January 13, 2014
Mavicure Hills. Photo courtesy of WWF..
Colombian Minister of Environment, Luz Helena Sarmiento, told the El Espectador that President Juan Manuel Santos will declare the Estrella Fluvial de Inirida river area a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. The designation would give Colombia six Ramsar sites.
The Ramsar designation would effectively prohibit mining across 253,000 hectares. Mining is seen as the biggest challenge to preserving habitat and biodiversity in the region, which is known as Guainia.
The region, which is known for an unusual rock formation known as Mavicure Hills, includes the headwaters of the Orinoco, Venezuela's largest river. The area is home to at least 15 indigenous communities and a wealth of wildlife, including at least 470 fish species, some of which are currently exported for the freshwater aquarium trade.
Last year Colombia expanded its biggest protected area — Chiribiquete — in the southern part of the country. Chiribiquete is also home to indigenous communities and unusual mountains.