Serrania del Chiribiquete in Colombia has become the largest tropical rainforest national park in the world after decades of environmental conservation efforts.

The park is home to around 3,000 plant and animal species, and has been increased by more than 50 percent. The park was first declared as a protected area in 1989, when its area was still 1.3 million hectares. Now, the park has been expanded to almost 2.8 million hectares, an area that is the same size of Northern Ireland.

The park expansion has added 1.5 million hectares to the already rich area, which has ensured that its previously unprotected ecosystems are now covered by the safeguarding of conservationists.

Biodiversity In The Forest

Jaguars, manatees, vulnerable brown woolly monkeys, and other iconic species freely roam Chiribiquete.

Years of armed conflict in the area and the forest's remote location became factors why scientific study has been difficult. The park management believes that it has 300 varieties of butterflies and another 300 species of birds.

The rich biodiversity in the forest can be attributed to its location — a place where four different geographic regions meet, namely, Andean, Orinoco, Amazon, and Guyanas.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

UNESCO has declared the park to have an "outstanding universal value." Hence, it was recognized as a world heritage site.

Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia, told Colombia Reports that UNESCO's declaration is an amazing news for the country.

Director of WWF Colombia Mary Lou Higgins, who has extended support to expand the park said that this is a very important breakthrough for forest conservation globally, and the Amazon. It is also considered as a highlight in the protection of important ecosystems in the country.

The forest is unique for its cultural, hydrological, and biological value. Additionally, it holds a rock art and visual records of high importance. It is also very essential to indigenous groups, some of whom are still uncontacted, or live in voluntary isolation even today.

Executive director of science and conservation at WWF Mike Barrett said that the Amazon contains a wide array of unique and magnificent species and the expansion of the park is an important step forward to protecting its incredible biodiversity.

Forests in Colombia are threatened mostly by deforestation to pave way for settlement and agricultural expansion. Furthermore, climate change is contributing to more problems on the area.

The expansion of the park now includes some of the areas with the highest rate of deforestation in Colombia, and environmental groups are confident that this will help eradicate timber and illegal crop trade from happening.