The Conservation Challenge in Latin America
There is little doubt that wildlife conservation and environmental protection are growing areas of activity in Latin America. However, conservation efforts still face difficult social, economic, and environmental challenges. Human populations throughout region continue to grow, some at alarming rates, ultimately demanding more from the land. South America alone has lost almost a quarter of its forests, while the percentage of deforestation in Central America is even higher. By 1983 about 83% of Costa Rican forests had been felled, mostly for beef production, and much of that was shipped to the United States for use as hamburgers. Increased cattle ranching, hunting, fishing, mining, and soya production threaten already stressed ecosystems. Conservationists are saddened that so many species within such groups as mammals, birds, crocodilians, and others are now listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) as threatened or endangered, often throughout their entire range. Some species, such as the magnificent hyacinth macaw, once widespread and abundant, have been dramatically reduced and now occupy a much more restricted range. We were lucky enough to see a pair of them in the Brazilian Pantanal.
Working to reverse these trends are numerous wildlife conservation and environmental protection organisations spread throughout Latin America. Hundreds of innovative environmental projects exist such as those to protect immense areas of lush tropical forest or an endangered species. They are run by dedicated staff and volunteers committed to studying and saving these wild habitats and the associated flora and fauna. Without the support and commitment of volunteers many of these projects would be unable to carry out this vital work.
Volunteers get to undertake exciting, challenging, educational trips to exotic locations by helping the environment, and in turn, their contribution as a volunteer helps to conserve the very places that they visit.
Please refer to the FAQ’s section for more discussion on why you should volunteer in Central or South America.