Crucial site for endangered frogs and birds saved

Conservation partners join forces to protect mountain habitat slated for development

Washington, D.C. – Fast action by an alliance of conservation groups battling global extinctions has saved one of the world's most important sites for endangered species.

American Bird Conservancy (ABC), Conservation International (CI), and Fundación ProAves of Colombia stepped in to protect the 1,600-acre site on the northwest slope of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta massif, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, before its development for vacation homes.

The site is the sole breeding ground for the Globally Endangered Santa Marta Parakeet. Another 18 bird species and five threatened amphibians can also only be found there. The site is a vital stopover point for declining neotropical migratory birds that breed in the United States and Canada, such as the Cerulean and Golden-winged Warblers.

All three conservation groups – ABC, CI, and Fundación ProAves – are among the 55 members of the Alliance for Zero Extinction (www.zeroextinction.org). The alliance issued a report in December 2005 that pinpointed 595 sites around the world containing the last significant habitat for one or more endangered species of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and plant. It listed the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta site as one of the most crucial to protect.

"This represents a great leap for avoiding extinction," said Alonso Quevedo, president of Fundación ProAves. "Not only is creation of the reserve a landmark for Colombian conservation, it is a fine example of international collaboration."

In late December, Fundación ProAves learned of the impending sale of plots from the site for construction of vacation homes. It alerted the Alliance for Zero Extinction of the crisis, and in less than a month, ABC and CI had secured the $130,000 necessary for Fundación ProAves to buy the entire site that now will be called the El Dorado Nature Reserve.

"Such quick action to save several species of birds and amphibians from extinction shows the importance of conservation partnerships such as the Alliance for Zero Extinction," said Claude Gascon, CI's senior vice president for regional programs. "By working together, we were able to forever protect a site identified by AZE as the last remaining habitat of Critically Endangered species."

"We were able to save this site from the bulldozer in the nick of time and managed to safeguard the Parakeet's last remaining stronghold," said George Fenwick, President of ABC. "This is an important international conservation success and a model for quick, effective, international action."

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The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is one of the highest coastal mountain range in the world, rising from the shores of the Caribbean Sea to almost 19,000 feet. It contains extraordinary numbers of species found nowhere else across a multitude of isolated ecosystems. Protecting the new El Dorado Nature Reserve prevents destruction of valuable and rare biodiversity, and also ensures a clean water source for coastal towns that depend on two watersheds that have their sources at the site.

For photos, a list of species, and a map showing the location of the reserve, visit: www.abcbirds.org/media/releases/santa_marta_release.htm.


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