62,000 Acres of Bolivian Forest Saved

Construction of the reserve lodging
Vista view from reserve

Over 62,000 acres of pristine tropical rainforest in Bolivia were protected with Rainforest Trust help, following a decision by an indigenous community to create a Tourism Refuge in the Sadiri rainforest.

On February 22, 2010, the indigenous village of San Jose de Uchupiomonas voted overwealmingly in favor of a plan to protect a wide swath of the forest they control, within the designation of a Tourism Refuge. This decision represents a victory for conservation and prevents old growth tropical timber in the region from being cut. Hunting will also be strictly prohibited, and no burning or agricultural activities will be allowed within the area.

The long road to conservation…
For centuries, the small village of San Jose de Uchupiamonas sat isolated in the vast rainforest that now comprises the Madidi National Park. Then, in the late 1990s, the Bolivian government created a 60-mile road through the lush rainforest habitat of Serrania Sadiri to the village.

The road travels through the Madidi National Park management area, which also makes up the Indigenous Community Territory of San Jose de Uchupiamonas. Because of this legal designation, the land here is managed by the people of San Jose, and the decision to protect, ignore or destroy the rainforest rests with the villagers.

Early on in its existence, the road through the rainforest and foothill forest of Serrania Sadiri put enormous pressure on the delicate forest ecosystem and spurred a rise the unsustainable logging of the area’s large Mahogany trees–the most valuable tree at the time. An increase in indiscriminate hunting was also seen. The rainforest was under grave threat of destruction, unless an alternative could be found.

In an effort to avert this crisis, the Bolivian organization Pueblo Nuevo, with assistance from Rainforest Trust, began investigating options with the community. Ecotourism was seen as a feasible long-term strategy for conservation because of the proximity of the forest to the popular tropical tourism destination of Rurrenabaque. The area’s spectacular natural beauty and biodiversity were also factors. The forest protects over four hundred species of birds including Military Macaws. Groups of White-lipped Peccaries are frequently seen in the area as are Jaguars and Pumas.

In 2008, Pueblo Nuevo began the tourism development project, thanks to support in memoriam of Thomas Henry Wilson Sr. and Thomas Henry Wilson Jr. The project is specifically designed to be developed with the San Jose de Uchupiamonas community and is democratic and transparent in nature; the entire community is meant to benefit from this project. The culmination of that effort is the ongoing project to improve transportation methods to the town and to build an ecolodge on top of Serrania Sadiri for the international and local tourism market. Tourism is seen as a viable, long-term sustainable alternative to save this rainforest, forever.

The project will create four cabins with private bathrooms within the Serrania Sadiri rainforest with a dinning complex looking out over the forested valley. The project is designed by the San Jose de Uchupiamonas residents, using traditional construction materials and techniques to give the tourist a comfortable, clean, easy access to an amazing forest. The facilities are scheduled to be ready by June 2011.

New Reserve for Fuertes’s Parrots: a Gold Mine for Conservation

Fuertes' Parrot: rediscovered in 2002
Fuertes' Parrots in nesting box
Fuertes's Parrot

For 91 years, the Fuertes’s Parrot (also known as the Indigo-winged Parrot) had vanished, and was considered by many to be extinct. Then, in 2002, researchers from Rainforest Trust partner ProAves Colombia made an astounding discovery: a colony of 60 of these delicate birds surviving in a fragment of cloud forest in Colombia’s Central Andes.

After nine years of conservation efforts, another discovery in the region poses a grave threat to this Critically Endangered bird.

The South African mining giant, AngloGold Ashanti, recently announced that it had found one of the world’s “top ten gold deposits”–a 13-million ounce vein of gold in Colombia’s Central Andes. This discovery is only 12 miles from one of the last two colonies of Fuertes’s Parrots on Earth.

Rainforest Trust with our partners Fundación ProAves, Fundación Loro Parque, and American Bird Conservancy herald a critical success for this unique and fragile habitat and its threatened biodiversity.

In May 2010, after months of negotiations, we helped acquire and protect the 368-acre (149-hectare) fragment of cloud forest nearest to the gold discovery–an area that contains a vital population of the remarkable Fuertes’s Parrot (see map of site).

The main population of this parrot (approximately 30-40 pairs) was protected by Rainforest Trust and ProAves within the 16,000-acre Parrot Corridor established in 2009. But the threat posed by mining spurred our support to protect this additional group of 5-10 breeding pairs.

Since its rediscovery, and thanks to strenuous conservation efforts, the total population of Fuertes’s Parrots has grown from 60 individuals to an estimated 150-200 birds. An extremely specialized species, the Fuertes’s Parrot feeds on mistletoe and other fruits. It cannot survive in captivity.

“We are delighted that within one year, we have helped protected the entire global population of this spectacular multi-colored parrot and ensured a safe future for its survival,” noted Dr Paul Salaman, Conservation Director of Rainforest Trust. “And we are very grateful to Robert Giles and American Bird Conservancy for matching our donations and making this success a reality.”

“We are also elated that the new reserve will be called the Giles-Fuertes Nature Reserve.”

The new Giles-Fuertes Nature Reserve is located two hours from the provincial capital of Tolima, Ibaque, and includes over 50 acres of pastureland that will be reforested by native trees while adjacent pasturelands will be fenced so that cattle cannot enter the forests and eat tree seedlings. Artificial nest-boxes will be installed to providing nesting sites for the Fuertes’s Parrot as many mature trees with natural cavities have been selectively logged for timber and firewood.

The property includes a traditional cabin for a reserve guard to be stationed to protect the reserve and allow researchers and visitors to be stationed. The reserve will be immediately registered for the national network of protected areas to ensure mining is prohibited. Other rare and endemic species found here include the endangered Mountain Wooly Tapir and the Spectacled Bear.

Rainforest Trust is grateful to all our donors who contributed to establish the Giles-Fuertes Nature Reserve.

We could not have done this without your help.