Ancient Inca road in desperate need of protection

Durban, South Africa, Sept. 13, 2003 -- A preliminary study of the ancient highland road that linked the Inca Empire from southern Colombia to Central Chile, found that only 5 percent of the 8,500 km route is under some form of protection, and large sections of it have been lost entirely.

The study, carried out by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) with the support of Conservation International (CI) and local partners, also found that preserving the highland route called the Gran Ruta Inca in Spanish could have important benefits for ecosystem and watershed maintenance, as well as ecotourism and community development.

"The historical, social and even spiritual importance of this ancient wonder of engineering demands that the international community seriously study the establishment of protected areas along the route," said Miguel Pellerano, the IUCN's regional director for South America. "By protecting the Gran Ruta Inca we can also safeguard some of the hemisphere's most fragile ecosystems and habitats."

The route runs through 15 distinct ecoregions, including four that are considered Endangered: the Peruvian Yungas, the Maraon Dry Forest, the Chilean Mattoral and the Chilean Winter Rain Forest. It also cuts through some of the last remaining habitat of the spectacled Andean bear, the Andean condor and the vicua South America's smallest camelid that was almost hunted to extinction in the 1960s and 1970s.

The study found that revitalizing the Gran Ruta would also help reintegrate thousands of indigenous communities that live along the route and reinforce traditional conservation practices rooted in Andean beliefs about the sacred dimension of nature.

The Gran Ruta Inca, called Capaq an in Quechua, was the main north-south highway of the Inca Empire, stretching 7,000 km from its northernmost point to its southernmost. Clinging to the side of the Andes mountain range at altitudes ranging between 1,000 and 4,500 meters, i

Contact: Jim Wyss
Conservation International

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