When World Land Trust (WLT) supporters come together to help create, expand or connect our partners’ reserves, the impact you make will be felt for years to come. The successful completion of last year’s ‘Saving the Barbacoas’ appeal secured 1,954 acres (791 ha) of newly protected land in Colombia, part of a 5,407-acre (2,188 ha) expansion of Fundación Biodiversa Colombia (FBC)’s El Silencio Reserve. But that was just the start. Thanks to camera trap footage and first-hand reports from FBC’s rangers, you can now see the difference that your donations have made to the wildlife of El Silencio.
With the reserve now expanded to more than four times its original size, it’s no surprise that 2021 has been a bumper year for wildlife sightings in El Silencio. The biodiversity hotspot is home to a wealth of threatened species such as the Blue-billed Curassow, a Critically Endangered bird endemic to Colombia. Fewer than 2,500 individuals are thought to remain in the wild, but by supporting our Barbacoas appeal last year, WLT supporters have handed this species a vital lifeline.
Just a few days before International Tapir Day on 27 April 2021, FBC staff were thrilled to discover the first ever footage of Lowland Tapir captured in El Silencio. Acting on advice from Field Coordinator Julio, a well-placed camera trap recorded 20 different sightings over the course of 17 days. According to FBC, “this provides strong evidence that Lowland Tapirs have definitely settled in the reserve”. Before reappearing in 2015, the Vulnerable herbivore had not been seen in the Middle Magdalena Valley for almost 50 years.
Jaguars and their tracks have been spotted by rangers throughout El Silencio this year. What FBC didn’t expect to find was footage of two Pumas, a species rarely seen in the reserve. The fact that the forests and wetlands here can support the presence of two top predators is indicative of the health of these ecosystems. Had the Barbacoas appeal not been launched to bring more land under protection in the Middle Magdalena Valley, pressure from logging, agriculture and cattle ranching could have disrupted the delicate balance of life that has evolved here over millennia.
The expansion to El Silencio has allowed FBC rangers to patrol further than ever before. New protections granted to forests have been particularly welcome for the area’s threatened primates, and though they have eluded camera traps this year, there have been multiple recorded sightings of Grey-handed Night Monkey (Vulnerable), Silvery-brown Tamarin (Vulnerable), Varied White-fronted Capuchin (Endangered), and even the Brown Spider Monkey (Critically Endangered).
Conducting nearly three patrols per week has allowed FBC’s sharp-eyed rangers to observe four bird species that were not previously known to inhabit El Silencio. These include the Boat-billed Heron, a small songbird known as the Blue-black Grosbeak, and the Barred Forest-falcon, the latter of which is associated with well-preserved forests. There have also been sightings of Grey-headed Kite, which FBC describe as a “very uncommon” bird of prey.
When we launched our ‘Saving the Barbacoas’ appeal last year, we knew that the area’s exceptional biodiversity was worthy of protection. What we were not prepared for was the incredible response we received from you, as we ended up funding the protection of more than three times the acres we were expecting!
Without your support, the expanded boundary of El Silencio may have fallen short of protecting the wildlife you see in this article – the Puma family on their forest trail, or the monkeys and curassows at risk of extinction.
We hope that this update from the field has reminded you of the difference you make every time you support WLT. If you wish to support projects like El Silencio, you can do so by making a donation to our Action Fund, which brings urgent aid to the wild places where it matters most.