|Luis Ángel Ramírez|
|Arriertito Antioqueño Nature Reserve|
Luis Ángel Ramírez, a shopkeeper in the Colombian village of El Roble, has spent much of the last 13 years as the unofficial voice of conservation in a wilderness of ranchers and loggers quickly destroying the forests of Colombia’s Antioqueño Department.
Ramírez, who grew up on his family’s ranch and still works part-time as a rancher, understands well the urge to expand cattle production. The impulse, however, failed to resonate with him, and he eventually played a central role in setting up a reserve to protect the region’s wildlife.
Ramírez’s first conservation victory came as a boy when, after much pleading, he successfully convinced his father to spare the family’s forested properties from the axe. After he and his brother inherited the family ranch, Ramírez realized his dream of protecting the forests permanently by converting his inheritance into a nature reserve.
The reserve now forms an important part of a protected area sheltering a multitude of threatened Andean wildlife. The 5,300-acre Arrierito Antioqueño Nature Reserve, which has doubled in size due to Rainforest Trust support, contains tracts of primary rainforest that provide habitat not only for threatened bird and frog species, but also for the rare Spectacled bear.
Since its creation, Ramírez has been persistent in his efforts to support the reserve and ensure its success. “I’ve always assumed the role of caretaker for the reserve, making sure it was protected,” he said.
Another role he has adopted is that of local guide. In 1997, he accompanied a group of researchers (including Rainforest Trust CEO, Dr. Paul Salaman) that discovered the Chestnut-capped Piha (known locally as the Arrierito Antioqueño), an endangered bird species endemic to Colombia’s Central Andes.
Since aiding in its discovery, Ramírez has become a local champion for the Chestnut-capped Piha, advocating for improved protection. “We can’t let its song be lost from the world,” he explained.
With much of its habitat destroyed by mining and logging, the Chestnut-capped Piha is now confined to isolated forest fragments, one of which is protected by the Arrierito Antioqueño Nature Reserve. Due to its importance for the survival of the Chestnut-capped Piha and other species, the reserve has been named as an Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) site.