Rare birds of the high Andes will now benefit from nearly 2,500 additional acres of protected land thanks to a new conservation area created by an indigenous community in Peru.
The Siete Cataratas-Qanchis Paccha Private Conservation Area, named for a dramatic system of waterfalls within its borders, was officially recognized by the government of Peru in August. It is the eighth such protected area that indigenous communities in the Cusco region of Peru have formed since 2009 in collaboration with ABC and our Peruvian partner ECOAN. With this new addition, local communities now protect and manage more than 18,000 acres in the Vilcanota Reserve Network.
Situated in one of the most remote regions of South America—more than 14,000 feet above sea level—the reserve's native grasslands, forests of Polylepis trees, and wetlands will provided habitat for many birds. The Andean Ibis, Yellow-billed Teal, and Crested Duck use the new area's wetlands, said ECOAN's Gregorio Ferro Meza, while endangered birds such as the White-browed Tit-Spinetail and Ash-breasted Tit-tyrant use the Polylepis forest.
The White-browed Tit-Spinetail is believed to number fewer than 1,500 individuals and lives only in the Polylepis forests of southern Peru. It uses its long tail for balance as it creeps along tree branches.
The Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant is a small flycatcher found in Peru and Bolivia, where it hunts small insects among the leaves of Polylepis trees. The species is believed to have a total population of fewer than 1,000 individuals.
In addition to protecting and conserving these imperiled birds, the new reserve also safeguards important watersheds for the Quechua-speaking people of the Quishuarani community. It lies adjacent to the Hatum Queuna—Quishuarani Ccollana Private Conservation Area, a 580-acre reserve the community formed with ABC and ECOAN in 2009.
ECOAN works to involve local communities in the preservation of biodiversity by promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, conserving flora, fauna, and natural ecosystems in Peru. ABC has collaborated with the organization for the last 15 years.
“This success is thanks to more than a decade of work by ECOAN with local communities in the Vilcanota mountains and the support of many donors, including most recent assistance from the March Conservation Fund,” said Daniel Lebbin, ABC's Vice President of International Programs.
The Vilcanota Reserve Network protects critical fragments of remaining Polylepis forest in the high Andes of the Cusco region. The few bird species found here are among the rarest on Earth. As the forests dwindle, so do their hopes for survival.
However, Vilcanota's Polylepis forests are now expanding thanks to a reforestation campaign that provides a new chance for the birds: Since 2004, the communities have planted more than 1 million Polylepis and other native trees in these mountains.