Introducing Cocha Cashu

The Cocha Cashu Biological Station (CCBS) is a tropical ecology field station of international renown and importance for understanding and preserving tropical biodiversity. It is one of the most productive areas in the scientific world and, without doubt, one of the most studied neotropical forest sites. Located in Manu National Park, in southeastern Peru, Cocha Cashu may offer a vision of what many mammal communities were like before man intruded. The site has remained free of systematic hunting since 1970, when researchers began to occupy the area. With a full complement of predators, large-seed dispersers, and seed-eaters, the CCBS provides unrivalled opportunities to study the processes of nature largely undisturbed by humans. It affords an all-important baseline—a point of reference for our scientific comparisons. Cocha Cashu’s remoteness makes it especially valuable for climate change research because, unlike many other study sites, the area is relatively free of other anthropogenic effects that may confound results. The value of Cocha Cashu—and the park that encompasses it—as a reference landscape is likely to increase as more of the neighboring tropical rainforest is lost or otherwise degraded.

Cocha Cashu has hosted researchers from all over the world in a variety of disciplines, generating over 750 scientific publications. Dr. John Terborgh, Professor of Environmental Sciences at Duke University and an eminent authority on tropical ecology, operated the station, under the auspices of the Peruvian government, for more than 30 years, and personally conducted research on such diverse topics as primates, birds, jaguars and forest composition.

Today, Cocha Cashu is under new management. In early 2011, San Diego Zoo Global and the Peruvian Service for Protected Natural Areas (SERNANP) signed a ten-year Memorandum of Understanding, thus launching a new era for Cocha Cashu. By investing in infrastructure, logistics, education, and scientific capacity, we will create fertile ground for the CCBS to reach its full potential as a study site, maximizing its scientific contribution to the understanding and management of tropical ecosystems. The station is supported by the resources of San Diego Zoo Global, and was funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Several other donors have provided additional support. In particular, we thank the Condon family, the Resch family, and the Karp family. We welcome new supporters at any level; designated donations [tax deductible 501(c)3] to help us with the cost of operating the station can be sent directly to San Diego Zoo Global (Development Department SDZG, P.O. Box 120551, San Diego, California, 92112-0551).

The main objective of research in the CCBS is to acquire knowledge about the ecological and biological processes that occur in the tropical forest of the South Eastern Amazon. This knowledge provides the information necessary for better area management, as well as the guidelines for the rational use of natural resources. We consider that all types of biological research and conservation of natural resources are a priority for protected areas and therefore, useful for the management of the park. To facilitate this, we will maintain the simple, efficient character of the station, while making modest upgrades to the facilities to encourage sustained and increased use by investigators pursuing key research questions.