Ecoregion: Magdalena-Urabá Moist Forests
Key Species: Blue-billed Curassow, River Turtle, Brown Spider Monkey, Silvery-brown Tamarin, American Crocodile
El Silencio Natural Reserve and Research Station was created in 2012 thanks to a grant from World Land Trust operational partner IUCN Netherlands.
El Silencio protects a vitally important area of lowland forest in the middle-Magdalena valley of Colombia known as Barbacoas, home to an incredible wealth of highly threatened animals, including three Critically Endangered species.
In 2018 World Land Trust helped fund a major extension to El Silencio, increasing the reserve area from 74 hectares to 556 hectares.
There are many threats in the region, most notably illegal logging, driven by the constant expansion of extensive cattle ranching which has led to the depletion of most of the original forest areas. In recent years, industrial palm oil plantations and legal and illegal mining have furthered the destruction of critical habitat around Barbacoas.
Mining activities are also causing severe pollution, creating major and irreversible consequences for both wildlife and local people, as well has harming economic activity.
Fundación Biodiversa Colombia has worked in the Middle Magdalena Valley since 2006 to conserve three Critically Endangered species: the Magdalena River Turtle (Podocnemis lewyana), Blue-billed Curassow Crax albertii), and the Brown Spider Monkey (Ateles hybridus).
The Barbacoas Wetlands is home to a significant population of Endangered Silvery-brown Tamarin (Saguinus leucopus), which is endemic to the area, as well as populations of Varied White-fronted Capuchin (Cebus versicolor), also Endangered. Large numbers of American Crocodile (Cocodylus acutus), and the American Manatee (Trichechus manatus) are also found in Barbacoas. Other threatened other animal species in the area include Lozano’s salamander (Bolitoglossa lozanoi), an Endangered and endemic species, Jaguar (Panthera onca) and Northern Screamer or Chavarri (Chauna chavaria).
Biodiversa is working closely with local communities and relevant authorities towards declaring a regional protected area in Barbacoas. This would include a monitoring and management plan for community-based fisheries,to ensure the sustainability of fish populations. This will aim to empower the local community to play a key role in the conservation of the area and enable them to safeguard their own natural resources.
Initiatives are being carried out in El Silencio to explore alternatives to traditional cattle farming and logging practices, based on conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. These include pilot projects such as food production in reduced spaces and productive reforestation with native timber and non timber products