Colombia's Newest Park Protects Rare Wildlife, Indigenous Peoples

BFP Magazine

Serrania de los Churumbelos Auka Wasi National Park

Colombia's Newest Park Protects Rare Wildlife, Indigenous Peoples

Sunday, September 2, 2007

BOGOTA, Colombia (ENS) - The government of Colombia has created a new national park for the protection of one of the greatest areas of biodiversity in the country, inhabited by such rare and endangered animals as the Andean bear, jaguar, puma and tapir.

The new park stretches from the lowlands of the Amazon Basin to the slopes of the Andean Mountains, covering 97,180 hectares, or 375 square miles.

Environment, Air and Territorial Development Minister Juan Lozano Ramirez announced the creation of the Serrania de los Churumbelos Auka Wasi National Park in Bogota on Thursday.

"In the new national park, 461 species of birds have been registered - equivalent to 26 percent of the birds in all of the country, the minister said. "They are not only important for their representativeness at the national level, but for the fact that 77 percent of them depend on the ecosystem conserved in the protected area."

The Churumbelos mountainous area is recognized for its great biodiversity. Some 30 species of amphibians and 16 species of reptiles live in the newly protected area as well as more than 140 species of butterflies, and 825 species of plants.

"We will mobilize to all of Colombian society in support of our natural parks," said Lozano Ramirez.

The global conservation organization WWF participated in the process that led to the declaration of the new park and will help implement the management plan, which includes the promotion of conservation and sustainable development in and around the newly protected area.

"The new park significantly increases the network of protected areas that are so important for the conservation of Andean and Amazon ecosystems," said Luis Germán Naranjo, WWF-Colombia’s ecoregional conservation director.

"Our work with the Colombian parks authorities will boost activities to preserve the Amazon Basin at local, regional, national and international levels," said Naranjo.

This new protected area will be a valuable opportunity to conserve and to consolidate the culture of the indigenous communities, the Inga and Yanaconas, and to assist them in the recovery of their cultural practices, Naranjo said.

For these communities, the Churumbelos mountains are a place where territory and culture are based on a single concept, fundamental in the symbolic and material recreation of their culture.

It is believed that the Andaqui ethnic group lives in voluntary isolation from modern societies at the headwaters of the Forge and Mandiyaco rivers in the Churumbelos mountains. The creation of the national park protects the territory occupied by this ethnic group, under the precautionary principle, Naranjo said.

Minister Lozano Ramirez announced the new park during a Forum on the International Ecosystems of the Millenium. Speaking at the event, he emphasized that the environment is not a secondary consideration for his government, but on the contrary "is a subject of state that engages at the highest level the public responsibilities of the official agencies."

In 2008, the minister said, Colombia's National System of Natural Parks will have the largest financial investment in its history.

In addition to several agencies of the Colombian government, the park was created with the assistance of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through the project Piedemonte Andino-Amazo'nico Colombia, the Embassy of the Netherlands, the Global Environment Facility, and the United Nations, WWF Colombia and the Institute of Etnobiología.

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