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Tambopata National Reserve

Tambopata National Reserve is a Peruvian nature reserve located in the southeastern region of Madre de Dios. It was established on September 4, 2000, by decree of President Alberto Fujimori.The reserve protects several ecosystems of the tropical rainforest for the preservation of such forest and the sustainable use of forest resources by the peoples around the reserve.

Tambopata National Reserve is located south of the Madre de Dios river, in the province of Tambopata, region of Madre de Dios. It reaches the border with Bolivia to the east and borders with Bahuaja Sonene National Park to the south.

The area consists of forested hills and plains, with elevations ranging from 200 to 400 m above sea level. The area presents swamps, oxbow lakes and meandering rivers; the main rivers in the reserve being the Tambopata, Malinowski and Heath rivers.

The annual mean temperature in the area is 26°C, with a range between 10° and 38°C. The lower temperatures are caused by cold winds of antarctic origin; these cold waves occur in June and July. The rainy season occurs between December and March.

Tambopata National Reserve protects an area of rainforest, which belongs to the moist and wet subtropical forest according to the Holdridge life zone classification. The reserve is of ecological importance as it is part of the Vilcabamba Amboro wildlife corridor, which extends into neighboring Bolivia.

Vascular plants are represented in the reserve by 1713 species in 145 families. Among the species found in this protected area are: Virola surinamensis, Cedrela odorata, Oncidium spp., Bertholletia excelsa, Geonoma deversa, Minquartia guianensis, Epidendrum coronatum, Iriartea deltoidea, Celtis schippii, Spondias mombin, Mauritia flexuosa, Cedrelinga cateniformis, Hymenaea courbaril, Ficus trigonata, Croton draconoides, Inga spp., Attalea tessmannii, Calycophyllum spruceanum, Swietenia macrophylla, Dipteryx charapilla, Couroupita guianensis, Socratea exorrhiza, Hura crepitans, Manilkara bidentata, Clarisia racemosa, Hevea guianensis, Guadua weberbaueri, Ceiba pentandra, etc.

Among the mammal species found in the reserve are: the jaguar, the puma, the ocelot, the collared peccary, the giant otter, the Peruvian spider monkey, the jaguarundi, Hoffmann's two-toed sloth, the capybara, the tufted capuchin, the white-lipped peccary, the marsh deer, the red brocket, the brown-throated sloth, the black-capped squirrel monkey, the South American tapir, etc.

Some of the species of fish present in the reserve are: Prochilodus nigricans, Potamorhina latior, Brachyplatystoma flavicans, Piaractus brachypomus, Brycon spp., Schizodon fasciatus, etc.

Some species of birds present in the reserve are: the harpy eagle, the white-necked jacobin, the scarlet macaw, the rufescent tiger heron, the king vulture, the roseate spoonbill, the crested eagle, the razor-billed curassow, the blue-and-yellow macaw, the variegated tinamou, the sunbittern, the red-and-green macaw, the horned curassow, the golden-tailed sapphire, etc.

In 2013, Georgia Tech researcher Troy Alexander discovered four bizarre gazebo-shaped spider nests while visiting the Reserve. The nests, which have since come to be known as Silkhenge structures, were each composed of an undocumented silk compound and consisted of a circular fence-like formation encompassing a spire at its center. Alexander's subsequent Reddit inquiry was unable to identify the peculiar nest structure pictured or the species of arthropod associated with it.

Later that year, an expedition to the Reserve led by Phil Torres observed 45 additional like structures. While the team successfully documented several spiderlings hatching from the nests (video of which was later posted online), none of them survived into adulthood. Furthermore, the team was unable to observe any member of the species to exhibit the characteristics indicative of adult arthropods. With DNA testing proving inconclusive, the species native to Silkhenge structures remains unidentified.

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