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Study area: Cajas National Park

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Panoramic view
Panoramic view

Lake Totoras
Lake Totoras

Toreadora Lake
Toreadora Lake

Park and police Control at Cuenca-Molleturo
Park and police Control at Cuenca-Molleturo

Cajas National Park (CNP) belongs to Ecuador's National System of Protected Areas and gained it status in 1996. Since December 2002, the Park's administration is managed by a consortium formed by ETAPA (County office of Telecommunications, Water supply, Sewer system, and Environmental issues), the Municipality of the city of Cuenca, and local communities. The Park comprises 28,544 hectares and the páramo ecosytem occupies around 90% of the area. The climate is cold and humid; there is however, considerable variation in the weather that can change rapidly from calm to strong winds, from cloudy to intense sun, from dry to fog or drizzle, and from hard rain, to hail and even to snow. The minimum daily temperature is -2°C and the maximum is 18°C. The annual mean precipitation is 1200 mm. In CNP there are no volcanoes and the páramo lies between 3000 and 4450 m. Pleistocene glaciers carved the landscape and formed more than 235 lakes and lagoons. Two rivers drain the eastern slopes towards the city of Cuenca. Cuenca is a city of some 300.000 inhabitants and was added to the UNESCO world heritage sites in 1999 as an outstanding example of a planned inland Spanish colonial city. Thousands of Ecuadorian and international tourists visit the city and take advantage of the proximity of the Park to explore this natural area. A new highway that connects Cuenca with the Coastal region crosses the northern part of the Park. In this area is located the new information and interpretation center by Lake Toreadora. Gas and other hazardous materials cannot be transported on this highway. One or two Park rangers, together with a police officer, control the traffic through this area and collect the entrance fees to the Park (2.00 USD for Ecuadorians, 10.00 USD for foreign visitors). The other access road, Soldados-Angas, is in the southern part; this is an unpaved road, less frequented by tourists except trout fishermen. Some 15.000 tourists visit the area each year. CNP was registered in January 2003 in the Ramsar convention on wetlands. The new management has been quite successful, and they have over the last few years invested towards infrastructure and personnel. They have managed to eliminate plantations of Monterrey pine within the park borders and have controlled the access of cattle in most areas. However, there are still some difficulties in the bordering areas with private ranches and cattle can still be seen from time to time. A new social project directed toward a dialog, understanding and support of the surrounding communities is underway.
 

U-shaped valley
U-shaped valley
Tres Cruces
Tres Cruces
Grass páramo
Grass páramo

Lake Patoquinoas
Lake Patoquinoas
Polylepis forest
Polylepis forest

Llama
Llama

 
 
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