A Multi-Purpose Nature Trail in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: Tourism, Education and Conservation to Protect the World’s Most Irreplaceable Site

Daniel Couceiro

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, located in northeast Colombia, is consider one of the last strongholds for biodiversity around the world, particularly for its high number of endemic birds and frogs. Due to habitat loss mainly linked to deforestation for agricultural purposes, just 15% of the original vegetation remains, threatening its unique wildlife.

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This project seeks to empower the youth of a rural community in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, to explore, protect and promote its endemic and endangered wildlife. We will create hand by hand with the local community a nature trail that will combine research, education, conservation, art and indigenous knowledge to stimulate birdwatching and herping in the area. By doing so, we want to engage a new generation in the sustainable use of the natural resources of the Sierra Nevada, so they become the environmental stewards of one of the most unique natural areas in the world.

The project main goals are the following:

- Develop local youth’s environmental literacy and professional skills related to environmental conservation.

- Enhance the value of endemic and endangered wildlife through ecotourism, incentivizing its protection and sustainable management through providing an alternative income to the community.

- Contribute to natural history data from endemic and endangered species of the SNSM. We will involve participants in citizen science projects and support global efforts for increasing data on endangered wildlife.

- Build community capacity to enhance their ability to identify, develop and implement locally designed solutions for existing environmental problems.

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