High in the Andes Mountains in Colombia, a reforestation project led by SavingSpecies works to protect one of the world’s most renowned bio hot spots.
WESTERN ANDES CLOUD FOREST, Colombia — Just before sunrise on a crisp summer morning high in a rain forest in Colombia’s Western Andes, the renowned ecologist Stuart Pimm gathered his research team over breakfast and made final plans for that morning’s journey to install motion-sensor cameras to monitor hummingbirds.
In just a few hours, the installations would be done by Andrea Kolarova, 20, who was here with other students from Duke University, where Dr. Pimm holds the Doris Duke Chair of Conservation. She was getting some advice from him and from Luis Mazariegos, founder of the Hummingbird Conservancy of Colombia.
My daughter, Alexandra, 11, a student at Saxe Middle School in New Canaan, Conn., had also been invited to participate in the Colombia project, which is how I found myself for two weeks this summer living in a cabin in this remote mountainous territory. Although not far from the town of Jardin, which is about two and a half hours from Medellin, it takes a slightly harrowing hourlong ride in an ATV along a dirt switchback road to get here.
Ms. Kolarova’s hummingbird research will be used by Dr. Pimm’s organization, SavingSpecies, which he founded in 2007 to combat global warming using money he was awarded as a recipient of the Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences a year earlier. SavingSpecies works with local organizations around the world to buy land with the goal of restoring forests that have been destroyed, often because of logging, agricultural expansion, mining and oil extraction, and protecting the species that are under threat as a result.
Dr. Pimm is also determined to help educate the next generation of conservationists, which is why he has included students on his teams. Alex, who shot video for the project, is fascinated by ecology. I had reached out to Dr. Pimm for some mentoring when she was 8 and he agreed.
The organization operates in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, India and Sumatra, but protecting the Western Andes that we were now immersed in is especially crucial. It is described as a bio hot spot, one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world. But one that is also endangered.
“Although the Western Andes cover about 3 percent of the earth’s land area, they hold approximately 20 percent of all known species. There are hundreds of species that live nowhere else on the planet, including the olinguito a carnivore” — a racoonlike creature — “the glittering starfrontlet hummingbird, Cassidy’s poison dart frog and the wonderfully named Dracula Orchid,” Dr. Pimm said.
But the biodiversity of the entire region is in extreme peril, he said, having lost almost 75 percent of its forest.
Later that day, as Dr. Pimm stood on land being reforested by SavingSpecies, he explained the relationship between global warming and the loss of species like hummingbirds…
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