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Fauna Salkantay Trek
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Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

The Salkantay Trek is one of the trekking alternatives to reach Machu Picchu. Doing the trekking routes has several advantages and benefits. One of the benefits is that it allows special contact with nature. In addition, it allows us to appreciate some animals in their natural state. Something surprising about doing this route is that during the hiking days, you cross different geographical spaces. This can be summarized in a very noticeable change in biodiversity. At the beginning of the Salkantay Trek, you will cross high-altitude Andean areas. However, during the last days and the arrival to Machu Picchu, you will feel a warmer climate surrounded by abundant vegetation.

The geography and scenery of the Salkantay Trek

The Salkantay Trek crosses two quite marked scenarios. The first of them will begin in Mollepata and will culminate in the Abra Salkantay giving way to Lucmabamba. So, the second section would begin in Lucmabamba and culminate in the archaeological site of Machu Picchu. Normally this entire journey is achieved after 5 days of hiking, but there is also the option of doing it in only 4 days. To achieve it, in this way, you have to access the services of a vehicle to shorten distances. In both cases, the experience is usually unforgettable.

From the first days of trekking, you can find a great variety of fauna and flora. Even from your arrival in Cusco, while acclimatizing you will be able to see some birds flying through the green areas and trees that decorate the city. The presence of these animals will increase exponentially as you leave the city. It is common for nature to strengthen and stay away from human populations.

In this sense, the trekking routes are the best option or alternative to connecting in a better way with nature. The Salkantay Trek is also conducive to having an unforgettable adventure of the landscapes that can be seen. It is enough to mention the visit to the Humantay Lagoon to have a conception of the landscapes that can be seen. In addition, during the first few days, you will ascend on foot to the Salkantay pass. One of the highest altitude regions of Cusco, so the view of beautiful landscapes and mountain ranges of the Andes is guaranteed.

Further on, after leaving behind the 4 650 meters above sea level. It is possible to find in the distance the geography of the high jungle. That is to say, high steep mountains covered with abundant vegetation. There, you will be able to find a variety of animals. Although some of these explore both territories, making more special and important the care of all this place. Also when you go into the place you can learn more about the geographic spaces. These places become more important because from this place you can enter the cloud forests. Next, let’s learn more about the fauna of the entire route that connects the Andes with the high jungle, during the Salkantay Trek.

Salkantay trekking landscape
Landscape that can be appreciated after the Salkantay pass.

Fauna during the first part of the Salkantay Trek

  • Vizcacha – This is a gray rodent approximately 30 to 40 centimeters long. It has a gray and yellowish color, although gray tones usually predominate. It has ears similar to those of a rabbit, but more closed and less long. Although its body appears robust, it is quite agile. In some cases, it can weigh up to 8 kilograms. This is due to its abundant fur, which gives it its particular appearance.
    It is possible to see it in rocky areas. This is where they usually organize their burrows in small colonies of 6 to 8 individuals. It is said that they have good eyesight, which is why they always seem to be relaxed in front of onlookers. However, once approached, they react immediately. Vizcachas usually hide under rocky areas where they have burrows in the form of tunnels.
    On the route to the Salkantay Trek, it is possible to see them in the areas of greater agglomeration of rocks. It will also be possible to find them in some areas near the Humantay Lagoon. Also on the route to the Salkantay pass, it can appear among the rocks observing the tourists with tranquility. It is important not to disturb them or cause them harm. An important fact is that these rodents can also be found in the Llaqta of Machu Picchu.
  • Wild ducks – Among the ducks that can be found, the torrent ducks will stand out. These animals range in altitude from 30 to 40 centimeters. The males are larger and also have a more colorful and colorful plumage. The head of the male has black and white plumage, while the back has a brown color and green wings with black tones.
    On the other hand, females have very different tones. Their breast is predominantly orange and the wings, together with the back, turn gray. These birds usually nest in the rivers, precisely in the rocky areas and where the waters go deep into the high jungle sector. They live in pairs and feed on river algae, some fish eggs or toads, and other animals, as well as insects found in the depths of the river.
    During the Salkantay Trek, it is possible to see them in the passage to the high jungle. Just when you finish descending the Salkantay pass, where the pass to Lucmabamba begins. They are very social birds, but still territorial. It is understood that males and females have a space or fraction of the river to feed and also to nest.
  • Andean Gulls – One of the most common birds in the Andean area. These birds have white plumage that predominates along their body. In the case of their head, it is black and they have red eyes that contrast with their whole body. Black plumage can also be found on the wings, which turn gray. In the case of its legs, it has a rather dark reddish color that eventually turns black.
    They usually inhabit territories ranging from 3,000 to 4,500 meters above sea level. They are animals that live in large groups that migrate during some seasons. In flocks, they descend to some terrains, lagoons, and wetlands of lower altitudes, in cold seasons. That is why several gulls can be found in areas near rivers. They are also surrounding some areas where garbage dumps have been dumped or accumulated.
    For all these reasons, you can find some Andean gulls near the Humantay lagoon, just on the way to the Salkantay pass. It will also be possible to find them in the areas near the river. The gull usually feeds on insects, some small fish, insects, garbage, and some amphibians.
  • Andean Partridge – these are small birds that usually inhabit the rugged mountains of the Andes. They inhabit close sectors of bushes and rocky areas. It has an altitude of between 25 to 30 centimeters. It has a curved beak, from where its characteristic yellowish and brown plumage is born, together with some black spots. In addition, on the chest, it has some gray plumage spots. However, this plumage may vary according to the subspecies and the area where they live.
    They usually feed on insects, grains, and grasses. Many of these often inhabit and nest in grasslands, shrubs, bushes, bushes, and even in agricultural fields. It is also possible to find some larger subspecies that inhabit higher altitudes. These are the mountain partridges. Both birds can be seen on the way to Salkantay, unfortunately they are quite shy and elusive. To observe them, it is important not to make too much noise and to be attentive to the rocky areas.
  • Andean fox – It is one of the most important animals in the Andean world. It is very difficult to see because they are usually nocturnal animals. When they come out in the morning you can see their yellowish fur with a gray back. Foxes belong to the canid family. In the Andean cosmovision, one can find several legends and stories where the fox participates.
    The Andean fox usually feeds on rodents, birds such as Andean partridges, and some lizards or lizards in the areas where it lives territorially. The Andean fox is a territorial animal and normally only encounters females during the mating season.
    It is believed that their favorite food is hares and wild guinea pigs. Although there are records that they plan attacks on some guanacos, especially the young. Another function it has is to be a carrion animal. In the past, it used to attack some flocks of sheep. As we mentioned, it is very difficult to see it during the day, and at night, it tends to be quite stealthy.

Fauna during the second part of the Salkantay Trek

  • Cock of the Rock – The cock of the rock is one of the most beautiful birds in the world. It has a very particular coloration where red predominates and in some cases, orange. These colors are quite deep and contrast with the abundant vegetation of the place where it can be found. In the Machu Picchu Natural Sanctuary, it is possible to find it in the final stretch of the Salkantay Trek.
    It is also possible to find it in the cloud forests that cross much of the high jungle of South America. Throughout this place other birds of the same family can be found, however, in the Peruvian territory, these beautiful birds predominate. The cock-of-the-rock has a quite evident dimorphism.b The females have a much duller color and brownish tones. Both genders have black wings that gradually fade to gray. They even have shades of white on the wings.
  • Pechigris toucan – Like the cock-of-the-rock, pechigris toucans have a similar habitat. Except that they tend to descend to lower-altitude jungles, reaching only up to 2,000 meters above sea level. It is a robust and large bird. It reaches 50 centimeters in height. While its beak can measure up to 10 centimeters. It is much larger than the cock-of-the-rock, which only reaches 25 centimeters.
    On the other hand, and as its name indicates, it has a gray plumage on its chest. This color contrasts perfectly with the rest of the colors of its plumage and beak, which have red, yellow, black, and blue tones. Like the cock-of-the-rock, it also feeds on fruits. Although not necessarily the same. Both species usually share territories. These birds can be seen in the final stretch or going into the forests of the ecological sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
  • Spectacled bears – These are the largest mammals that can be found in the area. In addition, spectacled bears are the only bear species that can be found in all of South America. They have an average height of 2 meters and weigh up to 130 kilograms. So, unlike other bears in North America or other parts of the world, the spectacled bear is one of the smallest.
    The spectacled bear has a black coat color. This color surrounds practically its entire body except for the chest and face. It is precisely in these places that it has yellow spots and it is this spot that gives it the distinction of being a spectacled bear. It is also known as the Andean bear since it has a strong influence in the Andean cosmovision. It is one of the bears that does not need to hibernate. In addition, it is possible to find it right between the archaeological site of Machu Picchu and the routes that connect with the cloud forests.
  • Tarucas – Also known as Andean deer. In the Aymara and Quechua languages it is called taruca, which is why it is an animal closely linked to traditional ancestral traditions. It has a corpulent body weighing up to 80 kilograms and having a height of 80 to 140 centimeters, taking into account the head and antlers. Their colors are similar to those of Andean foxes, with a predominant yellowish color that turns gray on the legs, part of the back and tail. While a lighter yellow can be found on the chest and belly.
    This beautiful animal can be found between the passage from the high mountains to the high jungle. Precisely in the rocky areas, they also live in colonies where they move in groups of fifteen individuals in search of pastures. These family groups are led by females that constantly group together to form colonies of large numbers of individuals. The estimated life span is 10 years in the wild.


By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 25-03-2024

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