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Colombia - Conserving the world's most biologically diverse and wettest forest, home to the Awa indigenous community

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Our Colombia Program

Critical sites conservation in the Chocó region of Colombia

The world's wettest forest supporting the single greatest concentration of endemic birds and orchids on the planet

The Chocó forest in western Colombia, bordering Ecuador, is the world’s most biologically diverse and wettest forest supporting the single greatest concentration of endemic birds and orchids on the planet. It is also home to the Awá indigenous community that currently occupies a series of disconnected indigenous reserves. Emerald TanagerNature & Culture International is partnering with the ProAves Foundation of Colombia to acquire strategic properties to maintain biodiversity connectivity and link isolated Awá indigenous reserves. The harsh climate (over 23 feet of rainfall per year) and extreme topography have allowed such a species-rich ecosystem to remain intact. However, recent economic development – especially road construction – has threatened this once pristine forest. With ProAves, NCI hopes to protect important corridors to ensure long-term protection of the biodiversity and the Awá culture in this region.

In 1999, the ProAves Foundation established the Pangan Nature Reserve, which presently protects 12,000 acres of largely pristine foothill and subtropical super-wet forests. Together with ProAves, we aim to acquire additional lands from non-native colonists to create a major conservation corridor to protect the heart of this megadiverse Chocó forest hotspot. The ambitious program will connect three indigenous reserves across three paved highways.


The Chocó biogeographic region constitutes the world’s most biologically rich region: straddling the Equator, rising from the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the high Andean peaks, and comprising the wettest region on earth. The harsh climate and extreme topography had until recently saved the region from the impacts of economic development, but in recent decades road developments have penetrated this pristine wilderness. New and proposed road projects descend from the Andes to the Pacific, facilitating colonization from northern South America’s densely populated Andean region, while natural resources flow out of the Pacific ports to supply the economic demands of Pacific Rim nations.

Pangan ReserveThe Tumaco to Pasto highway pierces the heart of the Chocó region and colonization has branched out on either side of the highways to form deforested channels traversing the Chocó region. This north-south ecological gap is rapidly expanding and could have catastrophic environmental and social implications.

The Pangan Nature Reserve, named after the threatened Long-wattled Umbrellabird, supports some of the highest concentrations of endemic birds, frogs, orchids, and butterflies on the planet. The Endangered Banded Ground-Cuckoo and Baudó Guan are found regularly at the site, and the brilliant blue Pangan Poison Arrow frog is restricted entirely to the reserve’s forests. Large mammals such as Spectacled Bears and Jaguars are also present. The reserve has been the site of many new species discoveries including a variety of birds, amphibians and plants. Still, little is know of the area's biodiversity, and so much is at stake if we don’t act now.

Proposed Actions

Nature & Culture is supporting ProAves to buy and protect additional lands to expand the reserve, and several properties are currently under negotiation. Purchasing these properties is very economical (average $50-70/acre) and critical to establishing a protective zone against further colonization on unclaimed land. The purchases will also protect indigenous communities located behind those properties.

In addition to land acquisition, we are seeking funds from institutional donors to manage and consolidate conservation actions in and around the Pangan Reserve. Actions will include protecting the reserve with three park guards, maintaining facilities for researchers and visitors, and promoting conservation in the region with a regional director.




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