The biodiversity of the Buritaca River watershed


Building the foundations for sustainability through ecotourism

Status – Completed Nov 2012


Located within the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (SNSM), the Buritaca watershed possesses cultural and biological riches unique both at the national and international level. These riches are increasingly attracting large numbers of tourists to the wider region and in particular to the ‘Ciudad Perdida’ archaeological site. This growing interest in the region is creating an important opportunity for conserving its cultural and biological diversity through sustainable tourism. The Buritaca and its neighbouring watersheds support the largest existing fragment of lowland forest in the SNSM and indeed in the entire Caribbean coast. Lying largely outside of existing protected areas, this area is believed to support nationally important populations of large mammals, such as Jaguars, and threatened species such as the critically endangered Blue-billed Curassow, however, detailed biological information is lacking. In this project, by carrying out a comprehensive characterisation of the fauna of the Buritaca watershed, we will determine how the region can contribute to the conservation of Colombia´s biodiversity, while simultaneously providing the informational bases for ecotourism activities. In addition to generating catalogues of threatened species, indicator species and target species for wildlife observers, we will develop the potential for ecotourism by offering a training course for wildlife guides, with a particular emphasis on bird watching. Alongside these activities, the design and implementation of an environmental education curriculum in two local schools will create an environment for conservation and sustainable tourism in the long term.

 Key findings and achievements

  • Bird surveys recorded 213 species, including 6 species endemic to the SNSM, among which the Santa Marta Antpitta is considered vulnerable to extinction.
  • Camara traps recorded 16 species of mammal including big cats such as the Puma (Puma concolor), the Jaguar (Panthera onca) and the Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis).
  • 16 species of frogs were identified during surveys, including 7 species endemic to the SNSM and 4 threatened species: Colostethus ruthveni (EN), Pristimantis ruthveni (EN), Cryptobatrachus boulengeri (EN) and Ikakogi tayrona (VU).
  • SELVA education curriculum expanded and implemented in two schools with the participation of 6 teachers and 98 students.
  • 27 individuals from local communities participated in two training courses for wildlife guides
  • “A Wildlife Guide for the trail to Teyuna – Ciudad Perdida” published and distributed to tourist lodges along the length of the trail to Ciudad Perdida.


Global Heritage Fund Ciudad Perdida

Documents to Download

Wildlife Guide – examples of species texts PDF

Final Report (Spanish only) PDF

Leaflet – Wildlife of the trail to Teyuna-Ciudad Perdida (Spanish only) PDF

Photo gallery


Programa Paisajes de Conservación 

Implemented by Fundación de Investigaciones Arqueológicas y Ambientales Tairona (FIAAT) and SELVA

Project staff

  • Technical Coordinator: Nicholas Bayly
  • Training & Education Coordinator: Camila Gómez
  • Curriculum design: Natalia Sanz de Santamaria
  • Educator: Zoraya Buitrago (OPEPA)
  • Ornithologist: Hernán Arias
  • Mammalogist: Jaime Andrés Cabrera (Fundación Panthera Colombia
  • Herpetologist:  Liliana Saboya
  • Entomologist:  Mario Andrés Murcia