The dry, montane, and cloud forests of the Colombian Andes support an array of wildlife, including the pacarana, Andean condor, puma, golden-plumed parakeet, red howler monkey, Andean bear, mountain tapir, and neo-tropical otter. Unfortunately, habitat loss, mining, oil exploration, ecosystem fragmentation, palm oil and coca plantations, poaching, and wildlife trade are threatening Colombia’s natural heritage. Still, the country’s increasing political stability and conservation efforts offer hope that we can overcome some of these challenges.
In Colombia’s heavily populated regions, habitat fragmentation poses great threats to biodiversity. Oil exploration, large-scale forestry, and plantations (e.g. palm), and development projects such as dams and highways threaten lowland areas, while long-term deforestation and habitat segmentation degrade highland ecosystems. Meanwhile, mining projects ecologically compromise both highland and lowland habitats. There is a pressing need to constantly survey and monitor wildlife populations, such as the Cauca guans, in order to effectively plan for their management and predict the probability of their survival. It is also critical to determine how prevalent environmental threats have affected the distribution and conservation status of lesser-known species, such as the Andean bear, Wied’s spotted cat, and some parrots.
WCS-Colombia focuses primarily on conserving central Andean ecosystems and their wildlife, particularly in the mid-portion of the Central and western Andean cordilleras and the Cauca Valley River that flows between them. In this region, WCS conducts specific studies on landscape species, biodiversity patterns in wild areas and rural landscapes, forest dynamics, and prevalent threats. We also help train young conservation professionals and work with governmental and non-governmental organizations and local communities to implement effective conservation. Additionally, WCS provides technical assistance to conservation initiatives at the national, regional, and local levels.
Meanwhile, in central Colombia, WCS is studying spatial patterns of biodiversity and dynamics within cloud forests to understand how these rare landscapes function, what their conservation needs are, and how the forests may be restored. By recognizing and studying the contribution of rural areas to biodiversity conservation, WCS is finding common ground between the needs of people and the environment.