PURCHASED: Preventing Extinction in the Chicamocha Valley, Colombia

Chicamocha valleyPROJECT SNAPSHOT

LOCATION: Chicamocha Valley, Santander, Colombia

SIZE: 3,000 acres

KEY SPECIES: Nicefori Wren (Critically Endangered), Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird (Critically Endangered)

HABITAT: Dry forest

THREATS: Unique dry forests are disappearing as frequent fires and heavy overgrazing by goats has prevented any natural regeneration

ACTION: Expand the current reserve to 5,000 acres

LOCAL PARTNERS: Fundación ProAves

FINANCIAL NEED: $120,000 for land purchase

 Nicefori Wren
Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird
Chicamocha valley

Project Update: The land highlighted in this project has been purchased. Additional land will become available so donations are still being accepted.

The Critically Endangered Niceforo’s Wren and Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird are dependent on remnant dry forests in the Chicamocha canyon that has been identified by the Alliance for Zero Extinction. Following two years of surveys and research to establish the status, distribution, ecological requirements, and threats for unique and threatened fauna and flora within the Chicamocha River Valley, including confirming that the Niceforo’s Wren is a valid species, our partner ProAves Colombia determined clear conservation actions.

Despite high levels of endemism at both the species and subspecies level in birds, reptiles, and flora in the Chicamocha Valley, this extraordinary ecosystem is completely unprotected. Unfortunately very little vegetation remains in a natural state with intense seasonal burning and grazing from goats and cattle. For example, the endemic and attractive Chicamocha Cavanillesia tree (Cavanillesia chicamochae) and Zamia encephalartoides are nationally Critically Endangered. After two years of searches across the region, the Niceforo’s Wren population was restricted on three small subpopulations of less than 14 pairs each. The principal subpopulation of 14 territories is located NE of the town of Zapatoca. Importantly, this population occurs is the last example of pristine dry forest in the entire region. The majority of the territories occurs in several large properties that total 5,000 acres for sale at approx. $45 per acre. The acquisition of these properties will establish the Niceforo’s Wren Nature Reserve (Reserva Natural de las Aves Cucarachero de Chicamocha).

The Chicamocha project by ProAves Colombia was awarded a follow-on grant from the BP Conservation Award towards establishing a protected area and sustaining monitoring efforts within a new protected area. For the past eight months, ProAves has been negotiating the property owner and has received and assessed the land titles. We believe it is crucial to protect this last relict of an extraordinary ecosystem.

Biodiversity Value

The creation of the reserve in this region of the Chicamocha canyon will help protect two Critically Endangered species with highly restricted ranges: Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird and Niceforo’s Wren. Both species were previously known from just one site. Intensive surveys and studies established that the wren’s population is tiny, and its range is extremely small and under severe threat. If actions are not immediately implemented to protect its core stronghold population, then this and other endemic species and subspecies of birds are at risk.

Endemic species and subspecies of birds include Colombian Chachalaca (Ortalis colombiana), Apical Flycatcher (Myarchus apicalis), Blue-crowned Motmot (Momotus momota olivaresii), Golden-Winged Sparrow (Arremon schlegeli canidorsum), and Biocolored Wren (Campilorhynchus bicolor). Many other endemic flora and fauna species will be at severe risk of extinction, such as the vulnerable species Tillandsia andreana.

The critical conservation area has limited water resources and is vulnerable in the dry season to fires. The main area of surviving dry forest are in a semicircular basin; the soils are well drained with low fertility, highly eroded and rocky. The flora that grows in the Chicamocha Valley is very diverse, especially in the Cactaceae family and thorny shrubs. The lands are used for cattle and goat grazing that browse the understory and stop any natural regeneration.

Map of the Project Area

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