Conservation news

New reserves in Colombia protect endangered species in a ‘Pleistocene refuge’

  • The two reserves fall within the Nechí Nare Endemism Center, an area where many species survived during the last ice age, known as a Pleistocene refuge.
  • The reserves are home to the Silvery-brown bare-face tamarin, a monkey found nowhere else in the world.
  • The new reserves will also be a significant boon to the local communities.

Two new cloud forest reserves in the Colombian Andes have been established to protect a number of rare, endangered species, including the Silvery-brown bare-face tamarin (Saguinus leucopus), a monkey found nowhere else in the world.

The Melcócho-Santo Domingo Reserve and Tigre-Calón-La Osa Reserve together are comprised of nearly 150,000 acres in the biodiverse state of Antioquia and contain habitat for more than 300 species of birds and several other endangered species, such as the Mountain tapir and the tree species Aniba perutilis and Aphelandra lasyophilla.

“Both reserves protect rich Andean cloud forests home to stunning biodiversity, and are particularly unique as they fall within the Nechí Nare Endemism Center — an area where many species survived during the last ice age (known as a Pleistocene refuge),” according to a statement by Nature and Culture International (NCI), which worked with CORNARE, the regional environmental agency for southeastern Antioquia, to establish the reserves.

the Silvery-brown bare-face tamarin (Saguinus leucopus). Photo by

The new reserves will also be a significant boon to the local communities that rely on, and work to protect, the headwaters of the Samaná River. Residents of the small town of Carmen de Viboral, for instance, had strongly advocated for the reserves as a means to protect their water supply.

The Colombian government has mandated the creation of regional reserve systems and mining exclusion zones, NCI says, and while regional authorities receive funding from the national government, it’s not enough to ensure the ongoing management of the reserves. “NCI is filling this gap by providing matching funds to speed the declaration of protected areas while there is still time,” the statement says.

NCI and CORNARE established a partnership last year that has led to the number of acres under protection in southeastern Antioquia being more than doubled, NCI says, adding that protections for an additional 175,000 acres of land in Antioquia and Nariño states are already in the works.

Global Forest Watch shows the region comprising the two new reserves (dark green) lost around 66,000 hectares — or 6.5 percent — of its tree cover from 2001 through 2014. The area also features an Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) site, which intersects with one of the new reserves. AZE sites contain critical habitat for endangered species with limited ranges and populations found nowhere else on the planet. This particular AZE site is home to the Mesopotamia beaked toad (Rhinella rostrata), the Sonson frog (Atopophrynus syntomopus), and the Argelia robber frog (Pristimantis bernali), which are all listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Location and extent of the new reserves courtesy of Nature and Culture International.
Canyons of the Melcócho River in the Melcócho-Santo Domingo Reserve. Photo by CORNARE.
The Cuchilla del Tigre ridge in Tigre-Calón-La Osa Reserve in Antioquia, Colombia. Photo by CORNARE.