Sierra Nevada: The World’s Most Irreplaceable Nature Reserve
The Sierra Nevada mountains not only boast some of the most remarkable wildlife in the world; they’ve been called the world’s “most irreplaceable nature reserve.” That’s because the birds and animals that live there have been long threatened by humans, especially by the drug trade, including its deforestation, the drug crops themselves and the herbicides used to fight them.
About 13 percent of Colombian native species live in the Sierra Nevada. There are 440 types of birds here, ranging from hummingbirds to condors. Iconic cats — cougars and jaguars — also roam. Other mammals include the distinctive, pig-like tapir; the small brocket deer; and the otter. Underneath a tropical rainforest canopy, 3,000 species of plants also grow here.
Of course, humans live here as well. Descendants of the great Tairona civilization, The Kogi, Wiwa, Arhuaco and Kankuamo indigenous people have lived in the area for hundreds or thousands of years. They consider taking care of the land their sacred duty. Thankfully, they aren’t the only ones who recognize the importance of preserving the incredible variety of animals and plants.
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Natural Park helps with their protection, as well as providing a home for numerous indigenous people and an attraction for curious tourists. Still, more help is needed. One initiative meant to protect the natural environment and empower the indigenous people is the purchase of land by or on behalf of the indigenous. These purchases are a promising start, but without the continued intervention of the Colombian people and government, as well as conservation organizations, many of these species could be lost forever.