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Americas
10 Jul 2015

Paraguayan forest finally gets protection

Guyra Paraguay has donated 500 ha of land to the Paraguayan Government for incorporation into the national park (Guyra Paraguay)
By Martin Fowlie

Twenty-three years after its creation on paper, part of Paraguay’s San Rafael National Park has finally been afforded some real protection.

In 1992, a decree created the National Park, but until now the land has had virtually no real protection as it was in the hands of private landowners. Guyra Paraguay (BirdLife Partner) has been buying up this land and has now donated the first part of this to the Paraguayan Government.

“This is an historic day, as we are preserving a vitally important area for biodiversity,” said the Minister of the Environment, Rolando de Barros Barreto, in the ceremony for the registration of 500 hectares located within San Rafael Reserve.

San Rafael protects the largest remnants of the Upper Paraná Atlantic Forest eco-region in Paraguay and is probably, the most important sub-tropical forest reserve in Paraguay. However, this is an area that is under pressure, through settlement, as well as from illegal activities, such as marijuana cultivation and illegal deforestation.

The area is important not only for many species of plant and animal, but also for the indigenous Mbya communities - original Paraguayan inhabitants that still practice some aspects of traditional lifestyles.

“The San Rafael range is the last piece of the Upper Paraná Atlantic Forest. Its humid forests are a clear and defined endemic centre for many groups of plants and animals that are not found in other parts of the world.” said Guyra CEO, Alberto Yanosky.

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The announcement was made jointly by the Minister of the Environment and Guyra Paraguay.Because of its importance for nature, the area was declared the first Important Bird and Biodiversity Area in Paraguay. There are 430 recorded species of birds in San Rafael, as well as 61 mammal species, 650 invertebrates, 52 fish, 35 amphibians, 47 reptiles and 322 vascular plants.

In 2006, three reptile species that were new to science were discovered in the San Rafael grasslands. As monitoring and research continue, the number of recorded species – endemic, threatened and unknown to science – will surely increase.

The San Rafael bird life is a mix of 70 endemic species to the Atlantic forest, three endemics to natural grasslands, with the remaining having a wider distribution in South America. At least 13 species are threatened and 18 Near Tthreatened, including important populations of Helmeted Woodpecker Dryocopus galeatus, Russet-winged Spadebill Platyrinchus leucoryphus, Cock-tailed Tyrant Alectrurus tricolor and Saffron-cowled Blackbird Xanthopsar flavus.