A group of Peruvian and Spanish scientists, supported by rangers of Peru’s National Parks Service, have discovered a new lizard species living in the wet Puna montane forests between 2760 and 2800 metres above sea level.
The reptile, which researchers propose naming the “Machu Picchu Andean lizard”, shows distinctive skin colouring and flaking patterns.
The discovery was announced late this week by Drs Luis Mamani and Juan Carlos Chaparro of Cusco’s National University of San Antonio Abad, and Dr Naomi Goicochea of Spain’s National University of Natural Sciences.
The wet mountain ecosystem around Cusco is a known treasure trove of plant and animal diversity, with many species found nowhere else on Earth.
Only a few years ago, rangers and scientists discovered a creature long thought to be extinct: the Machu Picchu arboreal chinchilla rat.
The size of a cat, the native rat was was previously known only from Inca pottery crafted 400 years ago.
Scientists warn that wildlife habitat in the area is at risk.
UNESCO has raised concerns about how the area is managed ever since Machu Picchu was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1983.
The integrity of the park is at risk from logging, clearing for agriculture, and water pollution, UNESCO says.
According to Peru’s tourism agency, PromPeru, most international visitors are drawn to the country because of Machu Picchu and Cusco, with a desire to experience natural areas and hiking a strong drawcard.