Colombian forests have been ruthlessly cut down – we have lost 563,000 hectares of primary rainforest from 2016-2019 and that was before the tsunami of increased illegal logging and land invasions during the pandemic. An area three times the size of Bogota D.C. has been destroyed and over 1.4 billion trees have been lost.
If every Colombian, a population of 50.3 million individuals, planted a tree every month it would take over 2 years just to recover those trees lost from 2016-2019. Yet Colombian’s unparallel biodiversity – for example its #1 world ranking diversity in birds – is also being lost with those forests and these species can not be replanted.
While planting trees is inspiring it is merely symbolic. Stopping the destruction of Colombia’s amazing wild places, like the neotropical rainforests, alpine tundra ecosystems and cloud forests. Preserving all species in these ecosystems – is undeniably the most important priority.
Pandemic has created the Wild West
But anti-deforestation programs have no chance. Current deforestation rates are accelerating. In just the past 3 months, Global Forest Watch – a free online tool that provides daily deforestation alerts for all of Colombia – shows a massive spike in forest fires – over 41,000 forest fires between 1st December 2020 to 10 March 2021.
Sadly, the recent spike in deforestation has greatly affected Colombia’s precious Protected Area system – with the media and Global Forest Watch reporting extensive threats from illegal mining and logging across National Parks and Nature Reserves.
Threats against conservation
Since 1998, Fundación ProAves has faced many challenges to conserve its 28 Nature Reserves, where more than 1,600 species of the country are protected, and most of the endemic or threatened birds exist in Colombia. Today, COVID-19 presents us with another great challenge for conservation.
Unscrupulous people have seen the pandemic as an opportunity to aggressively inflict natural areas and cause irreversible environmental detriment to the ProAves Reserves:
Unfortunately, in 10 of the 28 ProAves Reserves, attacks of different kinds were registered, for which it was necessary to hire trained personnel and strengthen the patrolling and control of the limits of the conservation areas. In addition, 5 complaints were filed with the Attorney General’s Office, 10 complaints with the Municipal Inspections, three complaints with the environmental authorities, one complaint with the National Aquaculture and Fisheries Authority, two complaints with civil courts, and three complaints with the Army National.
The misfortune of Colombia, its precious natural resources
The withdrawal of the FARC has created an opportunity for legal and illegal industries to take advantage of Colombia’s natural forest treasure’s.
Colombian government receives tens of million of dollars from Norway, Germany and Great Britain for forest protection programs to fight climate change and preserve tropical forests that produce life-sustaining oxygen and capture CO2 in vegetation. Independent satellite data from Global Forest Watch show these programs are having virtually no effect in Colombia primarily because they are not supporting grassroots efforts by communities and small NGOs like Fundación ProAves.
If Colombia is to salvage what remains of its most precious asset – its living natural wonders – it needs to start supporting and empowering local efforts to protect what remains and aggressively penalize illegal mining and logging with the full weight of the judiciary government.