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A Brighter future for the endangered Niceforo’s Wren

Tuesday 2 June 2009.

ProAves together with World Land Trust-US, American Bird Conservancy and the Corporación Autónoma de Santander (CAS) have taken a significant step forward in their efforts to protect the Critically Endangered Niceforo’s Wren – restricted to the last remnants of dry forest in the Chicamocha Valley of the eastern Andes of Colombia. The purchase by ProAves of over 3,200 acres of vital remaining dry forest habitat – some of the highest quality remaining forest of this type in the entire region – will result in the creation of a new reserve to protect the Niceforo’s Wren. It constitutes the first protected area within the Chicamocha Valley for these and many endemic flora and fauna species.

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Chesnut-bellied Hummingbird, Niceforo’s Wren and an image of Cucarachero del Chicamocha Natural Bird Reserve.

Despite high levels of endemism at both the species and subspecies level in birds, reptiles, and flora in the Chicamocha valley, this extraordinary ecosystem is completely unprotected. Unfortunately very little vegetation remains in a natural state, with intense seasonal burning and grazing from goats and cattle. For example, the endemic and attractive Chicamocha Cavanillesia tree (Cavanillesia chicamochae) is Critically Endangered.

Intensive surveys and studies by ProAves’ “Project Chicamocha”, supported by the BP Conservation Leadership Program, established that the wren is one of the most imperiled bird species in the world, with a global population of fewer than 25 pairs with a core population of 14 pairs at imminent risk of extinction from man-made fires and intensive goat grazing ABC and ProAves acted decisively to acquire the private properties containing the core population and remove over 500 goats and 50 cattle.

“To be able to give a species that is so close to extinction another chance at survival is a thrilling opportunity, and we are tremendously indebted to the supporters who have made this a reality,” said George Wallace, ABC’s Vice President for International Programs. “Now begins the work of protecting the habitat on the ground as well as on paper, and we are working hard with ProAves to ensure the success of the project.”

Sara Lara, Executive Director with ProAves said, “This is another example of how international cooperation is making a tangible difference to the most threatened birds in the Americas. For the first time we can say that tomorrow holds a brighter outlook for the Niceforo’s Wren and many other threatened and endemic animals and plants that share its unique habitat.”

Héctor Murillo, Director of the CAS, the environmental authority of the department and of the region underlying the reservation, said: “I exalt the initiative of ProAves to protect this area because it will protect the habitat of this endemic species and of others that are part of this unique ecosystem in the department of Santander”.

In addition to the wren, the reserve supports populations of many endemic species, such as the endangered Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird (a stronghold site for the species), Colombian Chachalaca, and Apical Flycatcher, as well as protecting endemic subspecies of the Blue-crowned Motmot, Golden-winged Sparrow, and Biocolored Wren.

The new reserve, located near the town of Zapatoca, is 1 hour from Bucaramanga and open to visitors and students to learn about this important and spectacular ecosystem.

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