A family of capybaras (the world’s largest rodent) in Bolivian wetlands. Photo by: Anouchka Unel.
Bolivia continues to be a champion for Amazonian conservation. On February 2, 2013, Bolivia celebrated World Wetlands Day with the designation of more than 6.9 million hectares of the Llanos de Moxos to the Ramsar Convention’s Wetlands of International Importance. In addition to being the largest Ramsar designation to date, Bolivia now claims 14.8 million hectares of protected wetland, making it the leading Contracting Party out of 164 participating countries in terms of Ramsar site surface area.
The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty committed to preserving and ensuring the “wise” and “sustainable use” of wetlands. To qualify for a designation, a wetland is evaluated according to the international significance of its ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology. In the case of the Llanos de Moxos, the technical studies were conducted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Located near the borders of Boliva, Brazil, and Peru, the Llanos de Moxos wetland consists of tropical savannas that alternate between periods of flooding and drought. The three rivers that flow through the region—the western Beni, central Mamoré, and the eastern Iténez, or Guaporé—converge to form the Amazon River’s major southern tributary, the Madiera River. It contains seven indigenous territories, eight legally protected areas, and a multitude of wildlife, including the endangered Bolivian river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis boliviensis).
Locally known as the Bufeo, the Bolivian river dolphin is one of the many species benefiting from Bolivia’s commitment to conservation. Just last year, the government promulgated a law declaring the Bufeo a National Natural Hetitage, with strong support from the people in the region of Beni, where the river dolphin is found.
Currently, threats to the wetlands include pesticide runoff and land clearing from agriculture in the area, with the potential threats of bad road planning, hydropower, and irrigation infrastructure like dams and drainage systems. However, WWF’s Bolivian rep, Luis Pabón, says the declaration of these wetlands as Ramsar sites should help local and sub-national governments put criteria in place to better ensure the conservation of the wetland and its resources. He adds that “the recurrent floods that inundate almost the entire area and beyond (around 100,000 square kilomters) every year make up a natural barrier to human intervention, as the development of infrastructure is extremely expensive and prone to deteriorate or even collapse during the rainy season.”
The Ramsar designation also marks a significant step forward for Amazonian wetland conservation, which is underrepresented in the Ramsar List, and serves to reiterate the Bolivian government’s dedication to preserving its natural resources and biodiverse ecosystems.
“We recognize the significant role of these wetlands in the conservation of Mother Earth, as well as the importance of the declaration confirming the Llanos de Moxos as internationally protected wetlands,” states Juan Pablo Cardozo Arnez, Bolivian Deputy Minister for the Environment. “Echoing the words of our President Evo Morales, we call upon all countries to incorporate [environmental] rights into their legislation and to comply with existing international agreements in this respect, so that human beings can begin to live in complete harmony and equilibrium with Mother Earth.”
Palm trees on Lake Rogaguado. Photo by: Omar Rocha/WWF.
(01/28/2013) Bolivia has passed a land use law that aims to boost food security and slow deforestation in a region that is wracked by illegal forest clearing. Approved earlier this month, Ley 337 seeks to regulate land use in the Bolivian Amazon where deforestation for industrial agricultural production is surging. The law requires landowners who illegally deforested land prior to 2011 to either reforest or establish ‘productive agriculture’ on the land and pay reduced fines for past transgressions.
(01/22/2013) Over 14,000 lowland tapirs (Tapirus terrestris), also known as Brazilian tapirs, roam an Amazonian landscape across Bolivia and Peru, according to new research by scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Using remote camera trapping, thousands of distribution records, and interviews, the researchers estimated the abundance of lowland tapirs in the Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape Conservation Program made up of three national parks in Bolivia (Madidi, Pilón Lajas and Apolobamba) and two in Peru (Tambopata and Bahuaja Sonene).
(12/08/2012) Concessions for oil and gas exploration and extraction are proliferating across Amazon countries, reports a comprehensive new atlas of the region.
(12/06/2012) The average annual rate of deforestation across Amazon rainforest countries dropped sharply in the second half of the 2000s, reports a comprehensive new assessment of the region’s forest cover and drivers of deforestation. While the drop in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has been widely reported, several other Amazon countries saw their rates of forest loss drop as well, according to the report, which was published by a coalition of 11 Latin American civil society groups and research institutions that form the Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG).
(09/21/2012) An update to one of the most comprehensive maps of the Amazon basin shows that forest cover across the world’s largest rainforest declined by about six percent between 2000 and 2010. But the map also reveals hopeful signs that recognition of protected areas and native lands across the eight countries and one department that make up the Amazon is improving, with conservation and indigenous territories now covering nearly half of its land mass.
(09/12/2012) 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).