American Bird Conservancy (ABC), World Land Trust (WLT), and their Colombian partner Fundación ProAves, have inaugurated a new reserve to protect one of the last strongholds for the endangered Gold-ringed Tanager. Worldwide, the bird is known to inhabit only five locations, all along 150 miles of ridge top on the Pacific slope of the western Andes of Colombia.
Following field surveys in 2008 and 2009, Fundación ProAves determined there were as few as 500 Gold-ringed Tanagers remaining, with a critical population of up to 50 pairs identified 50 miles southwest of Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city. This location became the target area for creating a new reserve. Four properties in the area were immediately acquired, followed by the purchase of twelve more properties soon after to create the 7,076 acre Tanagers Reserve.
“We are thrilled that such a vital piece of habitat will be protected in the future,” said Dr. George Fenwick, president of ABC.
“This new reserve will likely also safeguard many as-yet undiscovered biodiversity gems. In addition to the Gold-ringed Tanager, a newly discovered and as-yet undescribed black toad with ruby-red eyes, is also protected by the reserve. Look for even more new discoveries coming soon.”
The reserve, owned and operated by Fundación ProAves, is expected to be a major attraction to visiting birdwatchers, ornithologists, and nature tourists. The area boasts remarkable opportunities for birding (over 250 species documented at the reserve so far) in a country that is home to more avian species than any other on the planet. A spacious, eight-bedroom lodge, a house for staff, and a restaurant featuring a balcony overlooking the nearby river were recently constructed.
"Visitors will be astounded how easy it is to see an incredible diversity of rare and little-known biodiversity, including a dozen endemic bird species. We hope people will come from all over to visit and appreciate what Colombia has to offer, be they from nearby Medellin or from Washington or London,” said Lina Daza, executive director of ProAves.
Other important species found in the reserve include the endangered Choco Vireo, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, and Yellow-eared Parrot, and the vulnerable Black-and-Gold Tanager and Toucan Barbet.
The Chocó area of western Colombia is renowned for its boundless, lush, humid forests. Unfortunately, more people are colonizing the area and logging huge swaths of land. The reserve is located alongside the main thoroughfare to Medellin from the coast, which is scheduled to be paved. Road development projects such as this inevitably lead to greater colonization and development.
“We are supporting our partner to strategically acquire and protect a critical area of privately held rainforest in order to create a buffer zone against colonization and strengthen the protection of adjacent indigenous communities that are besieged by gold-miners and ranchers,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, of WLT, a champion of conservation action in the megadiverse Choco Hotspot.