Magdalena Valley Rainforest Expansion, Colombia
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- Rainforest Trust Conservation Tour: Colombia
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LOCATION: Magdalena Valley, Colombia
SIZE: 700 acres
The Paujil Nature Reserve was established in 2003, in part to protect the Critically Endangered Blue-billed Curassow. This Reserve also protects one of Colombia’s most vulnerable ecosystems: the 700-mile-long Magdalena River basin, an area under dire threat of deforestation. This valley’s highly endangered rainforests support many unique species of flora and fauna. With Rainforest Trust donor support, the Reserve has grown to more than 9,000 acres over the last decade. Now, Rainforest Trust seeks your support to purchase an additional 700 acres to expand the protected area for Colombia’s critical biodiversity.
The area has an exceptional diversity of plants, birds, mammals, amphibians, and other groups with many endemic species. These include the critically endangered Blue-billed Curassow (“Paujil”) and the Magdalena Spider Monkey, one of the rarest primates on earth. Importantly, the area contains isolated populations of several large mammals including the Magdalena Lowland Tapir (Critically Endangered subspecies), jaguar, and spectacled bear. Unless we can succeed at creating a fairly large rainforest reserve, these and many other of this region’s spectacular flora and fauna will be lost forever.
Encircled by two Andean mountain ranges and located just 85 miles north of the capital city of Bogotá, the Magdalena River basin holds one of the richest groupings of biodiversity on the planet with flora and fauna from the neighboring Amazon, Choco, and Central American regions. Tragically, colonization and deforestation have resulted in the elimination of 16.1 million acres (98%) of the region’s lowland forest.
Intensive research and monitoring efforts on the curassow in the reserve has estimated a total of 46 individuals, with an annual population increase of 23% thanks to effective protection. Intensive research on the Magdalena Spider Monkey has also highlighted that this is the last viable population of the species. However, both species need a much greater area than the reserve presently affords. Despite intensive community outreach, logging and forest clearance for ranching continues unabated around the reserve. Rainforest Trust partner, ProAves, has mapped the area of surviving rainforest around the reserve and developed a conservation plan to ensure viable populations of the most threatened species.
The 700 mile-long Magdalena valley, sandwiched between the Central and Eastern Andes of central Colombia, was once a vast carpet of lush lowland rainforest, containing one of the richest lowland biotas outside of the Amazon, with exceptional levels of species richness and endemism.
By 1536 the Spanish conquistadores ventured up the Magdalena river and fought their way through its lush forests to reach Bogotá and on into Ecuador and Peru. The Magdalena River and subsequent adjacent highways eventually became the main conduit for commerce and communication for the densely populated interior of Colombia, including the capital city of Bogotá. Gradually its dense tropical forests across the wide flood-plains and slopes were converted to cattle ranches. From the 1960s, the Colombian government sponsored a massive internationally-financed colonization and infrastructure program in the Magdalena Valley that resulted in the elimination of nearly four million hectares of forest in little over a decade. Today, infrastructure and colonization continues unabated in the region that is now almost completely deforested with only a few fragments remaining. An estimated 98% of Magdalena’s unique and diverse rainforests have already vanished.
With an emergency land-acquisition request in 2003, ProAves received support from American Bird Conservancy and Rainforest Trust to buy rainforest from a timber company to establish the El Paujil Nature Reserve–the first protected area in the region and beside one of the region’s last fragments of primary forest.
For the past four years, ProAves has been undertaking an intensive environmental education campaign that has included 171 workshops, an annual “Paujil festival”, 13 large wall murals, 35 school meetings, and regular visits by the Loro Bus, a parrot-themed outreach vehicle. In 2009, our partner launched the “Women in Conservation” initiative in local towns to train local women in sustainable, environmentally-friendly activities to assist with income generation. In addition, ProAves is also working to engage local people in ecotourism activities.
While the community now fully supports the reserve and its members have stopped hunting the area’s unique and endangered biodiversity, the Blue-billed Curassow and Magdalena Spider Monkey continue to be threatened by timber exploitation in the remaining forested lands around the reserve.
Map of the Project Area
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