Mountains, savannah, rainforest: the Colombian government has created the world’s largest tropical forest national park in the south of the country. President Juan Manuel Santos expanded the Serranía de Chiribiquete National Park by 1.5 million hectares on Monday. With a total area of 4.3 million hectares, the protected area is now larger than the Netherlands.
“This is perhaps the most important place of biodiversity in the world. That is why we have done everything we can to protect an even larger territory. The importance of this place obliges us to be ambitious, ”said Santos.
The national park had already been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco at the weekend. The huge area is home to archaeological treasures as well as a diverse flora and fauna. The region is sacred to the indigenous peoples as the “House of the Jaguar”.
Over 75,000 wall paintings can be seen on the Table Mountains, some of them over 20,000 years old. They show hunting, war and dance scenes. For the indigenous peoples of the Uitoto, Carib and Arawak, Chiribiquete is “the shore on which the world begins and ends”.
President Santos said: “We are giving the indigenous people the keys to the park so that they may protect it. The indigenous communities are the best defenders of mother earth, forests and water. ”In addition, the national park connects four very different ecosystems with the Orinoco savannah, the Andes, the Guiana Mountains and the Amazon. The nature park with its up to 900 meter high rock plateaus is home to endangered species such as jaguars, pink river dolphins and tapirs.
The unique habitat is particularly endangered by illegal logging. After the left-wing guerrilla organization Farc laid down its arms a year ago, there is no longer any force in the remote region. “Deforestation is out of control because there is no longer an armed actor with authority and the state is struggling to adequately show its presence,” said Harold Ospino of the environmental protection foundation FCDS. Breakaway FARC factions are now believed to be involved in the illegal logging.
The environmental protection organization WWF hopes that the enlargement of the national park can stop deforestation. “The enlargement of Chiribiquete is a milestone for the preservation of the Amazon and of global importance for forest protection,” said South America speaker Roberto Maldonado.