Protecting Choco’s Biodiversity

Protecting Choco’s Biodiversity

Protecting Choco’s Biodiversity

The Chocó region is a biodiversity hotspot and globally important area for endemic birds. The entire Chocó region holds nearly 900 bird species, 110 of which are endemic, including the Chocó Vireo (Vireo masteri), a species rediscovered in the 1990s. This extensive region begins in Panamá and extends south to the Pacific coast of Ecuador and to the northwestern tip of Peru. This ecoregion originated geologically by a gradual accumulation of isolated trans-Andean forests. During the Pleistocene, the principal uplift of the Colombian Andes took place, which gave way to the formation of tropical lowlands along Colombia´s Pacific and Caribbean coasts. This geologic process combined with fluctuating wet/dry periods formed a wide variety of ecosystems. Similarly, the rich species diversity arises from the numerous ecosystems in close proximity, causing new species to evolve in many ecological niches.

Las Tangaras (The Tanagers) Bird Reserve lies at an elevation of 1,250 to 3,400 meters above sea level and is crucial for protecting the Chocó’s most important river. This watershed, known as Rio de Atrato, serves as a vital economic resource for tens of thousands of people living in the surrounding rural communities. Las Tangaras Bird Reserve acts as a buffer zone, protecting over one hundred thousand acres, against unsustainable rapid development. Surrounding the reserve, several isolated Embera-katio indigenous communities reside along the main highway. The reserve is comprised of sixteen private properties and totals to be an area of 7,076 acres.

Two important species in the reserve are the endemic tanagers: the Golden-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocinta) and the Black-and-Gold Tanager (Bangsia melanochlamys). Overall, more than 250 species of birds can delight our eyes in the Reserve. Other noteworthy species are the Purplish-mantled Tanager (Iridosornis porphyrocephala), the Indigo Flower-Piercer (Diglossa indigotica), and Fulvous-dotted Treerunner (Margaronis stellatus). There are many species of hummingbirds, including the Brown Inca (Coeligena wilsonii), Velvet-purple Coronet (Boissaneaua jardini), and Empress Brilliant (Heliodoxa imperatrix).

This region faces serious environmental degradation, resulting from unsustainable consumption of resources by people who are not equipped with the knowledge, values, and attitudes to act responsibly and sustainably. The Chocó region is heavily impacted by extractive industries, namely forestry and mineral mining. Thus, the development of ecotourism organized and conducted by female guides offers an economic alternative that promotes sound environmental stewardship. Our initiative in basic English classes focuses on training women to foster ecotourism and to become proficient in identifying bird and wildlife species.