Bolivia Establishes Protected Area Almost as Big as Yellowstone

Olallae´s titi monkey is one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world, and the new Rhukanrhuka Municipal protected area will conserve 50 percent of its habitat. // Photo by Jesus Martinez @WCS

New in ecotourism: the municipal government of Reyes, a city in northern Bolivia, has created a massive new protected area in the northwestern part of the country that is almost as large as Yellowstone National Park in the United States. The Rhukanrhuka Municipal protected area, which spans more than 3,318 square miles, will aim to serve the needs of local communities while safeguarding rare wildlife such as titi monkeys, river dolphins, wattled curassows and other species, said the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Rainforest Trust

The area is part of a region that includes Madidi, the world’s most biodiverse protected area and where protected areas, including this new one, and indigenous lands conserve almost 8 million hectares of connected wilderness in Bolivia and neighboring Peru

Plans call for a number of sustainable development and wildlife conservation initiatives in the new protected area, including building up its ecotourism product. Half of the area is categorized as a municipal park, encompassing the most intact areas of tropical rainforest and natural grasslands. The second half of the protected area, classified as a “Natural Area of Integrated Management,” consists of communal and private properties owned by local villages and cattle ranchers. 

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A new management committee will guide development of the new area, with the aim of conserving the area of transition between the Sub Andean and Llanos de Mojos Ecosystems; the conservation of forests and hydro biological resources; the maintenance of ecosystems critical for maintaining connectivity in the Bolivian Amazon; the preservation of cultural and archeological heritage; the sustainable management of resources; and local and regional development through ecotourism and other opportunities. 

Management of the municipal protected area will also safeguard threatened and endemic wildlife species, including two species of endemic and endangered titi monkeys (Ollallae´s and Beni titi monkey), the wattled curassow, and the Bolivian pink river dolphin. Rhukanrhuka is the local Maropa indigenous name for the species of endemic titi monkeys found here, officials said.

The move comes as Bolivia is drawing attention as an up-and-coming tourism destination for its wildlife and stunning natural beauty, including its salt flats and “red lagoon.” Kensington Tours added the country as a new destination earlier this year, while late last year Avanti Destinations highlighted it among its last-minute winter trip FIT offerings. 

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