New protected area in Amazon announced

giant anteater

Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla). (© Luciano Candisani/iLCP)

A sprawling corner of the Amazon basin has been designated a protected area.

Last week, the Bolivian municipality of Ixiamas issued a law establishing the Bajo Madidi Municipal Conservation and Management Area in the country’s northwestern region, near the Peruvian border. At 15,300 square kilometers (5,900 square miles), the protected area is larger than the U.S. state of Connecticut.

As important as the size of this area is what is in it.

About 40 percent of the area is intact tropical forest, with another 30 percent of the area among the most pristine savanna in the Amazon. Meanwhile, more than 20 endangered or threatened species of wildlife range there, including black-faced spider monkey (Ateles chamek), giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) and giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla). A portion of this forest harbors close to 10 percent of the world’s brazil nut trees under production, benefiting local people.

Notably, the protected area connects adjacent nature reserves to create a massive corridor of protected or indigenous lands in the region.

“The Bajo Madidi Protected Area is a key addition to the protected area system in Bolivia,” said Eduardo Forno, country director of Conservation International-Bolivia. “This new area connects 2.9 million hectares of titled indigenous lands with more than 6 million hectares of the most biodiverse protected areas in the world.”

The announcement from Bolivia comes as protected areas worldwide are under siege, with rollbacks of legal protections to protected areas on the rise around the world, according to a new study. Protected areas remain one of the most important tools for conservation, with enormous potential to protect against climate breakdown and the loss of wildlife — while enabling local communities to continue to sustainably prosper from the benefits that nature provides.

Local communities were heavily involved in its conception and creation, according to Forno, whose team helped to advise the subnational government of Ixiamas on the creation of the protected area.

The Andes Amazon Fund helped to fund the protected area’s establishment.

Bruno Vander Velde is senior communications director at Conservation International.

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