Fundación ProAves – por la conservación en el país de las aves

Forests of the biogeographic region of Chocó in critical danger of disappearing

23 November, 2020


El Pangán ProAves Reserve, located in the district Junín of the Barbacoas municipality in the department of Nariño, has suffered destruction of its forests from illegal logging. This Reserve in the biogeographic region of Chocó is in CRITICAL danger,  threatening the great diversity of fauna and flora that include 300 bird species.

ProAves as a supporter of nature conservation in Colombia

The biogeographic region of Chocó ranges from the eastern region of Panamá, through the Pacific coast of Colombia, to the southwest of Ecuador. In Colombia, this neotropical corridor, which covers the Pacific coast to the foothills of the western mountain range, forms a natural barrier that has generated some of the country’s highest biodiversity within earth’s rainforest ecosystems.

This region has very high endemism; for example, 25% of the bird species and 35 species of palm trees are unique. Chocó is among 25 regions of the world classified as a priority for nature conservation, a Biodiversity Hotspot.

Illegal extraction of wood in the El Pangán ProAves Reserve

It has been a great challenge for Fundación ProAves to protect these ecosystems and their environmental services. In 2002 El Pangán ProAves Reserve was created with the aim of conserving the forested foothills near the multi-cultural town of Junín, Nariño. Here one finds the town’s indigenous Awá fabrics, the sounds of the timbas in Afro-Colombian communities, and the wisdom of mountane farmers.

El Pangán ProAves Reserve ranks at the top of species wealth in Colombia and is part of the Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). To date 53 endemic bird species (and 29 threatened) have been recorded, the highest concentration of endemic birds in the world. Among   94 species of butterflies, 28 are endemic and 19 of which are the rarest species in the country.  25 species of frogs, 9 species of lizards, and 12 species of snakes are known.

Likewise, the Reserve has populations of one of the finest trees on the planet, the Chanul (Humiriastrum procerum), which is native to Colombia and Ecuador, and, according to the Red List of timber species, is categorized as vulnerable to extinction. Despite the fact that Colombian regulations prohibit the exploitation and commercialization of any threatened species (Law 17 of 1981, Law 1333 of 2009, Article 328 of the Penal Code, Intersectoral Pact for Legal Wood in Colombia, of August 21st, 2009, the Convention on Biological Diversity), Chanul has been heavily exploited because its wood is extremely hard and valuable.

Conservation's greatest enemy: illegal logging

Since 2018 El Pangán ProAves Reserve unfortunately has been suffering from the illegal felling of Chanul, which is degrading the fragile ecosystem and promoting extinction of species. This destruction of the forest is carried out by people outside the region, who remove the wood just 2 km from a police station. And although the environmental authorities have made enormous efforts, the destruction is continuing, and the biological heritage of Colombians is disappearing in front of the astonished local inhabitants.

Since August 14, 2018, Fundación ProAves filed several complaints with the Nariño Regional Autonomous Corporation (CORPONARIÑO) about the invasion of the Reserve. In that same year, ProAves also reported these events to the Nariño Government, the National Army, and the National Police. At that time, CORPONARIÑO and the police authorities managed to stop the illegal logging, with the seizure of the engine that mobilized the artisanal winch. Those involved were ordered to suspend logging activities. Subsequently, the same people, taking advantage of the pandemic situation and the socio-political conflict in the region, resumed illegal logging activities. In the first quarter of 2020 when a winch-driven cable was installed in the Reserve to convey logs to trucks. On March 10th, ProAves filed a new complaint with CORPONARIÑO, the Government of Nariño and the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS), to stop the serious environmental damage caused by these criminals.

Illegal extraction of wood in the El Pangán ProAves Reserve

This destruction is very harmful to nature conservation:

  • Degradation of natural forests whose recovery will take more than 50 years,
  • Loss on valuable and endangered species of trees,
  • Degradation and erosion of soils due to scouring of forest floor,
  • Habitat fragmentation (the continuity of the habitat of resident and migratory species is lost),
  • Alteration of the feeding and reproduction areas of the fauna, and
  • The irreplaceable loss of the world’s outstanding biological heritage.

Nevertheless, Fundación ProAves remains on high alert. In the face of great adversity, the Reserve’s rangers, armed only with their courage, unwavering determination, and unconditional love for the ecosystem, continue to patrol these dangerous areas and face difficult challenges. ProAves makes an agonizing call to authorities (corporations, mayors, government, police, military, etc.), to friends of conservation, and to the community in general. Because “the conservation and care of Colombia’s biodiversity is everyone’s responsibility”.