Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Bolivia’s Barba Azul Nature Reserve doubles in size

8 January, 2014 - 09:26 -- World Land Trust
Aerial view of the forested islands of the Beni savanna.
Camera-trap photograph of a Giant Anteater in Barba Azul Nature Reserve.

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


Map showing the extension to the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, which was part funded by WLT’s Buy an Acre appeal.

“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).

“Doubling the size of the Barba Azul Nature Reserve means that we have doubled the odds of saving threatened species.”
(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.

More information

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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Neotropical Otter recorded at Barba Azul »
Now is the time to Buy an Acre in Bolivia »
Wild encounters in the Beni night »
Photographs show diverse wildlife in Barba Azul, Bolivia »
Phenomenal footage of Beni savanna mammals »


Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

This is a seriously wonderful accomplishment and gladdens the ecological heart wherever it pumps around the world.

WELL DONE to everyone involved in getting it to happen; those parrots are stunningly beautiful and fully deserve better protection and space to recover.

So - two questions. Are there, I can't help wondering, any big old Anacondas (Green species, ideally) lurking out there in marshy areas? It would be so marvellous if there were. Snakes have been ferociously persecuted nearly everywhere and need all the refuges from mad humans they can get. If there were THE biggest species out on this grassland I, for one WLT supporter, would be even more overjoyed. Anacondas are so groovy, we should treat them with more respect.

And secondly - does John know how comprehensively well he did on that BBC Radio 4 "Shared (not!) Planet" debate?

The Oxfam lady did little to inspire confidence, although she put up a fair case for her views. Nonetheless, she clearly felt duty bound to KEEP mentioning her employer at annoying regular intervals as if her job depended on it. Our John however, managed not only to not belabour us with promotional guff but CRUCIALLY, won the day with clear, honest perspicacious answers. Way To Go. Listen and learn Oxfam heads of department.

Monty Don did a good enough job, despite insisting - stupidly - that there were no answers only more and more questions. Well fine, for a jobbing hack eager for his second series, but he can't have paid much attention to all the well informed professionals he's had contributing to his programmes.

Anyway, so very good to hear WLT be so well represented.

Submitted by Bennett Hennessey on

Dominic Belfield asked "any big old Anacondas (Green species, ideally) lurking out there in marshy areas?"

That was also my question to the 30 year old ranch hand Hernan who grew up in the area on a neighbouring ranch. He has never seen a large Anaconda in the area. It is the right habitat, but it would appear that hundreds of years of unregulated cattle ranching have been very hard on the environment. There must have been Anacondas, but like the large Black Caiman (7 metre adults), the Marsh Deer, Jaguars and many other mammals, hunting and "control" killing has had an impact. And the cattle yearly grassland burning must have also hurt such species that can not quickly escape. But as we have small Black Caiman in the Omi River, and as the River Otter has returned to the reserve in 2013, we expect small Anacondas will grow in the area, or come in from surrounding areas. They are an important part of the ecosystem and will be protected in the area.

From Bennett Hennessey

Executive Director - Asociación Armonía  

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