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Eduardo Avaroa National Andean Fauna Reserve

Tucked high in the Andes, in the far southwestern reaches of Bolivia, is the country's most visited national park, with at least 25,000 tourists visiting annually.  The mountains of Eduardo Avaroa are the highest Andes Mountains on Bolivia’s border with Chile and Argentina. They are dotted with erupting volcanoes, hot springs, steaming geysers and fumaroles, making Eduardo Avaroa reminiscent of Yellowstone National Park in the U.S.

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The sanctuary's water bodies are of vital importance to animals in an area where just three inches (7.6 centimeters) of rain falls per year. The region harbors 10 types of reptiles, amphibians and fish.

Laguna Hedionda

Hedionda Lagoon stretches across the Andean Puna of Eduardo Avaroa © Eduardo Pretell

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total area protected:
988,000 acres
map of site

ecoregion:
Central Andean Puna

partner organization:
TROPICO

Ecological Importance

Among the 23 mammal species thriving in Eduardo Avaroa are pumas, Andean foxes, and a rabbit-like animal known as the vizcacha.  Endangered species such as vicuñas, suri, Andean condor, yareta, and keñua are protected on the reserve. 

Borders of the reserve were expanded in 2001 to include the newly created Laguna Colorada National Wildlife Sanctuary. Its freshwater lakes and saltwater lagoons are nesting sites for three of the world's six flamingo species—Chilean, Andean and James flamingos. Flamingos, Andean geese, falcons, ducks and large, and the lesser rhea—an ostrich-like flightless bird--are some of the 80 species of birds that live here.

At least 190 species of plants and trees grow in this hardscrabble environment. They have adapted to harsh conditions of salinity, lack of fresh water, low temperatures, and scarcity of nutrients.  Yareta grows slowly (0.5 in/yr) on rocky outcrops and is combustible. Villagers use the long-lived and slow-growing plant as heating and cooking fuel.

Threats

Eduardo Avaroa is one of Bolivia's most economically depressed regions because of its rugged topography and remoteness.   Eduardo Avaroa's beauty attracts a large number of tourists yet this tourism is mostly unregulated and disorganized.  Most of the 40,000 visitors trekking to Eduardo Avaroa each year see the park from the back of four-wheeled vehicles driven by untrained tour guides.  These trucks disturb wildlife and tear up sensitive landscapes. The lack of restrooms has contributed to pollution from human waste that affects the reserve.

Mining and poor farming practices also present problems for the biological, ecological and historical values of the area.  Mining is a major industry in and around the park, with some 61 mining concessions active within the parks borders. Pollution from mine tailings and physical alteration of the landscape both affect the park’s integrity.

A Strategy of Success

Prior to Parks in Peril (PiP) intervention, Eduardo Avaroa had ill-defined reserve boundaries, a lack of infrastructure and equipment, inadequate scientific information and staff, and a severe lack of funding.  Through PiP funding between 1999 and 2002, Eduardo Avaroa was able to achieve numerous conservation successes and was consolidated.

PiP has proved successful in Eduardo Avaroa by working with local communities and the government to implement natural resource management activities and by designing a tourism strategy for the reserve. PiP and its partner organization, the National Protected Areas Service (SERNAP), developed a strategy to direct park entrance fees toward park conservation. This operation has served as a pilot model for ecotourism countrywide and has since been adopted by other parks in Bolivia.  Visitor access to some of the park's most vulnerable resources has also been restricted.

PiP and another partner organization, TROPICO, helped local communities and park staff adopt sustainable farming practices and efficient energy alternatives. Local farmers were taught how to breed healthier animals and use fences to regulate when and where their herds graze. Sustainable energy sources have also been promoted by providing villagers with access to natural gas and solar technology for their cooking and heating needs. Greenhouses have also been adopted for raising crops that grow well in warm weather.

Other activities completed with PiP funding include ongoing management of the reserve, construction of a park guard station, creation of publications and communications materials, and environmental education activities in the communities. PiP has been the catalyst for providing Eduardo Avaroa with the tools and funding needed for the reserve to continue as a protected area under the supervision of TROPICO, The Nature Conservancy, and SERNAP.  These organizations continue to make conservation advances in Eduardo Avaroa.

Read more about Eduardo Avaroa...

TROPICO
The Nature Conservancy in Eduardo Avaroa

Read more about projects in Bolivia...

Amboró-Carrasco National Parks
Tariquía Flora and Fauna Reserve
Noel Kempff Mercado National Park

Bolivian Partner Organizations

The Nature Conservancy in Bolivia