The Punta San Juan Program (PSJP) is long-term project of the Center for Environmental Sustainability of Cayetano Heredia University (CSA-UPCH). The PSJP a field research program based at the Punta San Juan (PSJ) guano reserve that has been conducting research, monitoring and conservation of wildlife in situ for over 30 years. PSJ is part of the Peruvian Guano Islands, Isles and Capes National Reserve (RNSIIPG, acronym that stands for its name in Spanish: “Reserva Nacional Sistema de Islas, Islotes y Puntas Guaneras”), which are managed by the National Service of Protected Natural Areas of Peru (SERNANP, acronym that stands for its name in Spanish: “Servicio Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas”). PSJ is a 133 acre (54 Ha) peninsula located on the southern coast of Peru, in the city of Marcona, in the province of Ica. With their field-based research station in the reserve, an office in the city of Marcona and an office based at the UPCH in Lima, the PPSJ has been dedicated to the research of marine wildlife populations, to better understand how they interact with their environment and how they are affected by human activity.

PSJ is home to the largest colony of Humboldt penguins in Peru, as well as large populations of South American fur seals and sea lions. It is one of the ten most important breeding sites for guano birds, a common name for an aggregation of three species: Guanay cormorant, Peruvian pelican and Peruvian boobies, which nest together on the islands and islets of the coast, and produce large amounts of guano. It is also home to other species of birds like Inca terns, Belcher´s gulls, snowy egrets, black oystercatchers, kelp gulls, amongst others. Sightings of other marine mammal species such as marine

otters, humpback whales, sperm whales, common dolphins, dusky dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, orca whales and other cetaceans are common at this site.

Due to the great availability of food near the coast at this location, there is an abundance of marine predators and great biodiversity at PSJ. This is due to its unique geographical location within the productive Humboldt Current System (HCS) that runs along the majority of Peru´s coast. The HCS is one of four major upwelling systems that gives rise to one the most productive marine ecosystems in the world (Chavez & Messie 2009).

In the case of the HCS, the upwelling of nutrients occurs in coasts of Peru and Chile. However, PSJ is the closest point to the marine trench of the HCS, providing large volumes of nutrient-rich waters near the coast. This, together with a series of oceanographic features, has led PSJ to become known as the most productive coastal marine site in the world (Bakun & Weeks 2008). This natural productivity, together with over 100 years of protection granted by the Peruvian government Guano Islands, Isles and Capes where guano birds congregate, allowing the coexistence of large colonies of marine predators to thrive in protected areas as is PSJ.

Since 1909, the ‘Compañía Administradora de Guano’ (the first company in charge of managing guano as a national resource), and all companies that were created thereafter by the Peruvian government, have protected breeding sites of sea birds along the coast of Peru to increase their reproductive success to enhance guano production.

These places have become also refuge sites for other marine predators such as fur seals, sea lions and Humboldt penguins.

Places like PSJ, which are on the coast, have concrete walls built around them to restrict access to predators and avoid the disturbance of nesting seabirds. Another protective measure is the permanent presence of park or island rangers to control and monitor the site full-time as well as to guard all that lies within the maritime boundaries (within an area of approximately 4-6 km2).

In 1978, Dr. Patricia Majluf -founder of the PSJ Project- came to Punta San Juan where she began to research populations of South American fur seals. It was not long before her visits to PSJ became a long-term project, not only for research purposes but also for conservation of the many wild populations living at PSJ.

In December 2009, the Peruvian National Reserve of Guano Islands, Isles and Capes (DS No. 024-2009-MINAM) was created, consisting of a network of 33 sites along the Peruvian coast. Since then, the PSJP has produced various cooperation agreements with SERNANP and AGRORURAL (the current government agency that deals with management and harvesting of guano) to actively help in the protection of local wildlife populations, promote research and train Peruvians to work in the conservation of marine wildlife, research, education and outreach.