Colombia's Ministry of the Environment and Development recently announced the expansion of Serranía de Chiribiquete National Park from 1,298,954 hectares to 2,782,353 hectares, which is roughly 6.9 million acres.
The expansion of the park, which is located in the heart of Colombian Amazonia, marks the first time in Colombia’s history that a protected area has been enlarged by over 1.5 million hectares, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
During the ceremony announcing the expansion, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said, “the enlargement we declared today of National Natural Park Serranía de Chiribiquete, which will go from a million three hundred thousand hectares to nearly two million eight hundred thousand, is our bet for life, sustainability and the wellbeing of Colombian people, and of humankind altogether.”
Chiribiquete is considered a world biodiversity hotspot, according to IUCN, which said the park's richness includes 41 species of reptiles and 49 species of amphibians.
"A total of 145 species of birds and 209 species of butterflies have been identified, and the area will contribute to the conservation of at least 13 threatened species of mammals, six possible new species, and seven new registries for the country," IUCN said in a release. "In the lower basins of Yarí and Yavilla rivers and the mid-basin of Mesay River, a total of 133 species of fish have been reported, all of which are used by indigenous communities of the middle basin of the Caquetá River."
Chiribiquete is also an important archaeological site for Colombia, as its landsape holds rock paintings and carvings.
"Other zones which have been transformed by ancient indigenous dwellers, such as the Terras pretas, are especially significant to the indigenous groups currently occupying nearby reservations, as well as those close to the new boundaries of the protected area," according to IUCN.
With the enlargement, Colombia’s government will contribute to the conservation of 9,500,000 hectares in Colombian Amazonia through the 18 protected areas it operates there.
"Two-thirds of the country’s natural forests reside in Amazonia. With the enlargement of Chiribiquete, we are contributing to the stability of climate in Colombia and the world. It is an important investment against climate change that the international community is willing to acknowledge,” said the country's Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Juan Gabriel Uribe.
The park's expansion can be tied into Colombia's "ambitious strategy for sustainability of Colombia’s Amazonia," said IUCN.
"Deforestation in the region is mainly caused by the expansion of intensive cattle farming, unlawful tree cutting and mining, and the growing of illegal crops, such as coca. The expansion of Chiribiquete is a key activity in the new strategy, which combines conservation and sustainable development," the organization added. "The management plan of the expanded national park will receive full support, including monitoring and supervision. Projects which discourage the causes of deforestation and generate development options for local communities will also be launched."