Bolivia Designates World’s Largest Protected Wetland: Roughly Equal in Size to North Dakota

Mar 24, 2013
6:00 PM

Here is one story that isn’t getting much attention, but should be.

On February 2nd, 2013, to mark the annual World Wetlands Day, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance has designated its largest site ever in the South American country of Bolivia. At more than 17 million acres, the Llanos de Moxos wetland is roughly equal in size to the US state of North Dakota.

Located near the borders of Peru and Brazil in the southwestern corner of the Amazon basin, the Llanos de Moxos is made up of tropical savannas experiencing cyclical droughts and floods. It is traversed by three major rivers that converge to form the Madeira River, the major southern tributary of the Amazon River.

“The Moxos wetlands are a vital piece of the overall health of the Amazon,” said Tom Dillon, Senior Vice President of Field Programs at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “A living Amazon is important for all of humanity, and we applaud Bolivia for taking action to help safeguard this shared treasure.”

The wetlands are especially prized for their rich natural diversity, harboring an impressive array of wildlife, including rare and threatened species like the giant river otter, Bolivian river dolphin, and the critically endangered Blue-throated macaw. To date, 131 species of mammals, 568 different birds, 102 reptiles, 62 amphibians, 625 fish and at least 1,000 plant species have been identified in the Llanos de Moxos.

The area is sparsely populated, comprising seven indigenous territories and eight protected areas. Small rural communities and private properties also exist in the region, both primarily dedicated to farming.

The new designation, which bolsters existing protections and solidifies the future conservation of the region, results from a cooperative effort led by Bolivian local and national government. WWF was responsible for carrying out the necessary studies to qualify Llanos de Moxos as a designated Wetland of International Importance.

Ramsar Convention and Designation
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is an intergovernmental treaty, signed by 160 countries in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. The Ramsar Convention’s mission is the conservation and wise use of wetlands, with the goal of achieving sustainable development.

Bolivia acceded to the Ramsar Convention in 1990 and ratified it on 7 May 2002. The Llanos de Moxos is Bolivia’s ninth designated Ramsar site.