Peru is the third largest country in South America, with a total population of 27,947,000. Peru contains three distinct geographical regions: the coast in the western part of the country, the Andean highlands in central Peru and the Amazon rain forest in the eastern half of the country.
Although Spanish is the official language of Peru, many indigenous languages, most notably Quechua, are still spoken throughout the country, with approximately 7,000,000 speakers. Historically, Peru was home to the Quechua, or Inca, empire, with its capital in modern day Cuzco. At the height of its power, the empire spread throughout wide stretches of modern day Ecuador, Chile and Argentina until the Spanish conquest of 1532, led by Francisco Pizarro, brought the empire to collapse. However, traces of the country's past are still seen in famous landmarks such as Machu Picchu, one of the world's most popular tourist destinations.
Because over half of Peru's total land area is covered by tropical rain forests, one of Peru's major exports is mahogany wood. However, Peru's biggest export industry stems from the mining of gold, silver, iron, zinc, lead and tin. For these reasons, both deforestation and environmental problems associated with mining are major concerns of Peru's environmental health.