Extinction is the disappearance of all members of a species. Extinction is considered from the instant in which the last individual of a species dies.
Colombia is a megadiverse country, with a natural wealth that for a long time was hidden by the shadow of war. Recent scientific expeditions, such as Colombia Bio, have shown how little we knew about our fauna and flora, so much so that with each of them new species have been discovered.
However, the expeditions also left the question of how much we may not have known. We are now in a race against indiscriminate and poorly controlled human intervention.
Deforestation, expansion of the agricultural frontier, mining, illicit crops are now present in these previously unexplored territories.
Tourism still needs to make its way into these regions as a competitive and profitable alternative. At the same time, as a good strategy for biodiversity conservation.
International Union for Conservation of Nature, UICN
The UICN is an organization whose mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.
IUCN has been active for more than 70 years, and today works in a combined effort to conserve nature and accelerate the transition to sustainable development.
IUCN has developed a comprehensive information system on the conservation status of animal, fungal and plant species worldwide: The IUCN Red List.
The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria
The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria is a system for classifying the risk of extinction of species worldwide. It divides species into nine categories:
- Not Evaluated, NE.
- Data Deficient, DD.
- Least Concern, LC.
- Near Threatened, NT.
- Vulnerable, VU.
- Endangered, EN.
- Critically Endangered, CR.
- Extinct in the Wild, EW.
- Extinct, EX.
Species may move up or down the list as their populations increase or decline. Find more information at the UICN Red List website iucnredlist.org.
According to Colombia Birdfair, 40% of the bird species that inhabit our planet are going through a population decline, and 1 in 8 species is threatened. In addition to this, 1.4% have become extinct.
Here you will find some data:
Human activities are the main factor related with bird extinction. Climate change, intensive agriculture, invasive species, illegal hunting and overfishing are behind this devastating statistic.
First Bird Extinct in Colombia
The only bird species known to be extinct in Colombia is the Colombian Grebe, Podiceps andinus, endemic to the wetlands in the Eastern Andes of Colombia. It was last recorded in 1977 in Lake Tota.
Its disappearance is associated with the combined result of wetland drainage, and the eutrophication and salinization that has destroyed the submerged Potamogeton vegetation, where this species fed on a great variety of arthropods.
Additional extinction factors were the introduction of exotic fish, such as the rainbow trout Salmo gairdneri (Fjeldså 1993), hunting, pesticide pollution, removal of reeds, and predation.
According to the Humedales de Bogotá Foundation, the extinction of the Colombian Grebe should be remembered, and should serve as a lesson.
Currently, there are two species of birds endemic to the Bogotá Savanna in critical danger of extinction, the Bogota Rail (Rallus semiplumbeus) and the Apolinar’s Wren (Cistothorus apolinari). Sadly, very little is being done to reverse this situation.
Know more about the wetlands of Bogotá in our entry Wetlands of Bogotá are the Best Spots for Birdwatching in the City.
Tracking Extinction Risks
Rengifo et al. 2020, calculated the degree of extinction threat to the country’s birds from 2002 to 2016 in a recent study which is the first study of its kind.
The main conclusion of the study is that habitat loss is the main threat to the Colombian Birds. Moreover, the results of this study left two flavors, one sweet and one somewhat bitter: Colombia has the potential to become the Country of Birds, or the Country of Bird Extinction.
On the positive side, birds have benefited from land abandonment and subsequent habitat recovery as people moved to cities, from the reduction in the rate of habitat loss as illegal coca cultivation shifted between regions, and from conservation actions.
On the negative side, the most important causes of the deterioration in conservation status are habitat loss due to the expansion of illicit crops, the same sad story, and population declines due to hunting. Yes, hunting!
Of the two, I will only dwell on hunting, because the story of illegal cultivation speaks for itself. The people who enter the territories to extract resources such as timber, or gold, generally illegally, need to eat. And to eat, they hunt birds.
Additionally, other significant threats for birds such as the increased presence of invasive and domestic animals, such as trout, cats, rats, dogs, and the Shiny cowbird; as well as agriculture expansion, cattle ranching, timber extraction, illegal mining, oil production, water contamination and habitat loss due to city expansion.
The Most Threatened Areas and Birds
The most threatened birds are those living in mangroves and freshwater habitats in the Pacific region and the Pacific Ocean. Also, the species living in the High Andean forest and paramo.
The Andes and the Pacific are two natural regions with many endemic and restricted-range species.
The most affected areas are the southern Pacific and Andean regions on the border with Ecuador.
The Andes region has experienced extensive agricultural activities and deforestation for centuries. It is also a region negatively affected by climate change. All of this has resulted in the loss of habitat for birds.
On the other hand, the Pacific region has been affected by illegal crops, illegal logging and illegal mining, which are the main threats to birds in this region.
Illegal crops, illegal logging and illegal mining are also important causes of habitat loss in some other regions. Illegal logging occurs mainly in Darién (Pacific Region) and Amazon. Illegal mining occurs mainly in Chocó (Pacific region). And, illegal crops also occur in the Catatumbo, Norte de Santander, on the border with Venezuela.
Here is the list of birds mentioned in the study with the most remarkable changes in category of threat in Colombia:
Birdwatching Tourism as a Conservation Strategy
This study concluded that local economic development based on birdwatching tourism remains a good strategy for bird conservation, because despite clear threats, the overall risk of bird extinction in Colombia remains relatively low and stable.
However, this should not be a reason to postpone actions to conserve species and prevent extinctions.
Not everything is bad, in our entry Birdwatching Tourism in Colombia During the Post-conflict Scenarium I will tell you what has been done since the signing of the peace agreement, in favor of birding tourism as a strategy for bird conservation.
Colombia Birdfair 2021: Preventing Extinction
In 2021, the most important bird fair in Colombia, the Colombia Birdfair, has extinction as its main topic.
This year Colombia Birdfair will have an extensive program of academic talks, courses and special activities for children and young people. From February 11 to 14 it will present the theme “Preventing Extinction” and will feature national and international experts on conservation and extinction issues.
This year the fair will be 100% virtual. According to Carlos Mario Wagner, director of the fair,
“virtuality is a great opportunity to connect with audiences and bird lovers from different countries, and thus promote bird conservation globally”.
The event expects to gather a large national and international audience around of the seventh version of the Colombia Birdfair. It looks for an exchange of ideas and proposals on conservation and birding tourism, with specialists from several continents.
The following are the main lecturers:
- From India: Purnima Devi Barman Ph.D.
- From Colombia: Natalia Ocampo Peñuela Ph.D., Carolina Murcia Ph.D., María Ángela Echeverry Galvis Ph.D., Ana María Morales Cañizares, Rubén Darío Palacio, Diego Calderón Franco, Jhon Fredy Casamachin Ui, Diego Ochoa and Ángela María Amaya Villarreal (co-author of the mentioned study in this post).
- From The United Kingdom: Stuart Pimm Ph.D., David Lindo, Phil Gregory and Stuart Butchart Ph.D. (co-author of the mentioned study in this post).
- From Kenia: Washington Wachira
- From The United States: Jennifer Ackerman, Kenn Kaufman, LoraKim Joyner and Mollee Brown.
- From Spain: Josep del Hoyo Calduch
Registrations are open on the website: http://www.colombiabirfair.com/.
With the registration, you will have virtual access to the lectures and talks from February 11 to 14, 2021. Registrtion fee: 14USD.
For more information about birding trips to Colombia and the birds of Colombia visit our entry The Complete Colombia Birdwatching Guide: Tourism & Conservation.
If you want to know more about the most incredible natural destinations in Colombia, plan your trip with us!
- Renjifo LM, Amaya-Villarreal AM, Butchart SHM (2020) Tracking extinction risk trends and patterns in a mega-diverse country: A Red List Index for birds in Colombia. PLoS ONE 15(1): e0227381. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0227381
- Maldonado JH, Moreno-Sánchez R, Espinoza S, Bruner A, Garzón N, Myers J. Peace is much more than doves: The economic benefits of bird-based tourism as a result of the peace treaty in Colombia. World Development. 2018; 106: 78–86.
- Ocampo-Peñuela N, Winton RS. Ocampo. Economic and conservation potential of bird-watching tourism in post-conflict Colombia. Trop Conserv Sci. 2017; 10: 1–6.
About the author
Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.