up in various locations. Over time they’d been able to work out that 25 bears and 4-5 pumas are regular visitors to the reserve. We got to see some fabulous photos taken by the sneaky bear/puma-cams!