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martes, 21 de mayo 2024
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A warning about the country’s biodiversity

By Carlos Olimpo Restrepo S; Journalist

The list of endangered species in Colombia serves as a guide for the work of both public and private entities to defend the country’s biological wealth. With the support of researchers from the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences of the Universidad de Antioquia, we look at some representative species from various animal groups.


Colombia has around 67,000 registered species of fauna, flora, fungi, and lichens, implying that for every ten species on Earth, one is present in this country. These statistics, provided by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, underscore the biological diversity of the territory. However, this is threatened by factors including agricultural frontier expansion, hunting, illegal capture or collection for commercial trafficking, pollution, and climate change.

On February 6, we published the new list of endangered wildlife species, Resolution 0126, which needed updating after being unchanged for six years. The list comprises 2,104 species distributed into the three threat categories established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): 466 are critically endangered, 800 are endangered, and 838 are vulnerable. 

The threats to these species primarily stem from human activities, often directly through indiscriminate hunting and capture for commercialization as food sources or pets— additionally, the gradual reduction of the natural ecosystems where they live. 

On this occasion, UdeA academics analyzed five endangered animal species representatives of large groups in Colombia. Last year, Alma Mater’s newspaper published a similar report on plants, which can be consulted here.


Antioquian forest ranger or muleteer -Lipaugus weberi-

Héctor Fabio Rivera Gutiérrez, a professor at the Institute of Biology, said that by feeding on berries and small invertebrates, this small endemic species serves a dual role as a seed disperser and a biological pest controller. 

The greatest threat is the deforestation of the ancient forests where it lives, a phenomenon further exacerbated by the fragmentation of its habitat. Consequently, the researcher emphasized the need to prevent the disappearance of these biodiverse ecosystems by advocating for a complete ban on logging.  


Antioquia chocolate frog -Hyloscirtus antioquia-

Photo: Andrés Mauricio Forero

“It inhabits the northern area of the Colombian Andes, with populations identified in the Aburrá Valley, specifically in the basins of streams and creeks situated between 2000 and 3200 meters above sea level,” said Mauricio Rivera Correa, a professor at the Institute of Biology and a researcher of the Antioquia Herpetological Group, who formally described the species 10 years ago. “The habitats where we found them are well preserved, but at the same time very small. Like most amphibians, it contributes to pest control, by consuming insects.

The greatest threats are its distribution in small isolated populations, deforestation of forests due to urban and agricultural expansion, and the spread of invasive species, such as trout, which eat its tadpoles. The professor urged the authorities to enforce withdrawal zones along the streams to ensure the preservation of gallery forests and thereby secure their viability. 


Cotton-top tamarin -Saguinus oedipus- 

Photo: Iván Darío Soto

“A primate endemic to the jungles of the Caribbean, between the departments of Bolívar, Sucre, Córdoba and Antioquia,” said Sergio Solari, a professor at the Institute of Biology. “This species is known for its efficient utilization of resources in the dry forests of the northern region, playing a crucial role in dispersing pollen and seeds, regulating insect populations, and contributing to the ongoing renewal of biodiversity,” he added.

They are significant victims of the illegal wildlife trade and forest reduction resulting from the expansion of cattle ranching. The professor called for increased action by the authorities in the areas where they live and not only on the roads to prevent trafficking.


Magdalena striped catfish -Pseudoplatystoma magdaleniatum-

Photo: National Fisheries Authority -Aunap-

“It is endemic to the Magdalena River basin, mainly found in the Caribbean region, and a significant predator of other fish,” explained Carlos Luis Do Nascimiento Montoya, a professor at the Institute of Biology. “This role underscores its importance in maintaining ecological balance within the streams and marshes it inhabits.”

The critical reduction of its population is due to overfishing. Therefore, this researcher called for strict compliance with protection measures, such as respecting the minimum size limits for capture, which can help its reproduction. 


Magdalena River Turtle -Podocnemis lewyana-

Photo: Viviana María Cartagena

Vivian Patricia Páez Nieto, professor emeritus of the Institute of Biology, reported that this endemic species inhabits the northern regions of Colombia, in the basins of the Magdalena, Sinú, San Jorge and Cauca rivers. She emphasized its significant role in the nutrient cycle, since its hatchlings serve as food for various aquatic and terrestrial creatures, including fish, reptiles and birds. Additionally, being herbivorous contributes to maintaining cleanliness in marshes and wetlands.

It faces threats from hunting for meat and eggs and the pasture expansion for cattle raising, which leads to habitat loss. The professor calls for compliance with existing laws on species exploitation and areas or zones’ creation of total protection. 

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