Machu Picchu sanctuary is not only a treasure trove of history but also a sanctuary for some of the world’s most fascinating endemic wildlife. When you visit this extraordinary area, you’ll likely encounter a variety of Machu Picchu animals, birds, and reptiles. Unfortunately, the natural habitats of these remarkable creatures are under threat due to factors such as wildfires, improper waste disposal, and an increasing number of visitors.
In the following sections, we will introduce you to some of the common animals found in Machu Picchu, many of which you might encounter while hiking the Inca Trail. With a bit of luck, you’ll have the chance to witness these unique species up close.
Although llamas are not native to Machu Picchu, they have adapted to life within the park. Approximately 25 llamas can be found grazing throughout the area, providing a glimpse into how Machu Picchu might have appeared during the time of the Incas. Archaeological studies have confirmed the presence of llamas in Machu Picchu, making their presence here all the more special. Rest assured, you’ll have the opportunity to see these majestic animals during your visit.
Read: Llamas at Machu Picchu.
Vizcacha (Lagidium Peruanum)
Vizcachas are rodent-like creatures commonly found in the expansive Andean landscapes of South America. They make their homes in crevasses, beneath rocks, and in tunnels that they create. The numerous rock formations and boulders at Machu Picchu provide an ideal habitat for vizcachas, and encountering them is a common sight. Their appearance may be somewhat deceiving, as they share characteristics with both rabbits and squirrels, particularly in their tail.
Lizards (Stenocercus Ochoai)
During your visit to Machu Picchu, you may notice two species of lizards curiously observing you as they bask on the rocky walls or along the paths. When they sense human presence, they often raise their heads and quickly disappear into the vegetation or cracks in the walls.
Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos Ornatus)
Among the remarkable wildlife of Machu Picchu, the spectacled bear, also known as the Oso de anteojos, occasionally makes appearances, sometimes even leaping among the terraces. While bear sightings are infrequent, they are memorable. In the rare event of encountering one, rest assured that they pose no threat to humans and are typically quick to retreat into the Andean jungle.
Gallito de las Rocas (Rupicola Peruvianus)
One of Peru’s most beautiful birds, the Gallito de las Rocas, has also found a home in Machu Picchu, as it has in other protected areas like Rio Abiseo and Manu. While spotting these vibrant birds is challenging due to their limited presence, you may have a chance during the Hidroelectrica – Aguas Calientes hike or the walk from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. Keep in mind that sightings are not guaranteed, as Machu Picchu is home to a staggering 423 species of birds, including the torrent duck, hooded siskin, blue and yellow tanager, giant hummingbird, green-tailed trainbearer, and many more.
Giant Hummingbird (Patagonia Gigas)
The Giant Hummingbird is relatively common in the eastern and western Andes, stretching from southern Colombia to Argentina and Chile. Spotting one of these hummingbirds at Machu Picchu can be a rewarding experience. They have a distinctive, slower wingbeat compared to other hummingbirds, making them easier to photograph during flight.
Jergon Andino (Bothrops Andeanus)
Encounters with the Jergon Andino can be unexpected, and it’s crucial to exercise caution, as this snake’s bite is venomous. Another poisonous snake found in the area is the Coral (Micrurus Spixi). In addition to these two feared species, other snakes, such as the Culebrita Andina (Tachymenis Peruviana), contribute to the region’s reptilian diversity.
Butterflies are the most abundant group of species in Machu Picchu, and they flutter throughout the site, depending on the weather. To learn more about these colorful insects, you can visit the butterfly house near the Aguas Calientes municipal camp on your way to Machu Picchu. It offers a unique opportunity to step away from the typical Machu Picchu experience and gain a deeper understanding of its butterfly population.
Today, species near Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu are more vulnerable to endangerment than those in more remote areas. However, the Machu Picchu sanctuary, spanning approximately 32,500 hectares, encompasses a wide range of ecological niches, sheltering an even more diverse and exotic array of flora and fauna.
In summary, Machu Picchu is not only a historical marvel but also a sanctuary for an exceptional range of wildlife. From llamas to vizcachas, spectacled bears to vibrant birds, and giant hummingbirds to colorful butterflies, this ancient citadel offers a unique opportunity to connect with the natural world. As you explore this remarkable site, take time to appreciate the rich tapestry of life that thrives in this awe-inspiring setting. Machu Picchu’s wildlife is a testament to the beauty and diversity of the natural world, adding an extra layer of wonder to your visit.