Bolivia

Jaguar Family Photo
A jaguar family plods through Kaa Iya National Park, Bolivia, near the Isoso Station of the Santa Cruz-Puerto Suarez Gas Pipeline. WCS conservationists confirm that the mother, nicknamed Kaaiyana, has lived in the area for six years.
© Daniel Alarcon
Bolivia Animal Photo
Bolivia’s geologically unique landscapes are positioned where Amazonia meets the Chaco, the Brazilian Shield, and the humid northern and dry southern Andes.
©Eleanor Briggs
Bolivia Landscape Photo
The Madidi, Pilon Lajas, and Apolobamba protected areas in the Bolivian Andes range from 500 to almost 20,000 feet above sea level.
©Eleanor Briggs
WCS Scientists in Bolivia Photo
WCS scientists help create land-use strategies in many of Bolivia’s wild places.
©Eleanor Briggs

In the heart of South America we find one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, partly due to its variety of landscapes. Bolivia is uniquely positioned where Amazonia meets the Chaco, the Brazilian Shield, and the humid northern and dry southern Andes. With high topographic variation, Bolivian natural habitats range from cloud forests to both dry and flooded forests and both mountain and lowland savannas.

Bolivia is also known for its cultural diversity, with more than 50 percent of its 9 million citizens belonging to one of 33 indigenous groups. Protected areas represent 15 percent of the country and Indigenous territories comprise another 15 percent. Many traditional systems of land management that were once compatible with biodiversity conservation, but now different extractive booms—mining, rubber, quinine, and more recently, timber—have undermined them.

Nevertheless, large parts of the country are in excellent environmental condition and vast wild areas remain strongholds for jaguars, Andean bear, condors, giant otters, maned wolves, and Andean flamingos.

Fast Facts

  • In Bolivia, WCS works the Chaco and the Amazon—large wilderness areas and some of the most important ecoregions for wildlife and forest conservation in Latin America.
  • The Madidi, Pilon Lajas, and Apolobamba protected areas in the northwestern Bolivian Andes and eight indigenous territories range in elevation from 500 to almost 20,000 feet above sea level, permitting a unique opportunity for linking up conservation plans.
  • Madidi, Pilon Lajas, and Apolobamba and the neighboring protected areas of Tambopata and Bahuaja Sonene in Peru form a block of more than 15,000 square miles of tropical Andes, the most diverse region on Earth.
  • Three indigenous peoples—the Isoseño Guaraní, Chiquitano, and Ayoreode—inhabit areas surrounding Kaa-Iya del Gran Chaco National Park, where they practice subsistence hunting, fishing, and farming and participate in the park’s management committee.
  • A landscape conservation approach that integrates protected areas with neighboring areas helps jaguars to thrive in the Kaa-Iya and Madidi landscapes. Each of these landscapes protect populations of more than 1,000 of the big cats.

Challenges

Large road and energy projects in Bolivia have the potential to over-exploit and fragment its wild places. A limited capacity to integrate conservation and development into the land management initiatives of indigenous organizations and local, regional, and national government agencies also threaten Bolivia’s unique natural heritage. Successful conservation and sustainable natural resource management require foundations of solid science and complementary strategic and territorial plans between neighboring and overlapping jurisdictions. Without them, conditions are ripe for unsustainable natural resource use and insufficient promotion of the economic, environmental, social, and cultural benefits of landscape conservation. By building capacity to balance conservation and development in Bolivia, we will ensure a strong local constituency for conservation.

WCS Responds

WCS worked with an Isoseño Guaraní indigenous organization to create Kaa-Iya del Gran Chaco National Park in 1995. Covering 13,000 square miles, the park is the largest protected tropical dry forest in the world, as well as the most biologically diverse and well-preserved portion of the Gran Chaco ecoregion. Additionally WCS supported the Bolivian government’s designation of the El Palmar as a wetland of international importance. El Palmar, together with the neighboring Banados del Isoso and the Bolivian Pantanal, form South America’s largest protected wetland area, an expanse about the size of Switzerland. WCS also helped create the Alto Madidi Municipal Reserve, which maintains the area of highest jaguar biomass reported to date.

Registering more than 200 new species for the Greater Madidi Landscape, WCS also discovered the Madidi titi monkey. An online auction held to name the new species of titi monkey jump-started a $650,000 trust fund for the Madidi protected area, via the Bolivian protected Area Service and the Foundation for the Development of the National Protected Area System.

WCS provided the principal technical support to the protected areas of Madidi, Pilon Lajas, and Kaa-Iya in the development of their management plans, and has supported the land titling of Takana and Leco indigenous territorial lands that neighbor the Madidi Protected Area. In the Madidi landscape WCS has helped form more than 20 community-based enterprises (with more than 1,300 beneficiaries) that promote the sustainable use of natural resources such as native honey, subsistence hunting, and fishing, ornamental fish, cacao, handicrafts, and timber.

In the highlands of Apolobamba, animal husbandry interventions conducted by WCS have helped keep wildlife from preying on domestic animals, thus reducing conflicts between the protected area and these pastoral communities. Additionally, indigenous territorial consolidation and management has markedly reduced deforestation and illegal timber extraction in the Takana indigenous territory. WCS has also helped 96 Bolivian students obtain their bachelors, masters, or PhDs in subject areas of wildlife conservation.

WCS Projects

Sustaining biological and cultural diversity in Bolivia

Bolivia’s Madidi-Tambopata landscape has a wide range of altitudes as well as a high diversity of ecosystems and peoples. WCS works to conserve its cultural and biological heritage via initiatives that improve land-use and livelihoods.

Gas Pipeline from Bolivia to Brazil

WCS and the Capitanía de Alto y Bajo Isoso, the indigenous organization representing the Guaraní people of Bolivia’s Chaco, have worked as partners for more than 15 years. The partnership has helped both institutions deal with challenges arising from the rapid expansion of Bolivia’s hydrocarbon industry into this fragile landscape.

From the Newsroom

Bolivia: Land of Giant Anteaters and Fairy ArmadillosJuly 23, 2013

A newly published WCS database shows the range of 116 species of Bolivian mammals, from the obscure “Count Branickii’s terrible mouse” to the mighty jaguar. The database will help shape future conservation decisions for some of South America’s most threatened and charismatic wildlife.

Paradise Found for Latin America’s Largest Terrestrial MammalJanuary 22, 2013

WCS conservationists have scoured the Peru-Bolivia border for signs of lowland tapirs—large herbivores that possess distinctive markings and snouts. After 12 years of research, they’re able to report that these animals are thriving within five national parks.

Bolivia’s Jaguars Set a RecordOctober 19, 2011

In a recent study conducted in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park, WCS researchers have identified a record number of jaguars through a digital camera trap survey.

WCS-Bolivia Partner Receives Prestigious Equator PrizeSeptember 30, 2010

The Tsimané Mosetene Regional Council, WCS’s local partner in the montane rainforests of Bolivia, received the award at a ceremony held on September 20 in New York, honoring its efforts to reduce poverty through sustainable development and biodiversity conservation.

Calvin Klein's Obsession for CatsJune 8, 2010

WCS conservationists in Guatemala are using a swanky scent to lure jaguars and other endangered wildlife toward motion-sensitive cameras that snap photos of the animals as they pass by. The photos help researchers estimate population numbers for these shy species.

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