Identidad Madidi Explores the Breathtaking Mountains of Bolivia’s Apolobamba Range

By Rob Wallace

[Note: this is the third in a series of reports from WCS on the Identidad Madidi expedition currently taking place in Bolivia's Madidi National Park]

Three in One! The dramatic and breathtaking mountains of the Apolobamba range provided the backdrop for our third, fourth, and fifth Identidad Madidi expedition study sites.

Expected to take two years to complete, Identidad Madidi is a scientific expedition intended to draw attention to the wonders of Bolivia’s Madidi National Park. Our team of conservationists is investigating fourteen different habitats spanning 6,000 meters – from the Andes down to the Amazon – in what is the most biodiverse protected area on the planet.

The most recent leg of the trip was planned to document the biodiversity at three of the four highest sites on our transect.

We set up camp in the Quechua community of Puina at 3,800 meters above sea level. From here our aim was to visit three different habitats on the eastern side of the Andes: the rugged and barren puna habitats just below the snow line between 5,250 meters and 4250 meters; the paramo humid montane grasslands between 4,250 and 3,500 meters; and a thin strip of elfin or treeline forest at around 3,500 meters.

Although these high montane habitats are much less diverse than the tropical montane and Amazonian forests and grasslands further down, the Identidad Madidi team was excited to study the area as this mountainous region has been notoriously overlooked by previous research efforts.

Preliminary results justify this anticipation. Twenty new butterfly species were added to the official park list, along with an impressive 44 new vertebrate records – including two fish, three amphibians, three reptiles, and sixteen birds such as the giant coot (Fulica gigantea), the Andean flicker (Colaptes rupicola), and the gray-breasted seedsnape (Thinocorus dorbignyianus).

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