Cristian Vasquez, our Ranger of the ProAves El Dorado Reserve, has been announced as the 2023 winner of the International Ranger Award by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Commission on Protected Areas (WPC). This event was held on July 26th and rewards rangers globally for their outstanding work, perseverance, leadership, research and conservation achievements in one of the most biodiverse places on earth.
As a passionate conservationist, Cristian has dedicated the last ten years to protecting our ProAves El Dorado Reserve in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This reserve safeguards 420 species of birds, 22 of which are endemic to Colombia. Thanks to his work as a ranger, he has prevented damage to biodiversity associated to the challenging climatic conditions recorded in this area.
In our Nature Reserve, Cristian has treated five large-scale forest fires that have affected this conservation area and adjacent zones. One of these fires occurred in 2016, when 50 hectares of the Reserve were destroyed, damaging critic forests and of importance for the most endangered species in the country.
Since he was a child, he was forced to work in agricultural and potato crops and didn’t have the opportunity to graduate from school. When he was 18, he escaped the crops to become a professional soldier. For five years and almost every day, he faced hostile fighting in the mid of the height of the Colombian armed conflict. In nature, Cristian found relief from these harsh early life experiences, and this led him to ProAves as a forest ranger in 2013.
From humble beginnings and overcoming the extreme challenges of life, Cristian Andrés Vásquez Bermúdez has become the chief ranger of our ProAves El Dorado Reserve. Along with his small team and in one of the most irreplaceable places on the planet for its biodiversity, he has endured threats against his life, facing poaching, invasion and forest fires. As a self-taught expert naturalist, he has been a key player in discovering and saving numerous species from extinction.
Cristian has shown passion and care in working with children and the community of the area in environmental education, sharing the wonders of nature and contributing with his experience to safeguard more than 3,000 hectares, which are also the habitat of 58 species of migratory birds and 15 — of the 420 already mentioned — under some category of the threat of extinction.
After 69 years without registration, Cristian rediscovered the Blue-bearded Hummingbird (Oxypogon cyanolaemus) and after this, he contributed by directing the first conservation actions of the species to save it from extinction. Unfortunately, it remains the most endangered hummingbird in the world. In addition, at the ProAves El Dorado Reserve, he has managed to contribute to the population growth of the Santa Marta Parakeet (Pyrrhura viridicata), classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, by providing artificial nests and reforesting large areas of food plants preferred by this species.
For the second time, ProAves takes great pride in one of its rangers receiving this international award, which was awarded in 2021 to Ninfa Carianil, Ranger of the ProAves Águila Arpía Reserve, located in the Colombian Amazon.
“We are extremely proud of this recognition, which reflects the great work that Cristian does as a Forest Ranger to preserve one of most important biodiversity sites in the world.
Cristian is a conservation hero whose tireless work for more than 10 years has contributed to the protection of the most endangered species of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta”
Sara Inés Lara, Executive Director of ProAves
We take pride in the work of our rangers, protectors of the most endangered wildlife and their ecosystems. As an organization, we will continue to work to conserve the planet’s protected areas and critically endangered species in perpetuity. Thank you Cristian for raising up the name of ProAves and all our Conservation Heroes.
We thank the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the World Commission on Protected Areas (WPC), the International Federation of Forest Rangers, Global Wildlife Conservation and Conservation Allies for this extraordinary recognition.