Colombia’s former president until August 2018, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2016. Not only did he manage to reach a peace agreement with the continent’s oldest guerrilla group, after more than 60 years of armed conflict with millions of displaced people and hundreds of thousands of deaths, but he also signed his deed with a gift to the planet of the most spectacular national natural park.

After laying down his arms with the signing of the Peace Agreement fulfilled inA 2016 between the FARC guerrilla and the national government, President Santos finished off his two presidential terms with a masterstroke, the expansion of the Serranía de Chiribiquete National Natural Park, a large area of the Colombian Amazon with an area of 10’546 692ac, almost 16,600 sm² that make up the largest protected area of the Colombian system of natural parks. To give an idea of its size, in 1989 when it was declared a national park, it maintained an area similar to that of Haiti. In 2013, it grew from 3,207427ac to 6,874471ac, almost the size of Belgium. And from July 2, last, the Serranía del Chiribiquete National Natural Park was added to 2’471053ac more for a total of 9’884215ac. In this way, the park, similar in size to Denmark, turns its ecosystem into the largest tropical rainforest national park on the planet to ensure the protection of the upper basins of four of the main rivers of the Colombian Amazon: Apaporis, Guaviare, Vaupés, and Yarí.

It is thought that, in this National Natural Park, the largest sample of cave art in the world is preserved: 50 panels of an average height of 23ft, with approximately 70,000 paintings dating from the Paleo-American to the present century. It is possible to identify in the arts some animals such as cachicamos (armadillos), chigüiros, micos, sloths, deer, and snakes, as well as caimans, turtles, birds, fish, and insects. As far as plants are concerned, “useful plants” are mainly represented, especially those containing psychoactive substances, such as barbasco, yopo, ayahuasca, and coca.

Pictures: Carlos Castaño Uribe – Email of author, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30746627

“This is what the planet looked like in the Precambrian, in its beginnings. There was no life. In Chiribiquete you could find vestiges of this era,” said scientist Carlos Jaramillo, who works at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. He is a geologist, with a Master in Geology and a Phd. in Geology and Botany, member of the Colombian Academy of Exact Physical and Natural Sciences of Colombia. He directed the research that established that the isthmus of Panama did not emerge 5 million years ago, but 20 million years ago, which meant new paradigms in the Geology and Paleontology of the American continent.

The national natural park, Serranía de Chiribiquete, is Colombia’s largest continental biodiversity reserve and was recently declared by UNESCO, World Mixed Heritage of Humanity, for its natural and cultural value. As the Serranía is recognized as a Mixed Heritage of Humanity, it is globally distinguished as an exceptional site on the planet, and Colombia is committed to guaranteeing its integrity. In return, he receives advice from Unesco.

In Chiribiquete there is evidence of the oldest settlers of America documented to this day, with pictographs some 20,000 years old. It is necessary to remember that the discovery of America occurred only 526 years ago and the vestiges of the first settlers of the continent arrived by the strait of Behring indicates that it happened between the years 15,000 and 14,000 BC.

The Serranía is home to 30 percent of the ecosystems and flora of the Colombian Amazon. And as well as 60 varieties of bats (out of a total of some 200 species registered in Colombia, the second country in the world in terms of bat species diversity, after Indonesia) and 5 percent of the variety of butterflies known in the country (60 species out of a total of some 200).

I refer to the description of the site made by the scientist Patricio von Hildebrand, who was forced to leave the place after 10 years of research and expeditions. From 1992 until its forced departure in 2002, intervention has been minimal, the park is in a perfect state of conservation. There was no suffering from guerrilla presence. In 2002, the guerrilla commanders of Araracuara asked them to leave. They had to go out.

Here I summarize your description. Immense Zone. From the air, it’s almost 2 hours in a plane of jungles and jungles. 10.4 million ac. Tepúes, Serranías of 880 yds. of height. Great rivers the Apaporis, the River Mesai. Stormy waters in winter, very cool summer. Tepuy flat at the top has a hole of 656 ft in diameter, and there is a hole 164ft high and 164ft wide. Vegetation of rocky zones, but in the hollow, it is jungle zone. The tepuyes to the north contain a large number of cave paintings for which Unesco considers it an exceptional place. (The Tepuyes are a kind of especially steep plateaus, with vertical walls and relatively flat peaks in many cases).

Multiple threats and pressures often exist in all conservation areas. The Serrania will not be the exception. The first threat is global climate change that modifies the climatic conditions of these sites, which can be lost. It’s a matter of the survival of the planet itself. The other is public order, governance, especially the national parks area. Illegal occupation. Armed groups outside the law. Logging, illicit crops, anti-personnel mines, construction of infrastructure such as bridges and roads built by the guerrillas of illegal activities. Besides, mining and cattle ranching in national parks, prohibited activities.

The Serranía de Chiribiquete National Natural Park joins Colombia’s nearly 37 million ac of national parks. For the time being, sightseeing is not allowed.

A guest article by Enrique Rodríguez Andrade.