Madre de Dios Region

Madre de Dios Region


Location of the Madre de Dios Region in Peru
Coordinates: 11°59′S 70°35′W / 11.99°S 70.59°W / -11.99; -70.59Coordinates: 11°59′S 70°35′W / 11.99°S 70.59°W / -11.99; -70.59
Country Peru
Subdivisions 3 provinces and 11 districts
Capital Puerto Maldonado
  President Jose Luis Aguirre Pastor
  Total 85,300.54 km2 (32,934.72 sq mi)
Highest elevation 3,932 m (12,900 ft)
Lowest elevation 183 m (600 ft)
Population (2005 Census)
  Total 109,555
  Density 1.3/km2 (3.3/sq mi)
Dialing code 082
ISO 3166 code PE-MDD
Principal resources Cotton, coffee, sugar cane, cacao beans, Brazil nuts, palm oil, gold, rice, coconut, wood.
Poverty rate 36.7%
Percentage of Peru's GDP 0.37%

Madre de Dios (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmaðɾe ðe ðjos]) is a region in southeastern Peru, bordering Brazil, Bolivia and the Peruvian regions of Puno, Cusco and Ucayali, in the Amazon Basin. Its capital is the city of Puerto Maldonado.

The name of the region is derived from the Madre de Dios River, ultimately a tributary of the Amazon, and named by ethnic Spanish colonists. It is a very common Spanish language designation for the Virgin Mary, literally meaning Mother of God.


The region is almost entirely low-lying Amazon rainforest. The climate is warm and damp, with average temperatures around 26 °C (79 °F) [max.: 34 °C (93 °F), min.: 21 °C (70 °F)]. The rainy season is from December to March, when torrential rainfall causes rivers to swell and often overflow their banks. Annual precipitation can be as much as 3 metres (9.8 ft).

The north-western boundary with the Cusco Region is known as the Isthmus of Fitzcarrald, a series of small and low mountains that separate the Madre de Dios River and the Urubamba/Ucayali River basins.

Notable rivers in the Madre de Dios River watershed are the Inambari, Tambopata, Manu, Tahuamanu, Las Piedras, also known as Tacuatimanu River, Heath, Acre and Los Amigos.

Due to the vast size of the area and its low population density, rivers provide the best way of getting from one town to another. Human activity is invariably confined to riverbanks. A number of explorers have searched for the lost city of Paititi in the jungle within the region. A new road that opened in early 2011 through the area will connect Brazil and Peru for trade, and change the isolation of this area.[1]

The only important highway is between the Peruvian cities of Puerto Maldonado and Cusco, 510 kilometres (320 mi) away in the Cusco Region. It is part of the newly built Interoceanic Road between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, passing by the border town Iñapari on the Acre river. Flights between Cusco and Puerto Maldonado remain the most common and quicker method of transport between the two.

From Puerto Maldonado a road about 55 kilometres (34 mi) long leads to the mining town Laberinto ("Labyrinth"). A second road is between the village of Pillcopata and Itahuania (into the Manú National Park). It is a roughly 350 kilometres (220 mi)-long single-track road that is hard to travel in the rainy season. It also has a dirt road to the native community of Infierno ("Hell"), where the Ese'ejas (or Guarayos) live. Their chief is Agustín Shapaja, who led the famous expedition (made into a TV special) to the Candamo. He was featured in the TV documentary El Candamo, la Ultima Tierra sin Hombres (The Candamo, The Last Land without Men).

Economy, natural resources and environment

Madre de Dios depends heavily on natural products and raw materials for its economy. There is virtually no manufacturing industry. The main agricultural products are:

  1. Cotton
  2. Coffee
  3. Sugarcane
  4. Cacao beans
  5. Brazil nuts
  6. Palm oil

Gold mining is the only other large industry of the region, confined mainly to alluvium adjacent to the Inambari and Madre de Dios rivers. Significant deforestation has resulted due to this activity.[2] In addition, techniques for gold mining have been described as resulting in both a major environmental and public health problem.[3][4] Most gold miners use liquid mercury to extract gold particles from the alluvium.[2] They often handle the toxic liquid mercury with their bare hands.[2] To purify the gold particles, the mercury is burned off.[4] After being vaporized, mercury particles contaminate the surrounding ecosystems. Mercury bioaccumulates throughout the food chain to become concentrated in top predators, such as large river fish and carnivorous birds. The local people may be harmed by direct contact with the element, as well as by ingesting dangerous levels of mercury when they eat the fish. Mercury results in a variety of neurological and congenital health problems.

Ecotourism is a major emerging industry in Madre de Dios. A number of lodges in Manu and Tambopata are becoming part of what is described as the Vilcabamba-Amboró Corridor. Some of these EcoLodges offer adventure activities as well, such as Ecoaventuras Amazonicas. New legislation encourages private investors to create concessions for conservation or ecotourism. This is to extend the reaches of the public protected areas. This integration includes native communities, which are increasingly involved in ecotourism. The importance of including the local population relies on the long-term incentives for leaving standing forest. The local population is integrated into conservation initiatives as well as economic cycles.

Other serious environmental problems in the region include loss of forest cover for agriculture, illegal selective logging (particularly for mahogany), and illegal poaching of endangered species (particularly the giant river otter, Amazonian turtles, caimans, and monkeys and macaws as pets). .

The national bird of Peru, the Andean cock-of-the-rock, is found in Madre de Dios. It suffers from poaching and habitat disturbance . Characteristic mammal species include the capybara, jaguar and giant river otter.

Political division

The region is divided into three provinces (provincias, singular: provincia), which are composed of 11 districts (distritos, singular: distrito). The provinces, with their capitals in parentheses, are:



According to the national 2007 Peru Census, the language learnt first by most of the residents of the region was Spanish (80.00%), followed by Quechua (16.53%). The Quechua varieties spoken in Madre de Dios are Cusco–Collao Quechua and Santarrosino Kichwa. The following table shows the breakdown by province of first languages:[5]

Province Quechua Aymara Asháninka Another native language Spanish Foreign language Deaf or mute Total
Manu 5,731 239 9 1,540 11,170 18 16 18,723
Tahuamanu 897 166 7 74 8,870 94 15 10,123
Tambopata 10,202 586 14 481 61,387 197 75 72,942
Total 16,830 991 30 2,095 81,427 309 106 101,788
% 16.53 0.97 0.03 2.06 80.00 0.30 0.10 100.00


The region is the location of many ancient Inca ruins. Several indigenous tribes survive in the jungle of the Amazon Basin.

Places of interest

Representation in other media

See also


  1. Dan Collyns,"Amazon road set to give Brazil and Peru new trade route", BBC News, 28 January 2011
  2. 1 2 3 Alejandro Coca; Louis Reymondin. "The Devastating Costs of the Rush for Gold in Madre de Dios, Peru". Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  3. Swenson JJ, Carter CE, Domec J, Delgado CI (2011). "Gold Mining in the Peruvian Amazon: Global Prices, Deforestation, and Mercury Imports". PLoS ONE. 6 (4). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018875. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  4. 1 2 Barbara Fraser (February 14, 2011). "In Peru, hopes for carbon deal wash away with the soil: A newly paved highway has sparked a Klondike-style gold rush in Peru's rich rain forest, threatening the country's chances to strike carbon-offset deals on the international market.". Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  5. INEI, Peru, Censos Nacionales 2007
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