Presidential praise for Paraguay Partner
The Vice President of Paraguay, Mr Luis Castiglioni, last week officially praised the purchase of a large tract of vital Atlantic Forest habitat by Guyra Paraguay (BirdLife in Paraguay).
At the event held on Friday 10 February, Mr Castiglioni referred to the unique efforts of Guyra Paraguay (with the support of international organisations) in securing the future of a further 2,100 hectares of the San Rafael Reserve, one of the largest remnants of Atlantic Forest in Paraguay. This will add to the 5,800 hectares they already own. The majority of the forest remains in private ownership however.
Mr Castiglioni congratulated Guyra Paraguay and issued an international call to save the entire area, the first Important Bird Area (IBA) declared in Paraguay, and widely recognised as the top conservation priority in Paraguay.
The Atlantic Forest region was one of the first to be colonised by Europeans and today is the most densely populated area of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. After 400 years of development, the forests have disappeared rapidly. Even the most conservative estimates consider no more than 12% of original cover to remain, and as little as 1-2% may exist in a relatively virgin state.
Although San Rafael was decreed a national park in 1992, the boundaries were only delimited in 1997, and still have to be legally recognised. Thus, San Rafael remains very much only a park "on paper". There has been no infrastructural development within the park and there are no guards. The Paraguayan government does not possess the capacity or resources necessary to purchase land to effectively create a protected area. Logging and clearance for agriculture has continued unabated, and "campesinos" (landless farmers) were still settled deep within the park in late 1997. Forest cover within the 1992 proposed boundaries decreased by about 20% in five years.
Although only limited studies have been undertaken in San Rafael, it is known to hold populations of 11 globally threatened bird species and 17 near-threatened species, as well as more Atlantic Forest endemic bird species than any other site in Paraguay. Its importance was underlined by a project undertaken by Guyra Paraguay in 2000. This study, which combined historical information with new fieldwork data, showed San Rafael to be the most important of 75 sites in Paraguay for threatened and endemic Atlantic Forest birds. The area also contains diversity of extreme importance for other taxa such as mammals and reptiles.