Arlington, Virginia � The last remaining habitats of some of the world�s most threatened birds are now ensured permanent protection on eight nature reserves throughout the fragile ecosystems of the Colombian Andes.
The Colombian bird conservation group Fundaci�n ProAves and Conservation International�s Global Conservation Fund (GCF) today announced creation of an endowment fund to manage these reserves in the long term. The Colombian Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) Protected Areas Trust will enable field staff in each of the reserves to undertake regular patrolling, biological monitoring and community outreach.
�ProAves reserves protect over 1,000 bird species or 10 percent of the global bird diversity plus the majority of all threatened birds in Colombia,� said Paul Salaman, ProAves Council member. �Securing long-term financial support for their protection heralds a tremendous success for biodiversity conservation.�
In fact, 59 of 80 globally threatened birds in Colombia occur in the network of ProAves AZE reserves.
�The creation of this new fund is a huge advance for avoiding extinctions,� said Jennifer Morris, Conservation International vice president and managing director for GCF. �It will ensure durable protection for birds at imminent risk as well as for a broader, rich landscape.�
Among the species that will benefit directly are the colorful puffleg (Eriocnemis mirabilis), one of the world�s most threatened hummingbirds now estimated to number no more than 250, and Fuertes�s parrot (Hapalopsittaca fuertesi), a bird so rare that it was considered �lost� for 91 years before being rediscovered in 2002 and immediately protected.
The Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) identified the sites as the last stand for many species. An initiative of Conservation International, Fundaci�n ProAves and more than 50 other organizations, AZE has identified almost 600 sites worldwide as the sole location for nearly 800 Endangered and Critically Endangered plants and animals. The loss of any one site almost certainly would result in the extinction of one or more of these species.
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�This is a major step toward meeting global targets for biodiversity conservation in the country of Colombia, and can act as a model for protected area financing elsewhere in the world,� said Michael J. Parr, chairman of AZE and vice president of the American Bird Conservancy � a partner in the development of many of the reserves supported by the fund.
The reserves, which range in size from 500 to 10,000 acres, are also important for many migratory birds as well as a wide array of non-bird species found only nowhere else.
Although named for and established to safeguard the Critically Endangered blue-billed curassow (Crax alberti), the El Pauj�l Nature Reserve, created with GCF support, also provides a vital refuge for the Critically Endangered variegated spider monkey (Ateles hybridus).
The El Dorado Nature Reserve in northern Colombia, part of the Parque Nacional Natural Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta AZE site, is the last refuge for the core breeding population of the Critically Endangered Santa Marta parakeet (Pyrrhura viridicata), one of nine threatened bird species here that likely would disappear forever without protection. Because so many species� survival are linked to this 1,800-acre reserve � including an untold number of plants and invertebrates not yet described � it is ranked as one of the most important AZE sites in the world.
The reserves protect primary forest and are integral to the restoration of fragmented and cleared landscapes, the benefits of which extend far beyond the recovery of threatened biodiversity. Healthy tropical forests play an important role in mitigating and adapting to global climate change by actively removing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide.
ProAves helps implement direct field conservation actions to protect irreplaceable ecosystems and threatened species across Colombia. Of this country�s 48 AZE sites � more than anywhere else in Central and South America � only 11 fall within the state protected area system. Many of the Fundacion ProAves reserves are located in the buffer zones of protected areas and national parks and play a pivotal role in protecting the broader landscape.
In addition to enabling the long-term support of protected areas such as these eight reserves, GCF has financed the creation of 49 new protected areas and expansion of six existing protected areas in 22 countries. It�s also the first global fund designed to target not only creating protected areas but also ensuring effective management of those areas for the long term.
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Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in science, economics, policy, and community participation to protect the Earth�s richest regions of plant and animal diversity and demonstrate that human societies can live harmoniously with nature. Founded in 1987, CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents to help people find economic alternatives without harming their natural environments. For more information about CI, visit www.conservation.org.
Fundaci�n ProAves since 1998 has led bird conservation efforts in Colombia through a multi-faceted approach of good science, strong community relations and protection of the most important sites and landscapes for birds. For more information about ProAves, visit www.proaves.org.