Protecting Choco’s Biodiversity

Protecting Choco’s Biodiversity

Protecting Choco’s Biodiversity

The Chocó region is an area that is globally important for bird endemism, the entire Chocó region holds nearly 900 total species of birds 110 of which are endemic, including the Chocó Vireo a new species discovered in the Colombian Chocó. The Chocó is considered one of the main biological hotspots that this planet has to offer. It is an extensive region that begins in Panamá and extends south to the pacific coast of Ecuador and to the northwestern tip of Peru. This phenomenon can be explained by a gradual accumulation of isolated trans-Andean forests. During the Pleistocene, the principle 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 formation and fluctuating wet dry periods formed a wide variety of ecosystem that can still be observed in present day. Similarly, the cause of species biodiversity is due to a high concentration of varying ecosystems in close proximity, this causes species to rapidly evolve to fit ecological niches.

Las Tangaras Bird Reserve is at an the elevation of 1,250 to 3,400 meters above sea level. This reserve is crucial in the protection of the Chocó’s most important river. This watershed, known as Rio de Atrato, serves as a vital economic resource for tens of thousands of inhabitants living in the surrounding rural communities. 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.

The most important species in the reserve are the two endemic species of Tanagers, the Golden-ringed tanager (Bangsia aureocinta) and the Black-and-gold tanager (Bangsia melanochlamys). Overall, there is a large range of species, counting with a high diversity index of more than 250 species of birds. Some of the species of greater importance are the Purple-mantled Tanager (Iridosornis porphyrocephala), the Indigo Flower-Piercer (Diglossa Indigotica) and Fulvous-dotted Treerunner (Margaronis stellatus). In the early nineties the Chocó Vireo (Vireo Masteri), was rediscovered in the Chocó and can be seen in the reserve. There are several species of hummingbirds like the Brown Inca (Coeligena wilsonii), Velvet-purple Coronet  (Boissaneaua Jardini) and Empress Brilliant (Heliodoxa imperatrix).

This region faces serious loss of natural resources and consequent degradation of the environment. The major cause of unsustainable use of natural resources has been identified as the challenge of people not having acquired knowledge, values and positive attitudes to individually or collectively take positive actions to address environmental issues. This initiative is in a biodiversity hotspot under threat by mining and forestry industries. Chocó is a region that is heavily affected by external pressure from extractive resource industries. The development of ecotourism guided and organized by women offers a local alternative economy that promotes sound environmental stewardship. The initiative focuses on training women on identification of bird and wildlife species, basic English classes and Ecotourism training.