Asociación Armonía, Bolivian conservation partner of World Land Trust (WLT), has purchased 14,827 acres (6,000 hectares) of Beni savanna and palm forest island habitat. The acquisition more than doubles the size of Barba Azul Nature Reserve.
The land purchase was made possible with funding from WLT's Buy an Acre appeal and from other organisations and individuals including American Bird Conservancy, IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands (supported by the Dutch Postcode Lottery) and Rainforest Trust. The purchase was completed on 30 December 2013.
The extension brings into the main reserve two large palm forest islands, a small central river, water edge short grass habitat, and more than 20 small isolated palm islands. Taking into account the additional land, the reserve now covers 27,180 acres (11,000 hectares).
Bennett Hennessey, Executive Director of Asociación Armonía, describes the land purchase as very significant: “An extension of this size means that the Barba Azul Nature Reserve can now adequately support landscape species which require large protected home ranges, such as Jaguars, Pumas and Maned Wolves.”
WLT launched its Buy an Acre in Bolivia appeal at the start of 2013, with the intention of raising funds specifically to assist with this extension to the reserve. Throughout the year, £30,394 was raised by WLT’s supporters.
“We are delighted that Armonía has successfully completed the purchase of the Barba Azul extension,” said John Burton, WLT’s Chief Executive. “World Land Trust was formed with the specific intention of acquiring land for conservation, and successes such as this reflect the enduring appeal of Buy an Acre projects.”
Saving threatened species
“Doubling the size of the Barba Azul Nature Reserve means that we have just doubled the odds of saving threatened species that desperately require our conservation efforts,” said Bennett.
“Species such as the Giant Anteater, the Blue-throated Macaw, the Cock-tailed Tyrant and the Buff-breasted Sandpiper are finding their habitat dwindling yearly. It is great to know that we will have a large enough area that we can protect significant populations of these species.”
“Conservation actions of this magnitude for small organisations in poor countries are only possible with outside help. We at Armonía deeply appreciate the support from World Land Trust and from all our other donors.”
Protecting endangered mammals
Now enlarged, Barba Azul Nature Reserve is better able to protect the 27 species of medium and large mammals that depend on the Beni savanna, including the Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) and Marsh Deer (Blastocerus dichotomus), both of which are vulnerable to extinction, as well as many other threatened mammals such as Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), Jaguar (Panthera Onca), Puma (Puma Concolor) and Pampas Deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus).
(Bennett Hennessey, Executive Director, Asociación Armonía)
The Omi River at Barba Azul is the only year-round water source for a massive area, and many mammals depend on this clean water through the dry season.
The Beni tropical savanna is an area twice the size of Portugal and almost entirely ranched, with yearly massive burns to clear the way for cattle. It is a land of extreme contrasts with intensive flooding in the summer, and months of drought in the winter.
The Beni savanna has undergone hundreds of years of logging, hunting and cattle ranching, and Barba Azul Nature Reserve - the only protected area within the ecoregion - is holding back a tide of overgrazing, annual burning and the planting of exotic grass species.
After the success of the Buy an Acre appeal for Bolivia, WLT is now furthering the protection of Barba Azul and its wildlife by funding the salary of Ranger Rene to protect the reserve through Keepers of the Wild.
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