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Amboro National Park

By every right, Amboró should be one of those national parks that is a household name throughout the world.  Encompassing six distinct ecosystems, this park has a stunning array of biodiversity and offers a variety of experiences that few other national parks can. 

 History

The park was originally established in 1973 the Reserva de Vida Silvestre German Busch. In 1984, the reserve became a national park thanks in large part to a team of scientists who convinced the Bolivian government that this unique area was in need of greater protection.  Since that time the park grew from its original size of 1,800 square kilometers (695 sq mi) to 6,376 square kilometers (2,461 sq mi) in 1991, before being reduced down to its current size of 4,425 square kilometers (1,709 sq mi) in 1995. 

The reason for the subsequent contraction of the park was because the expansion took place without consulting either the park itself or the neighboring communities. As a consequence, there was considerable resistance to the new boundaries. To deal with the problem, a variety of interest groups were consulted, and a compromise solution was reached.

A “Red Line” was drawn, dividing the expansion area, with some of it going to the park, and some of it going to the Integrated Management Natural Zone (IMNA).  The IMNA allows for a variety of uses of the land, but still affords a healthy level of ecological protection.  It should be noted that, because of conflict with local communities, the Red Line is constantly being redrawn, making the exact size and shape of Amboró National Park more malleable than most other parks.

 Ecology

The two dominant ecological zones in the park are the humid forests of the lowlands and cloud forests. However, scientists have distinguished at least six distinct ecological zones divided into three regions:

The Amazon region includes:

•         The humid seasonal evergreen forest is recognizable as rainforest, with flat terrain and a broad canopy.

•         The humid Piedmont forest is similar to the evergreen forest, but is characterized a more rugged terrain, with more hills and narrow valleys.

•         The more abrupt topography of the Andean forests forms the actual transition zone between the rainforests of the evergreen and Piedmont forests, and the higher cloud forests of Amboró.

The Andean Region includes:

•         The cloud forest or Yungas form some of the most striking landscapes in all of South America.  These ecosystems are characterized by striking slopes and cliffs, gorgeous  alluvial valleys and deep gorges.

•         The cloud forest ridges is the rarest ecological zone within the park. Found on exposed hilltops and crests, these areas offer some of the most beautiful areas of the park..

Finally, there is the Gran Chaco Region in the south:

•         In contrast to the moister areas of the park, the dry inter-Andean can be explored in the south of the area.

 Boundary zones between ecosystems are typically biodiversity hotspots, and this helps to explain why Amboró has such an incredible array of species within its relatively confined space.  The most recent reports that 2,659 species of plants, many of which are endemic to the area, and there is no suggestion that the plant inventory of Amboró National Park is complete. 

Perhaps even more exciting is the vertebrate population. In addition, 127 species of mammals have been inventoried.  The list includes such well known South American animals as the jaguar and spectacled bear, as well as less known animals, including seven species of primate and 43 known species of bat.  Seventy six species of amphibians have been identified,  but another 50 have been found and not yet identified.  Those seventy six alone makes Amboró the third most species rich protected area in the world (Manu National Park, Peru has registered 82 species; Santa Cecilia, Ecuador has 93). Meanwhile, the 105 species of reptile makes the park home to the most diverse reptile population in the world.  Fish inventories have only been done in the IMNA and already 109 species have been found.  Meanwhile, As with plants, it is expected that there will be other species discovered within the park as research continues.

For birdwatchers, Amboró should be on the must see list. The park has so far inventoried 840 species of bird. Of these, 209 are protected, seven are threatened and 43 are vulnerable. In addition, nine are endemic to Bolivia and 46 are listed in CITES annex.  These number are impressive, over 60% of the total number of species that can be found in Bolivia are in Amboró.  Indeed, this is a greater number than most countries.

Obvious the bulk of the bird species are to be found in the rainforest regions of the park.  If you do choose to go birding in this area, be aware that while there is a great diversity of birds, most of them are to be found high in the canopy.  Unless you are experienced with tropical birding, you might want to consider going with a knowledgeable guide.

Pressure

Despite the remoteness and pristine condition of Amboró, there are a considerable number of threats to the park.  One of the main threats is soil erosion caused by slash and burn agriculture in the region. Even in areas outside of the park, this practice can cause considerable damage to the areas waterways  and provide a foothold for invasive species.

 

Cooperation with local communities has controlled the illegal, subsistence logging that once threatened numerous species of tree throughout the park, but commercial hunting and fishing of agoutis, armadillos and tapirs, as well as illegal fishing operations pose a considerable threat to the diversity of the region.  In addition, coal production in the area around El Torno threatens both the water and plant life in the park.

 

Perhaps the greatest threat to the park is simply that there is local opposition to the park.  Despite the widespread acceptance of the Red Line separating the park from the IMNA, many locals disregard it, and continue to engage in activities on both sides of the line.  Ultimately, this local opposition has given rise to politicians opposed to conservation. The area is certainly ripe for ecotourism development, which may help generate local support for the park, but for the most part, that potential has yet to be developed.

 Visiting Amboró National Park

 Wildlife watching remains the premiere attraction of Amboró, but it is by no means the only one. Regardless of your interests, it is always exciting to explore untrammeled wilderness.  Some of the more popular options include exploring the numerous tributaries of the Yapacani and Surutu rivers (which form the northern border of the park).  There are also numerous caves to explore as well as great hiking, camping and climbing. 

 Because Amboró is so unknown and unexplored, some of the basic services are missing.  For many, this is an attraction, but for most, this makes the park a bit too far off the beaten path.

 

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Other places nearby Amboro National Park: Samaipata, San Ignacio De Velasco, Parque Nacional Kaa-lya del Gran Chaco, Yacuiba, San Javier, Roboré, Santiago de Chiquitos and Chochís, San Rafael, The Bolivian Pantanal, Camiri and Vallegrande.







28 Dec 2009

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