White fronted capuchin monkey, Tayrona National Park, Colombia

In what could be an allegory for our times, an area of rainforest in Colombia, considered one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet, could soon be turned into a rubbish dump.

In a last-ditch attempt to save it, the forest community has teamed up with conservation organisation Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC) and launched a campaign to have the area legally protected.

The Venado Verde reserve on the Pacific coast is part of the Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena, a biodiversity hotspot which is home to an estimated 11,000 plant species, 1,728 bird species and 595 types of mammal, many of which are threatened with extinction. The local Colombian community lives scattered among villages within the area and depend on the forest for their livelihoods as well as their water supply.

“To build the garbage dump, first they have to cut down the trees and dig up the ground,” says community leader, Ever Ángulo. The work will lead to the disappearance of the Venado creek and contaminate the water supply, he adds.

However securing legal protection from the government would put a stop to the waste disposal dump as well as safeguard the forest from any future mining projects. It would ensure “guaranteed protection of the waters, including the 13-kilometre long Venado creek as well as the 23 waterfalls and their streams which feed into the Dagua and Danubio rivers,” explains Ángulo.

To raise the required funds NPC has organised a sale of artwork produced by children living in the rainforest as well as professional artists such as Steve Hutton, author and illustrator of The Dark Raven Chronicles trilogy. They will be going on sale between now and December with all proceeds contributing to the formal legal protection of the 2000 acre forest.

Dr Sam Shanee, founder of NPC, said the community is depending on the campaign to save “this incredible area”, adding that their “health and livelihoods depend on the forest and its water sources.” The Colombian black-headed spider monkey is also found in the area, he said, and is “one of the least known species, and already highly threatened.”

Juan Andrés, who lives in the area said the rubbish dump would cause an “enormous amount” of environmental damage if it goes ahead. “The Venado creek is our community’s natural heritage and so we will [only] relax once it is no longer threatened,” he said.

To find out more and donate to save the forest visit the NPC website.

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Image credit: Berend Leupen – Unsplash