Discovering Colombia’s exceptional flora and fauna

Discovering Colombia's rare flora and fauna

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Frank Gardner

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Colombia’s tropical rainforests have been disappearing rapid. Since the 2016 peace offer involving the federal government and the Farc guerrillas significantly of the virgin jungle that was earlier off-boundaries thanks to conflict has now been chopped down, destroying total ecosystems. But now efforts are underneath way to help save what’s remaining.

Earlier this yr, and just just before the coronavirus lockdown, I joined an expedition of prime botanists from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London into earlier unexplored rainforest in the Serrania de las Quinchas, as they searched for exceptional plant species, some of them not known to science.

Colombia is the next most bio-various state in the entire world after Brazil. It also has far more fowl species – 1,958 at most up-to-date depend – than any other nation.

If there were being a video game of Top Trumps for hummingbirds then Colombia would acquire hands-down. With its mountains, jungles and rainforests, this large South American nation features some of the world’s most vibrant flora and fauna. Right here is a smaller sample of what we observed.

Trekking into the remote Ranura Canyon in the Magdalena Valley with Kew Gardens scientists, in search of rare plant speciesPicture copyright
Frank Gardner

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Trekking into the remote Ranura Canyon in the Magdalena Valley with Kew Gardens researchers, in lookup of unusual plant species

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Travelling on horseback was the only way for me, becoming wheelchair-primarily based, to get about the rough terrain. Conservationists are hoping this largely protected and unexplored section of Colombia could, with far better entry, turn out to be a key spot for eco-tourism.

The home of a hermit, hidden deep in the forest of the Serrania de las Quinchas.Impression copyright
Frank Gardner

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The house of a hermit, concealed deep in the forest of the Serrania de las Quinchas

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We put in the night listed here, on hammocks and mattresses. The farmer who lives right here alone is completely self-adequate, rearing his possess cattle and pigs but also expanding a kind of root vegetable for food stuff, which the scientists say they had by no means seen ahead of.

The 7 days just before we arrived his son was bitten on the foot by a venomous fer-de-lance pit viper in the close by forest. The farmer had to have him on his back to the nearest highway and they just bought him to a healthcare facility in time to help you save his leg from having to be amputated.

Common Tody-flycatcher, Todirostrum cinereumImage copyright
Frank Gardner

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Widespread Tody-flycatcher, Todirostrum cinereum

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A little and incredibly tame chicken that lives up to its name. Its beak in this article was stuffed with bugs it had just caught. It was a familiar sight in the trees about the palm-thatch hut we slept in and just one of the very first birds to wake us up with the dawn chorus. (Take note: practically nothing outstanding about this species, it was just somewhat pretty.)

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Amazilia tazacatl, feeding on Mexican sunflower.Picture copyright
Frank Gardner

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Rufous-tailed hummingbird, Amazilia tazacatl, feeding on Mexican sunflower, also known as “tree marigold”

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One particular of the most aggressive and territorial of Colombia’s 165 hummingbird species, it is recognized to assault other birds and bugs that it sees as thieves. At night it goes into a resting torpor to replenish its higher concentrations of electricity.

Blue-throated Starfrontlet. A high-altitude Andes hummingbird found only above 2000m in Colombia and just across the border in VenezuelaImage copyright
Frank Gardner

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Blue-throated Starfrontlet, Coeligena helianthea. A superior-altitude Andes hummingbird uncovered only higher than 2,000m in Colombia and just throughout the border in Venezuela, so known as a “around endemic”

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This is one particular of 18 different hummingbirds to be found large in the hills previously mentioned Bogota at the Observatorio de Colibríes, exactly where guests can enjoy them flitting by means of the branches while ingesting breakfasts of mango, papaya and strong Colombian coffee.

The Executioner Wasp, Polistes carnifex. This terrifying insect has one of the most painful stings known to mankind.Image copyright
Frank Gardner

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The Executioner Wasp, Polistes carnifex

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This terrifying insect has just one of the most painful stings acknowledged to mankind, even worse than the Bullet Ant and Asian Large Hornet. A person of the premier neotropical wasps at 3cm in duration, its name actually means “meat-maker” as it chews up its prey just before ferrying it back to the nest.

The Television naturalist Coyote Peterson volunteered to be stung by one particular and declared afterwards that a hole rotted in his arm at the web site of the sting. I photographed this 1 just as it took off from a tree department.

Cinnamon flycatcher, Pyrrhomyias cinnamomeus. One of the most attractive and approachable birds of Colombia's high montane forest.Picture copyright
Frank Gardner

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Cinnamon flycatcher, Pyrrhomyias cinnamomeus

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Just one of the most appealing and approachable birds of Colombia’s high montane forests at about 3,000m altitude. Uncovered all the way down the western spine of South The usa its Latin name means “flame-coloured”. This one was perched in the vicinity of a waterfall, building quick forays into the spray of h2o to catch bugs even though contacting loudly.

A strange and unidentified fruit from the Sapotaceae familyImage copyright
Frank Gardner

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A weird and unidentified fruit from the Sapotaceae relatives, just one that incorporates critical foodstuff resources in the type of tropical fruits like the star-apple

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This was one particular of the new, unfamiliar species uncovered by the Kew Gardens botanists deep in the distant jungle of Las Quinchas. The expedition chief, Mauricio Diazgranados, said “the condition and texture of the fruit were being quite abnormal”.

Red and yellow tropical flower. Palo cruz, Brownea macrophylla.Picture copyright
Frank Gardner

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Palo cruz, Brownea macrophylla

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The Kew Gardens researchers had been thrilled to arrive throughout this unique flower escalating on a river financial institution in the central Magdalena Valley. The trees that make it increase up to 12m tall and their trunks are frequently infested with ants. Locals say the flower has medicinal attributes and one particular of the major hopes for sparing what’s left of Colombia’s tropical forests is that their plants might have important medicinal remedies.

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Cory Weinberg

About the author: Cory Weinberg

Cory Weinberg covers the intersection of tech and cities. That means digging into how startups and big tech companies are trying to reshape real estate, transportation, urban planning, and travel. Previously, he reported on Bay Area housing and commercial real estate for the San Francisco Business Times. He received a "best young journalist" award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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