Rising out of the Amazon rainforest, the striking ‘El Cono’, an extinct volcanic cone, acts as the centrepiece of Sierra del Divisor, South America’s newest National Park. At 13,355 sq km, it covers an area the size of Yorkshire and the Peak District combined, and is considered hugely important to the preservation of biodiversity in the Amazon. The Rainforest Trust claims that it ‘lies in an area that has some of the highest levels of biodiversity ever recorded on the planet’, with more than 550 bird species, nearly 80 amphibians, and more than 120 mammals, including rare species such as red uakari monkeys, jaguars, and tapirs. Since the early 1990s, numerous NGOs and public bodies have worked together to get National Park status granted to Sierra del Divisor. ‘This is not a one-person effort,’ emphasises Corine Vriesendorp, director of the Andes-Amazon Program. ‘This is the culmination of ten years of numerous organisations working together – that’s how you make conservation happen.’
“This permanent conservation corridor is one of the greatest refuges for biodiversity on Earth”
After years of campaigning, Sierra del Divisor was finally given National Park status in November, completing what is now known as the Andes-Amazon Conservation Corridor, encompassing an area of nearly 270,000 sq km, larger than the entirety of the UK. ‘The Sierra del Divisor is the final link in an immense protected area complex that extends from the banks of the Amazon in Brazil to the snowy peaks of the Peruvian Andes,’ explains Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of the Rainforest Trust. ‘Protecting the Sierra del Divisor Mountain Range from illegal logging and mining is crucial for endangered wildlife, for indigenous peoples and for the world. This permanent conservation corridor is one of the greatest refuges for biodiversity on Earth.’
A $1million grant was also donated from the Andes Amazon Fund (AAF) to SERNANP, the Peruvian national agency for protected areas, to help with basic park protection, management, and community involvement over the next five years. ‘By providing support for initial management of the Park, AAF hopes to ensure it serves as a strong example of a partnership between local communities, government, and civil society to ensure the protection of one of the world’s greatest rainforests,’ says Adrian Forsyth, executive director of the AAF. ‘The creation of the Sierra del Divisor National Park is one of the most significant rainforest conservation accomplishments in recent years. It is a roadless wilderness with massive old growth forests and all the hyper-diversity of pristine Amazonian ecosystems.’
This article was published in the January 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.