Among the most important animals of the Sierra del Peru you can find the condor of the Andes, the Peruvian rupicola, camelids or rodents. The Peruvian Sierra is known as the mountainous region of the country, made up of the highs and lows of the Andes mountain range. Together with the Amazon region and the coastal deserts, it constitutes in itself one of the natural habitats of Peru.
The mountain range is divided into different sections, each one of them has a particular fauna and flora that has adapted to the various environmental conditions. In this way, some species of animals have managed to adapt to survive high altitudes above sea level, such as birds, rodents and camelids.
The condor of the Andes can be seen frequently from the mountains. It flies majestically in search of its prey from the highest parts of the Andes. However, the most famous bird in the Peruvian highlands is the Rupícola, a bird with reddish and black fur, emblematic of Peru.
Most of the species that inhabit the Andes have thick and resistant coats, which allow them to store the temperature and survive the frosts that take place during the nights in the mountain range. They also have flexible joints for walking on rocks and other physical traits to protect themselves from predators.
Four different types of camelids can be found in the mountains. Among these, the llama and the alpaca stand out for being animals used in the mountains as pack animals, producers of meat and wool since pre-Inca times.
List of animals of the Sierra del Peru
1- Condor of the Andes
The condor of the Andes is the largest flying bird in the world, with a wingspan of up to 3.8 meters and an approximate weight of 15 kilograms. This species looks for windy areas in the highlands of Peru that help it support its weight during the flight, gliding with the air currents in its favor (Barry Walker, 2007).
In Peru they are sighted in the Cocahuasi and Colca canyons, located in the province of Arequipa. However, it is possible to spot them in coastal areas where the sea breezes can help them during the flight.
2- Peruvian Rupicola
The Peruvian rupicola is a national animal of Peru. With a height of 30 centimeters and the ability to fly more than 2,500 meters high.
This bird will hardly be seen flying over the Andes, since it tends to look for wooded or rocky areas that are difficult to access to locate. It is easily recognized by its reddish orange and black plumage (Olmstead, 2017).
3- The Guanaco
This animal is one of the four camelids that can be found in the Peruvian highlands. It is mostly found in the wild and is estimated to be the oldest species in the genus of camelids.
It can reach 1.1 meters in height, its legs are thin and agile, its fur is dense and messy. It is estimated that in Peru there are currently less than 1000 specimens of this species, placing it at risk.
The llama is a species of camelid that inhabits the Andes and can be commonly found in the Peruvian highlands.
It is believed that the llama is a descendant of the wild guanaco that was domesticated by the Incas around 4,000 BC, as a pack animal capable of withstanding long journeys up and down the mountain range (Cermal-Editions, 2014).
They are characterized by being able to adapt to the difficult conditions of the Andean soil. In this way, they can live in grassy areas more than 4,000 meters above sea level (masl), where the air only has 40% oxygen, the climate is cold and dry, and the only source of food is the grass.
5 – Alpaca
The alpaca is a type of llama that can be easily found in the Peruvian highlands region. It is smaller than the llama and is capable of carrying more than 150 kilos of weight, which makes it an excellent Andean transport animal. Some people believe that the alpaca is a cross between the llama and the vicuña (Martina Gerken, 2008).
Alpacas can live at more than 4,500 meters above sea level for a period of up to 30 years. Their thick fur helps them withstand the cold climate of the Andes and their long necks help them detect predators behind rocks at a long distance.
For the Incas, alpacas were a luxury item, in this way, their wealth was measured by the number of alpacas they could have.
With the arrival of the Spanish, many alpacas died, and a few were preserved by the Incas in the higher parts of the Andes. If not, it is likely that alpacas today were extinct (C, 2001).
6 – Vicuña
The vicuña is the smallest species of camelid known in the world. It is believed to be the wild ancestor of the alpaca. It only inhabits the grassy areas of the Andes in southern Peru and northern Chile.
Although the vicuña looks fragile, it is highly resistant and its body can withstand extreme heights. It has an incredibly thick and soft coat that traps warm air between its layers, preventing its body from freezing at night or at times when temperatures are very low.
As if they were rodents, the lower incisors of vicuñas do not stop growing, in this way, they can chew the hard herbs of the Andes without suffering damage or wear. On the other hand, they have a special joint on the legs, which allows them to adapt to uneven floors without slipping.
In the wild, chinchillas can be found in the Andes region, however, being an endangered species , it is not easy to spot them. Its coat is smooth and gray with black stripes.
It usually lives in clans of up to 100 individuals, where there are no dominant males or females leading the group. A chinchilla can live up to eight years in the wild.
They are nocturnal animals with dense coats, adapted to withstand the cold. They have the ability to jump, cling, and climb rocks to protect themselves from predators. In this way, they can survive in the wild. However, its greatest predator is humans, who hunt it stealthily for its fur.
This rodent is known as the vizcacha de los Andes and is related to the chinchilla. It can be found throughout the entire Peruvian highlands. Its coat is thick and smooth, except on the tail, where it gets tough.
This rodent has a similar appearance to the rabbit, with long ears covered with hair. Its coat is usually gray and its tail is long with some hairs on the tip.
9- The guinea pig
This rodent is native to the Andean region and can be found in Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela . It has been bred for more than 500 years for human consumption and receives different names depending on where it is raised.
The Incas already consumed this rodent as part of their diet with preparation techniques transferred from other cultures.
10- Spectacled Bear
The spectacled bear is the only species of bear that is not extinct in South America. It can be found along the Andes mountain range in wooded areas, reaching a height between 500 and 2,700 meters above sea level within the Peruvian highlands.
This bear has a medium size, which does not allow it to exceed two meters in height. Their weight can reach 200 kilograms and their fur is black and thick, except around their eyes, where you can see white lines.
11- I blame
The culpeo is a wild dog that inhabits the Andes in small herds of hierarchical and matriarchal structure, this means that it is the females who must fight and defend their territory. This means that females always feed first and have exclusive mating rights.
This dog is of medium size, weighing approximately 7 to 12 kilograms. It feeds on rabbits, rodents, insects, berries, and birds. Currently, culpeos are not considered at risk, however, their habitat is being seriously destroyed (everything, 2011).
The two great carnivores of the Andes are the Puma and the Jaguar. The puma usually hunts at a higher altitude than the jaguar, which prefers to enter the humid and dense forests located in the valleys of the mountains.
A cougar can weigh between 50 and 100 kilograms and reach a height of 60 to 90 centimeters to the shoulders and a length of 2.4 meters from the nose to the tail.
The jaguar is the largest feline in America and has a behavior similar to that of the tiger, since it enjoys swimming and is a solitary hunter. It is the feline with the strongest bite, being able to pierce the shell of a turtle without problems.
14- Andean marmoset monkey
The Andean marmoset is an endemic species of Peru. It is located in the lowest parts of the mountain range, at an altitude of 750 to 950 meters above sea level. It is considered one of the species at high risk of extinction. During the last 25 years, 80% of its population has disappeared.
15- Andean mountain cat
This feline can live at altitudes of 3,500 and 4,800 meters in the Andes. It is one of the most timid and least known felines. There is no specimen of this animal that lives in captivity and it is believed to be in critical danger of extinction. Its fur is soft and thick and its size is similar to that of a domestic cat.
16- Puno hummingbird
This little bird measures approximately 13 centimeters. The males have a different plumage than the females, their throat is bright light green and their chest is white. The female has a speckled throat. Its beak is black and slightly curved.
Chingue is part of the mephitid family, it is also known as yaguané, skunk or skunk. It is characterized by having a slim body with abundant fur. It stands out for being black and having a frank white back.
They have anal glands that secrete a foul-smelling substance when threatened. This substance can reach up to 2 meters away and the odor lasts for up to a month. They are omnivorous animals, they eat insects, fruits, eggs, small animals and honey.
18- Peruvian white-tailed deer
This mammal is characterized by having a coat between gray and brown, it does not change depending on the season of the year. The lower part of its tail is white and functions as an alarm signal.
The male is the one with antlers, which he renews annually. It feeds on leaves, shoots, fruits, seeds, and mushrooms. They are distributed in different biomes such as the equatorial dry forest, steppe mountains and the páramo.
Also known as Andean deer or northern huemul. Their fur is thick, does not change with the seasons of the year and remains between sand gray to grayish brown.
Its natural habitat is the puna grasslands, mountain ranges and rocky slopes with little vegetation at high altitudes. The taruca is a herbivorous animal, it is currently considered an endangered species and is classified as vulnerable internationally.
20- Andean Tinamo
It is a generally running bird, also known as the inambú wigeon or partridge mountain range. Its size varies between 25 and 30 centimeters. Its plumage has a marked pattern in different scales of brown and it has a downward curved bill.
Their common habitat is the slopes and meadows with abundant grass. Its diet is based on seeds, small fruits and insects.
- Barry Walker, GC (2007). Peruvian Wildlife: A Visitor’s Guide to the High Andes. England: Bradt Guides.
- C, A. (2001). Animals of the Andes . Obtained from Alpaca: blueplanetbiomes.org.
- Cermal-Editions. (2014). About PeruCERMAL-EDITIONS . Obtained from Typical animals of Peru: peruinformation.org.
- Everything, T. w. (2011). Culpeo pictures and facts . Obtained from Culpeo: thewebsiteofeverything.com.
- Martina Gerken, EF (2008). In EF Martina Gerken, South American Camelids Research (pp. 375-376 ). The Netherlands: Wageningen Academic.
- Olmstead, S. (2017). New Hampshire Public Television . Retrieved from Andean Cock-of-the-rock: nhptv.org.
Peru, D. (October 5, 2014). Discover Peru . Obtained from Endangered Animals in the Andes: discover-peru.org.