Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve is Bolivia's most visited protected area which contains a large range of landscapes that include volcanic mountain peaks, hot springs, geysers, lakes, fumaroles and windswept deserts.
Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve, situated in the far southwestern region of Bolivia, is the country's most visited protected area and contains a large range of landscapes that include erupting volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, lakes, fumaroles, mountains and windswept deserts. Located in Sur Lípez Province, it is considered the most important protected area, in terms of tourist influx, in the Potosí Department.
Located at an altitude between 4,200 m (13,800 ft) and 5,400 m (17,700 ft) in the southern region of Andean mountains in southwestern Bolivia, it extends over an area of 714,745 ha (1,766,170 acres) and includes the Laguna Colorada National Wildlife Sanctuary. The entire reserve is part of the larger Los Lípez Ramsar site.
The reserve protects part of the Central Andean dry puna (oligothermic) ecoregion. The reserve's major attractions are erupting volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, lakes, fumaroles, mountains and its three endemic species of flamingos in particular.
Two communities founded in the 1920's, Quetena Chico (pop. 520) and Quetena Grande (pop. 180), lie within the reserve.
Lakes located within the reserve include Laguna Verde, Laguna Colorada, Laguna Salada, Laguna Busch and Laguna Hedionda.
Laguna Colorada lies at an altitude of 4,278 m (14,035 ft) and covers 60 sq km (23 sq mi). It is named after the effect of wind and sun on the micro-organism that live in it.
The lake contains borax islands, whose white color contrasts with the reddish color of its waters, which is caused by red sediments and pigmentation of some algae.
The lake is very shallow, less than 1 m (3 ft 3 in) deep, and supports some 40 bird species, providing pink algae to population of rare James's flamingos who can walk across it.
Salvador Dalí Desert (Desierto de Dalí), also known as Dalí Valley (Valle de Dalí), is an extremely barren valley entirely contained within the borders of the reserve and is characterized by landscapes that resemble surrealist paintings by Salvador Dalí.
The reserve contains the following mountain peaks, in alphabetical order, along with their corresponding height:
- Amarillo – 5,560 m (18,241 ft)
- Aguas Calientes – 5,684 m (18,648 ft)
- Aguita Brava – 5,485 m (17,995 ft)
- Bajo – 5,468 m (17,939 ft), border with Argentina
- Baratera – 5,484 m (17,992 ft)
- Brajma – 5,356 m (17,572 ft)
- Bravo – 5,656 m (18,556 ft)
- Cahuna – 5,583 m (18,317 ft)
- Callejón Chico – 5,708 m (18,727 ft)
- Chaco Seguro – 4,948 m (16,233 ft)
- Chicalin – 5,123 m (16,808 ft)
- Chijlla – 5,709 m (18,730 ft)
- Cojita – 5,116 m (16,785 ft)
- Colorado – 5,264 m (17,270 ft)
- Cueva Blanca – 4,957 m (16,263 ft)
- Estrato – 5,193 m (17,037 ft)
- Guacha – 5,340 m (17,519 ft)
- Guayaques – 5,598 m (18,366 ft)
- Juriques – 5,704 m (18,714 ft), border with Chile
- Lagunitas – 5,203 m (17,070 ft)
- Letrato – 5,193 m (17,037 ft)
- Licancabur – 5,920 m (19,422 ft), border with Chile
- Linzor – 5,680 m (18,635 ft)
- Loromayu – 5,641 m (18,507 ft)
- Loromita – 4,846 m (15,899 ft)
- Michina – 5,537 m (18,494 ft)
- Nelly – 5,078 m (16,660 ft)
- Pabellón – 5,498 m (18,038 ft)
- Panizo – 5,456 m (17,900 ft)
- Piedras Grandes – 5,710 m (18,733 ft)
- Poderosa – 5,614 m (18,418 ft)
- Puntas Negras – 4,963 m (16,282 ft)
- Puripica Chico – 5,464 m (17,926 ft)
- Putana – 5,890 m (19,324 ft)
- Quebrada Honda – 5,593 m (18,350 ft)
- Sairecabur – 5,971 m (19,890 ft), border with Chile
- Sanabria – 5,654 m (18,550 ft)
- Sandoncito – 5,252 m (17,231 ft)
- Silata Chahuna – 5640 m (18,504 ft)
- Suri Phuyu – 5,458 m (17,907 ft)
- Tinte – 5,384 m (17,664 ft), border with Argentina
- Totoral – 4,963 m (16,283 ft)
- Tres Cumbres – 5,509 m (18,074 ft)
- Viscachillos – 5,301 m (17,391 ft)
- Waylla Yarita – 5,578 m (18,300 ft)
- Wilama – 5,678 m (18,628 ft), border with Argentina
- Zapaleri – 5,090 m (16,699 ft), border with Argentina and Chile
The reserve's climate in winter (May to August) is dry, generally with no rain during the summer (December to April). The average temperature is 3 °C (37 °F). The lowest temperatures are recorded during the months of May, June and July.
The reserve, which is located within the Central Andean Dry Puna ecoregion, has vegetation consisting of tropical alpine herbs with dwarf shrubs of the forests of Polylepis. Plant and tree species are reportedly about 190 species, in the harsh terrain, which have emerged given the conditions of salinity, lack of fresh water, low temperatures, and scarcity of nutrients.
Flora restricted to this and other ecoregions include the genera Barneoudia, Hexaptera, Nototriche, Pycnophyllum and Werneria. The vegetation is characterized by the strong presence of pasture grass (straw) such as Peruvian feather grass (Stipa ichu) in some plains and hillsides.
The important plant species on which people are dependent for fuel wood in the area is yareta, which grows in the forest of the reserve at 1 - 3 mm (0.039 - 0.118 in) per year amidst rocky terrain. This hardwood tree, which looks like a foamy bubble bath but is as hard as stone, grows slowly, attaining a height of about 5 ft (1.5 m) in height with girth of 10 ft (3.0 m) and can be as old as 3000 years. In places with higher humidity, Tola or Thola (Parastrephia lepidophylla), Quinoa and Kenua bush tree are found.
The reserve is habitat for ten reptile species (including two lizards of the genus Liolaemus), amphibians and fish. Other domesticated animals that are raised in 500 villages inhabited by Quetena Grande and Quetena Chico communities are the llamas and alpacas; however, grazing by these animals on the native grasses and plants in the reserve has a detrimental effect on the conservation of the park.
The fauna is characterized by the presence of species that have adapted to extreme living conditions in the region, some of them endangered. The reserve is home to 80 species of birds. Out of six flamingo species in the world, three species, namely the Chilean, Andean and James flamingos are found in very large numbers in the freshwater lakes and saltwater lagoons of the reserve.
Of the Chilean (Phoenicopterus chilensis), Andean (Phoenicoparrus andinus) and James (Phoenicoparrus jamesi) flamingos in the reserve, their population was recorded in 1994 as 26,600. In addition, the reserve is also the habitat for 80 more species of birds, which include falcons, ducks, lesser or Darwin's rhea (Pterocnemia pennata), puna tinamou (Tinamotis pentlandii) and Andean goose (Chloephaga melanoptera).
Endemic birds found in this ecoregion also include the endangered Ash-breasted tit-tyrant (Anairetes alpinus); the critically threatened royal cinclodes (Cinclodes aricomae), the vulnerable Berlepsch’s canastero (Asthenes berlepschi); and species of least concern the line-fronted canastero (Asthenes urubambensis), scribble-tailed canastero (Asthenes maculicauda), short-tailed finch (Idiopsar bracyurus), and gray-bellied flower-piercer (Diglosa carbonaria).
Mammals reported in the protected reserve are 23 species, which include pumas, Andean foxes (Pseudalopex culpaeus) and vizcacha (rabbit -like).
Endangered species include: vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna), suri, Andean condor, keñua, puma (Felis concolor), andean cat (Felis jacobita), and quirquincho (Chaetophractus nationi).