Sept. 13, 2012 --
The most biologically diverse place on earth is likely Madidi National Park in northwest Bolivia, according to a Wildlife Conservation Society announcement released this week at the IUCN Conservation Congress. Researchers came to the conclusion after compiling a comprehensive list of species found in the remote park. The park contains 11 percent of the world's birds, more than 200 species of mammals, almost 300 types of fish and 12,000 plant varieties. The female black-faced spider monkey seen here is one of at least nine species of primates in the park. "Madidi National Park is simply an outstanding biological reservoir," Robert Wallace, WCS's Madidi landscape program director, told Discovery News.
This butterfly represents just one of more than 1,000 species of butterflies estimated to be in Madidi National Park. Butterflies and moths are often included in climate change studies. Their population numbers and movements can help to reveal certain long-term weather patterns and how they impact biodiversity. Numerous scientists are conducting or planning studies that will provide related monitoring data, Wallace said.
Ornithologists expect that around 1,100 species of birds will be registered within the Bolivian park. This female blue-crowned manakin clearly has a lot of avian company there. Even with such numbers, it's estimated that two-thirds of the park's total biodiversity has yet to be formally registered or observed by scientists, highlighting the need for further research in the region.
Another bird at Madidi is the wattled jacana, one of more than 920 species of birds that have been registered so far at the park. The individual in this photo is a juvenile.
The Palkachupa Cotinga is another avian resident in the park. This individual was snapped while nesting in the dry, mountainous tropical forests and savannas at Madidi. The cloud forests at the park go up to about 9,842 feet, making human access challenging.
The mountainous savannas, cloud forests and Andean peaks take on a dreamy sculptural appearance at dusk.
This view from the Amazonian forest floor shows how lush the plant life is in areas of the park. "The Wildlife Conservation Society is proud to be assisting the Bolivian government in the conservation of these magnificent places," Cristián Samper, president and CEO of the WCS, said. "This important compendium emphasizes just how poorly known the cloud forests of the Tropical Andes really are."
The crested forest toad is one of an estimated 100-plus species of amphibians in the park. Amphibians worldwide have experienced tremendous population drops in recent years, so such a richness of species diversity is extremely rare.
This male jaguar was seen in the late afternoon on the Madidi River. "Apart from the sheer number of species found within the park, I would also like to stress the importance of the park and the surrounding landscape for the conservation of much of the most charismatic of South America's terrestrial wildlife," Wallace said. "WCS has led expert processes that have identified this area as a stronghold for jaguars, white-lipped peccaries and lowland tapirs," he added, "and ongoing and/or recently published research is showing the same for Andean condors, marsh deer, spectacled bears and giant otters."
The parrot snake is one of at least 50 species of snakes in Madidi National Park.
It's no wonder that Madidi National Park is one of the top tourist attractions in Bolivia with views such as this. Here, a 500-plus pound lowland tapir heads to the Madidi River to avoid horse flies. Giant cowbirds followed along to feast on the insects. The park is part of a larger protected region known as the Madidi-Tambopata Landscape, one of the largest such complexes in the world.
Although this individual is just a juvenile, the harpy eagle is the most powerful bird of prey in the world. It thrives at Madidi, thanks to appropriate habitat and ample food sources. WCS has worked in this landscape since 1999 to develop local capacity to conserve the landscape and mitigate a variety of threats. These include development, such as road construction, logging, and agricultural expansion. "Madidi is a very special place and we are honored to be able to continue to show that through these studies, as well as through the accompanying spectacular wildlife photography, and as importantly, provide scientific information with which to assist park authorities and local communities to make appropriate management decisions," Wallace explained.