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Pictures: Bolivian park may have the world’s highest biodiversity

A female blue crowned manakin (Lepidothrix coronata) is one of over a thousand known bird species in Madidi National Park. Photo by: Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS.

With over 90 species of bat, 50 species of snake, 300 fish, 12,000 plants, and 11 percent of the world’s bird species, Madidi National Park in Bolivia may be the world’s most biodiverse place, according to new surveys by the the Bolivian Park Service (SERNAP) with aid from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Located in northwest Bolivia, Madidi National Park covers 19,000 square kilometers (7,335 square miles), an area slightly smaller than Israel. Decades of work by over 50 researchers have discovered 1,088 birds in the park alone, more than all the bird species in the entire U.S., and over 200 mammal species, including at least six cat species and possibly two more.

A parrot snake, one of at least 50 species of snake in Madidi National Park. Photo Credit: Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS.
A parrot snake (Leptophis ahaetulla), one of at least 50 species of snake in Madidi National Park. Photo Credit: Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS.

“With Madidi’s almost 6,000-meter (19,685 feet) altitudinal range, no other protected area captures the diversity of South American habitats that pushes these numbers through the ceiling,” explains Robert Wallace, WCS’s Madidi Landscape Program Director in a press release.

Still, much of what could the park’s most biodiverse ecosystems—montane and cloud forests—remain unsurveyed. Cloud forests often contain high levels of species found no-where else.

“This important compendium emphasizes just how poorly known the cloud forests of the Tropical Andes really are. Apart from their biodiversity and wildlife importance, they are critical from a watershed management perspective and are aesthetically beautiful,” Cristián Samper, President and CEO of WCS says. The biggest threat to these montane forests is climate change, according to the group.

Madidi is not the only park that has been described as a contender for the world’s most biodiverse. Other protected areas include Manu National Park in Peru and Yasuni National Park in Ecuador. Notably all three of these, including Madidi, are located in the western Amazon.

The announcement was made at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, South Korea.

Madidi cloud forest at dawn. A huge range of altitudes contributes to the park’s incredible biodiversity. Photo by: Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS.

An unidentified butterfly. Photo by: Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS.

A young harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), considered Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List. These massive raptors prey on monkeys. Photo by: Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS.

Black-faced spider monkey (Ateles chamek) in Madidi, considered Endangered. Photo by: Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS.

Unidentified forest toad. Photo by: Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS.

Young wattled jacana (Jacana jacana). Photo by: Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS.

The king of the Amazon: a male jaguar (Panthera onca) in Madidi, considered Near Threatened. Photo by: Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS.

The Amazon’s biggest animal: the lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris), considered Vulnerable. Photo by: Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS.

Palkachupa cotinga (Phibalura boliviana)was rediscovered in 2000 after missing for 98 years. Photo by: Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS.

Forest floor. Photo by: Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS.

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