Andean Nations, CI Sign Deal to Implement Regional Conservation Strategy

6/10/2002

Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Per�, Venezuela Home to Apx 25% of Earth's Biodiversity

Washington, DC - The five nations of the Andean Community and international environmental NGO Conservation International (CI) signed an agreement today aimed at promoting a regional approach to biodiversity protection that will help safeguard the unique flora and fauna of those countries.

Under the agreement, CI will help implement the "Regional Biodiversity Strategy for the Tropical Andean Countries" adopted by the Community in July 2002. The Strategy aims to generate viable alternatives of sustainable development while conserving the rich biodiversity and natural resources of its members: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Per� and Venezuela.

Today's agreement also calls for the creation of a trust fund to implement the Strategy and seeks the participation of local, regional and international strategic partners.

Andean Community Secretary-General Guillermo Fern�ndez de Soto and CI's Chairman of the Board and CEO Peter Seligmann, signed the memorandum of understanding at the headquarters of the Inter-American Development Bank today.

"Conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity are not only the work of governments but of everyone," Fern�ndez de Soto said. "Biodiversity is an essential and strategic resource for sustainable development, poverty alleviation and the further integration of the Andean nations."

The Andean Community is home to almost 25 % of the world's total biodiversity. Most of the nations are also among the 17 most biodiversity rich, or "Megadiverse" countries, on the planet. Home to many endemic and threatened species, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) 2000 Red List, records a total of 266 threatened terrestrial vertebrates in the region, including 34 that are listed as "Critically Endangered" and 86 as "Endangered".

"To have the five governments of five of the most biodiversity-rich countries on the planet committed to conservation is unprecedented," said Seligmann. "We hope other countries and multinational organizations will follow their lead."

CI works in all five nations and recently created the Andean Center for Biodiversity Conservation (CBC). The CBC seeks concrete regional results for biodiversity conservation by developing alliances that focus on protected areas and species preservation. Among its major projects are six trans-boundary conservation corridors - patchworks of protected, multi-use and managed areas - that provide the environmental "connectivity" necessary for plant and animal species to survive. Three of those Corridors are:

The Vilcabamba-Ambor� Conservation Corridor: Stretching across Per� and Bolivia, its core is the Tambopata-Madidi complex, which scientists estimate holds 1,000 bird species, or roughly 11% of all bird species on the planet. It's also thought to be home to 8% of all the endangered and critically endangered species in the Andes.

The Choc�-Manab� Conservation Corridor: Covering large parts of Colombia's and Ecuador's Pacific coast, scientists estimate that of the 6,300 vascular plant species found there (Dodson & Gentry '95), 20% of them are endemic. The region is also home to 830 bird species, 130 of which are endemic.

North Andean Conservation Corridor: Encompassing parts of Venezuela and Colombia, the area holds more than 5,000 vascular plants (506 of which are endemic), 111 mammal species, 259 bird species and 35 reptile species. The region also provides 30% of the water to the Colombian population.

Officially constituted in 1997, the Andean Community stretches 2.9 million square miles from the Caribbean coasts of Venezuela and Colombia, across Ecuador, to the high Andes of Per� and Bolivia. With a population of about 115 million, the Andean Community had a combined GDP in 2001 of US$283-billion.

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Conservation International (CI) was founded in 1987 to conserve Earth's living natural heritage, our global biodiversity, and to demonstrate that human societies are able to live harmoniously with nature. CI, a field-based organization headquartered in Washington, DC works in more than 30 countries on four continents, drawing upon a unique array of scientific, economic, awareness building and policy tools to help people find economic alternatives without harming their natural environments. CI employs more than 1,000 employees worldwide, most of whom are residents of the countries in which they work.

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