Making Dreams Come True: 15 Years of Conservation in Colombia SEARCH NEWS

Brown Spider Monkey. © Freddy Gomez


“During difficult times, the path to the future can sometimes seem desolate and wrought with insurmountable challenges. Yet now, when we look back, we see a path paved with dreams come true, and surrounded by a forest. A forest that shades our present and nourishes our souls with magic sounds and scents. This is what makes us hopeful for the future and gives us strength to move forward.”
Fernando Arbeláez, President of Fundacion Biodiversa Colombia

Fundacion Biodiversidad

In April 2005, what began as a distant dream to work with local people to save habitats and wildlife in Colombia, was realised when a group of young people formed Fundacion Biodiversa Colombia (FBC). Over the past 15 years their modus operandi remained constant – to work with local communities on effective conservation actions and activities which involve the sustainable use of natural resources while permanently protecting threatened habitats in the region.

When asked about the highlights from the past 15 years, President, Fernando Arbeláez, chose the following accomplishments as milestones in their success:

“Year after year, dream after dream started coming true: creating the Foundation was the first. Then setting up and running a community-based turtle conservation program in the Amazon was a milestone. Owning and working with the local community to protect a natural reserve in Barbacoas, in the Middle Magdalena Valley was a huge challenge and achievement for everyone involved. Building the first research station in the area opened up new opportunities for research and monitoring which was followed by further expansion of the El Silencio reserve. We continue to build on our work involving communities and land-owners in Barbacoas conservation, and creating visibility of our programs among governmental and non-governmental institutions which, while not without hurdles to overcome, sees incredible results.”

“These dreams have come to fruition through the support of our funding bodies and supporters, with whom we are proud to be partners. Among several important donors World Land Trust and IUCN Netherlands have been outstanding. On behalf of all of us at Fundacion Biodiversa Colombia we send a big Thank you to everyone who has given us unstinting support and financial help.”

Co-founder and President of FBC, Fernando Arbeláez (centre right) with indigenous turtle guardians of the Amazon. Credit: FBC

Focus on three species of threatened Amazon River turtles

Since 2008 FBC has created six local conservation groups in five Colombian and Peruvian indigenous communities of the Amazon River, in order to protect three endangered species of River Turtle: the Giant South American Turtle or Arrau Turtle (Podocnemis expansa), the Yellow-spotted River Turtle (P. unifilis) and the Six-tuberculed River Turtle (P. sextuberculata) all having restricted ranges and continuing to decline in number. While WLT’s main support for FBC is for El Silencio’s land purchase, and protection through Keepers of the Wild, WLT has also supported this turtle project in the Amazon.

FBC currently supports 103 turtle guardians who help raise awareness in neighbouring communities, particularly among school children. They are committed to protecting female turtles that come to lay eggs and the hatchlings that emerge a few months later. Since the start of the program, more than 717 mothers, 550 nests and 15,300 hatchlings have been protected!

The Yellow-spotted River Turtle (Podocnemis unifilis), one of the three Amazon river turtle species being protected by indigenous turtle guards in the Amazon. Credit: Andrés Felipe Aponte

Note of interest

Podocnemis species of river turtles are ancient turtles diverging from all other living species around 100 million years ago. This is around the same time humans last shared a common ancestor with bats, tigers and pangolins.

Keeping the Wild Safe

WLT supports two Keepers of the Wild who safeguard El Silencio reserve: Herney Rodríguez (aka Ferney) and Javier Rodríguez. Although the reserve is currently in lockdown, with no visitors allowed, Ferney and Javier work tirelessly, monitoring species and maintaining the reserve’s fences, paths and buildings. Their current priorities are surveillance, mainly to ensure there is no illegal hunting, and to keep a watchful eye on any fires near the reserve; thankfully the dry season has now passed so no further fires have been reported.

Keepers of the Wild (KOTW) Ranger Herney Rodriguez. Credit: FBC

Reserve rangers are needed more than ever at this time. Recruited from among the local community they work long hours, often in arduous environments, to help ensure the safety of some of the world’s most threatened species.


Find out more about the Keepers of the Wild

A one-off donation of £5,000 will sponsor a reserve ranger for a year, and companies and individuals who donate £5,000 receive regular field reports from the ranger.

But every donation, no matter how small, helps rangers carry out their essential duties to protect threatened habitats and species.

Our Appeals