Colombia has six main natural regions, the Amazon Rainforest, the Pacific coast, the Andes Mountain range, the Caribbean coast, the Llanos, and the insular area. The country has a high diversity of flora and fauna and ranks first in the diversity of bird species. Regarding biodiversity, it is only second to Brazil worldwide. Approximately 10% of the species found on earth can be found in Colombia. An area of 14,268,224 hectares in Columbia is covered by protected areas and national parks. There are 58 protected areas and national parks in Colombia.
Colombia's National Parks
Serranía de Chiribiquete National Natural Park
Covering an area of 4,942 sqm, Serranía de Chiribiquete is the largest national park in Colombia. It comprises a group of the Table Mountains which are located in the Amazon Region. It is the natural habitat of the Chiribiquete Emerald (Chlorostilbon olivaresi), which is a species of hummingbird endemic to the area. Chiribiquete National Natural Park was created in 1978. In addition to the Serranía de Chiribiquete Mountains, the park comprises the lowlands that surround the mountains, which consist of savannas, tropical moist forests, and rivers. The park contains ancient rock art, with some of these rock paintings being as old as 20,000 years according to estimates by researchers. New rock paintings were discovered in the park in 2014 by Francisco Forero Bonell, a Colombian explorer/photographer.
Puinawai Natural Reserve
Puinawai Natural Reserve, which covers an area of 4,218 sqm is the second largest national park in Colombia. The Reserve, which is located in the Amazon Region, was created in 1989. Rivers such as the Cuvari, the Guainia, and the Isana cross the Reserve. It has a hot and humid climate and has little variation in the seasons throughout the year. Though it is mostly comprised of humid tropical rainforest, the Puinawai Natural Reserve also contains open tropical savannah and transitional zones. It is home to a variety of flora and fauna, having 419 endemic plant species. The local Amerindian tribes that live in the region live in sustainable co-existence with the environment; this, along with the fact that the Reserve is not open to the public, and the low population density in the area, has contributed to the low level of deforestation in the park. Colombia’s national park service reports that only 1% of the Puinawai Natural Reserve has been deforested.
El Tuparro National Natural Park
It is found in the Orinoquia Region of Colombia and covers an area of 2,116 sqm. It is home to Raudal de Maypures, a famous mighty stream. The park, which was created in 1970, comprises two ecosystems flooded savannahs and non-flooded savannahs. It has an average annual rainfall of 2477mm to the west and 2939mm of rainfall in the east, with a 27oC average temperature. 75% of it is covered by savannahs, with the rest being covered by gallery forests. The Moriche Palm and Caraipa Ilanorum tree are the predominant plants; with grass being dominant in the non-flooded savannahs. Rich in fauna, the park has 74 mammal species, 17 reptile species, 320 bird species, five primate species, and 26 fish species. Examples of birds found in the park are guans, screamers, and eagles. Mammals in the Savannah include white-tailed deer and small Savannah Armadillo; in the woodlands, and there are pumas and jaguars.
Serranía de la Macarena National and Ecological Reserve Park
The Serrandia de la Macarena covers an area of 2,394 sqm. It was the first national reserve established in Colombia. This was in agreement with a Congressional Law which was promulgated in 1948, with the park’s status being designated in 1971. It is the location of Serania de la Macarena mountain range, and whose highest peak reaches 8,759 ft, the highest point in the Orinoquia Region. The park is ecologically unique in that it is a meeting point for flora and fauna belonging to three regions of Amazon, Orinoco, and the Andes.
It has a tropical climate, with a temperature range of 5.5oC to 31oC; conditions which enable it to maintain its many endemic and rare species. The park’s ecosystems include dry forest, rainforest, savannah, and shrublands. There are over 2000 identified plant species in the park, with 50 recorded orchid species in the mountains. There are 550 recorded bird species, which include the gray-legged tinamou, a rare species; 100 reptile species; 1200 insect species; and mammal species such as anteaters, jaguars, deer, and eight monkey species. Controversially, parts of the park have been used by peasant communities since the 1970s to grow coca. These drug crops led to the Park’s subjection to glyphosate fumigation until this practice was forbidden by Colombian law. After workers in the area, along with law enforcement authorities, were killed in guerrilla attacks by rebels, the Colombian government decided to fumigate the park; but environmentalists, fearing fumigation would further deteriorate the park’s ecosystem, protested the decision. Fumigation is still prohibited inside natural parks, though the law’s restriction was relaxed for other places. The only strategy allowed to eradicate drug plants like Coca is manual eradication.
Colombia has several National Parks and sanctuaries spread across the country. The country has 51 national parks and sanctuaries covering all the five regions of Colombia. The number of the visitors touring Colombia’s national parks has been on the increase as the government continues to promote the tourism industry. Cueva de los Guácharos is Colombia's oldest national park, while Serranía de Chiribiquete is its largest. Other parks in the country include Nukak covering an area of 3,301 square miles, Río Puré which covers 3,861 sqm, Cahuinarí which covers 2,220 sqm, and Yaigojé Apaporis which covers 4,0965 sqm.