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Andean Avifauna Audit

Over half of globally important tropical Andean wildlife sites remain unprotected

Quito, Ecuador - The most comprehensive inventory to date of some of South America's globally important areas for birds and biodiversity reveals that more than half have no legal designation. Important Bird Areas in the Tropical Andes, published today by BirdLife International and Conservation International, identifies 455 sites that cover 17% of the region's total land area, of which 250 (55%) are unprotected. [Important Bird Areas in the Tropical Andes is published by BirdLife International and Conservation International. Its publication has been supported by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The book, which is in Spanish with an English summary, is being launched on at 7.00 PM on 3 August at the Itchimbía Cultural Center of the Metropolitan Municipality of Quito.]An astonishing 2,681 bird species – more than a quarter of the world's total – are found in the five tropical Andean countries of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. Such diversity occurs because of the great contrasts in habitats, which range from snow capped mountain peaks and the high Andean Puna to rich humid lowland rainforests of the Amazon, dry tropical forests and scrub and marine habitats. The area also supports 180 species of North American migratory birds. [Some of the most unusual IBAs are the flat-topped tepuis mountains of southern Venezuela-the 'Lost World' of Arthur Conan-Doyle's fictional adventures; some tepuis even have their own endemic bird and plants. Other IBAs are relatively well-known, like the world famous wildlife paradise of Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, but some are very little explored, such as Bolivia's humid Yungas cloud forests on the eastern slope of the Andes.]An estimated 60,000 plants are also known from the region, as well as 686 mammals (208 of them endemic) and 1,383 amphibians (1,009 of them endemic) - all this in just 3% of the world's landmass.

The inventory warns that 201 of these species (13%) are threatened with extinction unless these vital areas are adequately protected and managed. 23 of these are Critically Endangered, requiring immediate conservation action, notes Dr. Luis Suarez, Director of Conservation International in Ecuador. In an extraordinary move, Quito Mayor, Paco Moncayo has declared the globally threatened Black-breasted Puffleg as the symbol for the capital city of Ecuador.

"The puffleg lives in a mountain valley next to Quito and is perhaps one of the most threatened hummingbirds in the world,” noted Sandra Loor, Executive Director of the Ecuadorian Ornithological Corporation (CECIA), who added her group will work with Quito officials and local groups to ensure the species' survival.

The book's co-editor, Kerem Boyla from BirdLife's Americas office in Quito said: "Over the last eight years, around 600 ornithologists and volunteers have been involved in gathering data from the five countries. They have allowed us to define a network of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) that covers 17% of the land area including all the region's major biomes." Dr. Jose Vicente Rodriguez from Conservation International said, "One of the big conservation challenges for the next few years is to fill the gaps in the region's protected areas network. The inventory of sites in Important Bird Areas in the Tropical Andes shows where the effort needs to be concentrated."

Ian Davidson, Head of BirdLife's Americas Division added, "We believe that the Tropical Andes IBA inventory provides a sound basis for the development of national conservation strategies and protected areas planning. Experience in other regions has highlighted the vital role that IBAs play in both conserving a wealth of other plants and animals as well as providing sustainable resources for local communities."

4th July 2014