Flamingo paradise becomes largest Andean Ramsar wetland
The Los Lipez wetlands complex encompasses 23 high altitude lakes and lagoons as well as geothermal springs and flooded grasslands, known as "bofedales", which are unique to the southern Andes. It is located in the southern tip of Bolivia, and neighboring Chile and Argentina.
At 1.4 million hectares or about one third of the size of Switzerland, the new Los Lipez protected wetland is also more than 25 times the size of the Laguna Colorada, Bolivia’s first Ramsar Site, which was designated in 1991. Laguna Colorada, one of most visited protected areas in the country, is now included within the new reserve.
Bolivia’s new Ramsar Site is important for the conservation of South American flamingo species ranging over Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. In good years, Los Lipez provides nesting during the summer for over 60% of the total population of the rare James Flamingo, and also hosts nearly 30% of the total population of Andean Flamingos.
Archeological investigations show hunter gatherer presence in the area from 6500 BC and also vestiges of the Inca conquest in the 1400s. It has historically been a centre of salt extraction as well as of quinoa and potato cultivation, with the bofedales providing prime sites for breeding of llama, alpaca and vicuna.
Bolivia is currently hosting the 6th annual meeting of the Regional Initiative for the Conservation of High Andean Wetlands, attended by delegates from Andean Countries and Costa Rica, and by representatives of NGOs including WWF, IUCN, Wetlands International and Birdlife International.
Juan Pablo Ramos, Bolivian Vice-Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Climate Change, received the Ramsar Certificate for the designation of Los Lipez from Maria Rivera, Ramsar Regional Advisor for the Americas, at the opening of the meeting in La Paz.
Denis Landenbergue, WWF International Freshwater Programme, said “the protection of Los Lipez is also important due to its location in an arid mountain region which is very exposed to the effects of climate change”.
The International Convention on Wetlands, or Ramsar Convention, was the first of the modern global intergovernmental treaties on the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. It was signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran, and has now 159 contracting parties.