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Paraguayan IBA Gets Protection

Encouraging involvement from local communities is the next step?

Guyra Paraguay (BirdLife in Paraguay) is celebrating news of the complete protection of over 9,500 hectares of seasonal wetland in the Paraguayan Pantanal, an area which forms part of one of the country’s 57 Important Bird Areas (IBAs). The announcement was made at a reception attended by the Vice-President of Paraguay, the Minister of Environment, as well as many representatives from the Diplomatic Corps.

Protecting this site is a fantastic achievement. said Alberto Yanosky, Guyra Paraguay Executive Director. Its value for biodiversity has been long-recognised; now we’ve been given a chance to conserve it.

The declaration represents years of hard work by Guyra Paraguay and the World Land Trust, which contributed most of the funds required for the purchase of the land through the negotiation of a number of donations from private trusts, as well as the IUCN National Committee for the Netherlands. Five key areas have been purchased and set aside for the Nature Reserve, equating in all to a US $250,000 investment. The Pantanal is one of South America’s key ecosystems, being flooded seasonally by freshwater from the central Brazilian highlands. Situated in the upper watershed of the Paraguay river, to the south of the Amazon basin and east of the Andes, the area represents the most extensive freshwater wetland in the world.

The reserve area was chosen for its rich wildlife, and also for the fact that, despite being designated as part of a biosphere reserve, it remained in private ownership, without any formal protection. said John Burton, Chief Executive Officer of the World Land Trust.

In 2005, the Paraguayan Pantanal was designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Guyra Paraguay/BirdLife International based on its importance for congregations of waterbirds and regionally endemic bird species.As well as being important for birds, the Pantanal IBA also represents crucial habitat for a number of other species. Over 300 species of fish, 40 amphibians, 55 reptiles, 120 mammals and 2,000 species of plant are known to exist there. All will be protected within the boundaries of the site.

News of the area’s protection builds on achievements made by local people and communities in involving themselves in conservation activities within the Pantanal IBA. In 2003, young people from the neighbouring community of Puerto Bahía Negra, created ‘EcoClub Pantanal Paraguay’ – a community-based Site-Support Group (SSG) that has been involved in surveys and organised bird-watching camps for others living nearby. Notable achievements of this SSG include the establishment of a community radio station – the first of its kind in the area, funded by the World Bank development marketplace, through a proposal presented by Guyra Paraguay.To further mark the educational value of the newly-protected area, a proposed visitor lodge will provide research facilities for scientists from both Paraguay and worldwide.

Encouraging interest and involvement from local communities is the important next step. The Eco-Club has shown a demonstrated leadership and they are communicating the value of our biodiversity. said Jose Luis Cartes, Site Program Manager at Guyra Paraguay. The joint work of the Eco-Club and Guyra Paraguay are key for the conservation of this remote, newly-protected area.

The Government of Paraguay has also declared its intention to allow expansion of boundaries around the nearby Rio Negro National Park, to link sites up with other protected areas, including the Pantanal IBA.

These proposed expansion areas are what we at Guyra Paraguay are now working towards for further conservation. said Alberto Yanosky, Guyra Paraguay Executive Director. We’re working to show a clear and joint-initiative with the Government to provide alternatives that allow us to conserve our unique biodiversity for future generations.

BirdLife’s Important Bird Areas (IBA) Programme has been a particularly effective way of identifying conservation priorities. Since IBAs are identified, monitored and protected by national and local organisations and individuals, working on the ground, the IBA Programme can be a powerful way to build national institutional capacity and to set an effective conservation agenda.

4th July 2014