A visual tour of the Lost City

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Occassional guides for Wiwa Tours, the only indigenous owned tour company operating in the Lost City.

 

“In the early 1970s, a group of looters searching for Pre-Columbian artifacts in the jungles of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta stumbled upon a set of worn stone steps leading up a ridge from the shore of the Buritaca river. At the end of more than 1,200 stairs, they found the ruins of an ancient, silent, abandoned city.

Shortly afterwards, a slew of exquisite artifacts began to flood Colombia’s black market, leaving archaeologists of the era puzzled as to the origins of such intricate golden figurines, urns, beads and statues.

Investigators soon caught on to the trail left by grave robbers. The region, which had been dubbed “Green Hell” by the looters, seemed impossibly difficult. Between the impenetrable tropical forest, the steep, treacherous gradations slicked by constant downpours, and clouds of disease-bearing mosquitoes, progress was slow. But by 1975, excavations were underway, and the site was shortly thereafter revealed to the world as Ciudad Perdida, or the “Lost City”.

What the archaeologists had uncovered was incredible, one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the century—a massive city, once home to some 2,000-8,000 inhabitants.” – Read More

High in the clouds of the Andean páramos

I found this post saved as a draft from 2010, not sure why I hadn’t posted it.

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“Andean winds blow dense clouds of fog in waves over steep mountain crags carpeted with hundreds of species of tropical plants that trap in moisture here high above Colombia’s capital. Water is everywhere in this treasure trove, held in place by an intricate fabric woven by Mother Nature This is nature’s water factory; water springs from the rugged paramos (neo-tropical ecosystems) of Chingaza and Sumapaz national parks and travels through underground veins to the Ghuza and San Rafael reservoirs, supplying millions of people in the metropolitan area of Bogota.

As we travel deeper into the mountains, fog drapes itself over the secrets of the forest, intermittently allowing us to see an impenetrable mass of bushes mid trees, silhouettes of deer in the ravines, grassy plateaus on the riverbanks, and lagoons flanked by the perpetual green of the Chingaza National Park and Nature Reserve.

We are almost 10,000 feet above sea level. Our guide, Luis Alberto Espino, tells us that over 80 percent of the people of Bogota get their drinking water from this area. “The Chingaza paramo is like a sponge that stores rainwater and then releases it slowly over time,” he says, as we walk hunched over through low vegetation.

The magic of this hydrological system is evident all around us. Water flows permanently from moss-covered rocks, feeding wetlands and reed-filled bogs, and filtering into crystal clear streams that supply the entire watershed. The paramo ecosystem consists of wetlands and high grassland areas which, if well preserved, can create a soil structure ideal for storing water in the dry season and regulating the water cycle throughout the year by releasing it little by little to the lower areas.

Espino squeezes a handful of moss his hand and water streams out. “This, in infinite quantities, is what allows the accumulation of about 8.8 billion cubic feet of water in the Chuza Reservoir,” says the smiling ranger. From this immense artificial lake in El Chingaza, the water is taken downhill through a large underground aqueduct to the San Rafael Reservoir located in the heights of Bogota, in La Calera. The reservoir holds enough water to supply the capital city with water for three to five months in case of drought.

On the way back to Bogota, I visit the Botanic Gardens where I meet Julia Miranda, the general director of Colombian National Park Service. Under the shadow of huge palm trees, Miranda explains the value of the paramos with a certain pride. “Colombia has the advantage of having large extensions of relatively well-preserved paramo areas,” she says. “And it’s important to look at how important this is for a city like Bogota and for a region like the Savannah of Bogota. Bogota is a city with more than eight million people, and it gets its water primarily from two national parks, Chingaza National Park and Sumapaz National Park. In addition to the people in Bogota and the Savannah of Bogota, sixteen municipalities are benefitting from this water.” – Source

Colombia to eradicate deforestation

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A study published October 17th revealed that Colombia lost 120.9k hectacres of natural forests in 2013, with 57% being within the Amazon region. Colombia will attempt to completely eradicate Amazonian deforestation by 2020, to promote a sustainable, low-carbon development model for the region, said the Colombian president. – Source

 

Consumerism and Conservation in Bogotá

News on the two items below came out at the same time, which I found interesting.

Eden Mall

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“Just granted planning constent, Eden Mall will be Colombia’s largest shopping centre, covering an area of  320,000 m2 and 134,000 m2 dedicated to retail space.

It is located in the southeast intersection of Avenida Boyacá and Calle 13, in the city of Bogota – a strategic location in the capital and a place of major residential growth.  The location connects the Mall to the rest of the city, with immediate access from any of the major arterial roads.

USD$500 million is to be invested in the project and will include international and national brands and retailers in over 350 stores, a food court, restaurants, cinemas and approx 20,000 m2 for family entertainment, plus parking for 4,000 vehicles.

Construction is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2015, and open in 2017.  When open, the Mall is expected to attract circa 2 million visitors monthly. ” – Source

Ecological Park

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“Bogota conservation authorities plan to create a bio-diversity corridor to preserve ground water and natural plant species in what would be the largest urban ecological park in Latin America.

An Environmental Management Plan has been created for the area located north of Bogota and covering regions Guaymaral, Corpas and Suba.

Regional Autonomous Corporation (CAR) has banned construction on roughly 1,400 acres of land situated on Thomas van der Hammen Forest reserve, and aims to build a huge ecological reserve which would be the largest in the whole of Latin America. The project is expected to cost around 73 million dollars. ” – Source

The Chiguiro Pet Market

One of my most popular posts in terms of views is on the chiguiro meat market, which is a repost of an article I found about how chiguiros (or, capybaras in English) are being killed for their meat. Sure, they are rodents but when you watch videos of them you start to see they have personalities like most other animals. That’s why I’d like to talk about the capybara pet market…which I practically know nothing about, though, I found an American woman who does.

Find out more about Caplin the Capybara, as well as information that goes from general to specific over at Giant Hamster (you may want to give the site some time to load). Caplin is so smart, the blog is in first person, plus he tweets, ‘facebooks’ and a whole bunch of other things!

More Info

Caplin on Animal Planet
Caplin’s Youtube
Chiguiro Meat Market

Caqueta Titi Monkey of Colombia

“After more than 30 years of speculation among Colombia’s biologists, unusual titi monkeys there have been confirmed as a distinct species new to science. The cat-sized monkeys at last get their own scientific name, Callicebus caquetensis, in a description posted online August 12 in Primate Conservation.

Unlike neighboring titis, the population discovered in the Caquetá region lacks a white facial stripe and white hands, and has a bushy red beard, says primatologist Thomas Defler at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá. The Caquetá titis’ chromosomes also have structural differences compared with other titi species.

“It’s important that people know we’re still finding new monkeys,” Defler says. A handful of species have been named in South America alone during the past decade.

Primatologists have been curious about the Caquetá titis since at least 1976, when a biologist traveling through the region proposed that the titis there might deserve recognition as a distinct group, Defler says. But the titis’ home became an insurgent stronghold, and decades of political violence discouraged primatologists from venturing in to follow up.

Travel became less risky in the past several years, and Defler seized on a lucky chance. A student native to Caquetá, the son of a veterinarian well known in the area, arrived in Defler’s lab eager for a primatology project.

Starting in 2008, student Javier García traveled in search of titis. He has tracked down more than a dozen groups by listening for their morning calls. Garcia even brought back two Caquetá titis that had been kept as pets so that Defler and his colleagues could observe the species alive.

The downside of resolving years of speculation about the titi’s existence is that the population appears to be tiny and under threat. Garcia’s data so far suggest merely 250 individuals, and Defler does not expect there to be more than 500. What had been a forest species now lives in fragments of forest in a largely agricultural landscape. At the same time that the Caquetá titi gets its species status, Defler predicts it will also qualify as critically endangered.” – Source

Colombian ‘New World’ Monkeys

This is a bit random, but check out some of the small but rather interesting-looking ‘new-world’ monkeys found in Colombia…ok, minus the last one which isn’t so abnormal.

(Uakari, or Cacajao in SP)
(Cotton Top Tamarin, or Tamarino Algodonoso and Tití Cabeza Blanca in SP)

(Spider Monkey, or Mono Araña in SP)
(Squirrel Monkey, or Mono Ardilla in SP)