Located within the lush rainforests of central Colombia, El Paujil Reserve and El Jaguar Reserve together protect over 13,300 acres and are refuges to many threatened and endangered species. However, since the arrival of COVID-19, increases in trespassing on reserve property have posed a worsening threat to the conservation of these species and their habitat. In response, Women for Conservation has sponsored two new forest guard positions through Fundación ProAves to help monitor and protect newly acquired reserve land. Thanks to this support from WFC, José Andrés López and Luis Eloy Silva have joined the conservation effort to protect these unique biodiversity hotspots and the endemic species that depend on them for survival.
Since joining the forest guard team on El Paujil Reserve in August, José’s appreciation of nature has deepened and altered his perspective. He acknowledges that before becoming a forest guard he paid less attention to his natural surroundings, but now has the opportunity to “appreciate and admire more the flora and fauna and be surprised by beautiful things in nature.” Luis, the new forest guard on El Jaguar Reserve, has also experienced a shift in perspective since beginning his role as a forest guardian this September. He was surprised by the number of species on the verge of extinction due to human activities and recognizes the importance of his work to protect wildlife and their habitats. Luis feels that it is a great privilege to know that he is “being entrusted to carry out the beautiful work of protecting the environment…and the conservation of all living beings.”
As forest guards, José and Luis have the opportunity to share their appreciation for native biodiversity with the community and help promote the importance of the reserves. Through community outreach and environmental education, José may teach local people how to identify his favorite Blue-and-yellow Macaw and Luis may demonstrate how to use binoculars to spot his favorite bird, the brightly colored Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia.
Forest guards are also responsible for more direct conservation activities, such as patrolling to prevent poaching and logging on reserve lands, planting trees to reforest the landscape, and removing invasive species. In addition, they contribute to conservation science by conducting vegetation surveys and collecting data about wildlife behavior and population numbers. Forest guards’ efforts sustain the integrity of the preserves and are indispensable in preserving the ecosystems and diverse wildlife of the region. Though being a forest guard is difficult work requiring significant physical exertion, navigating rough terrain, and learning quickly on the job, it is also highly rewarding and a vital component of conservation efforts in Colombia. In Luis’s words, he enjoys his work as a forest guard because he is “giving life to future generations” and he knows this “has a beautiful purpose…to preserve the life of the planet.”
Header image: Luis digging post holes for planting native trees in El Jaguar Reserve.
Article by Lizzie Rose, Communications and Outreach Intern