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Colombia World Heritage site, is in northwestern Colombia. It is home to a number of threatened animal species and many endemic plants. Protected areas are spread across the country, some eas-­ ily accessible and others so remote that their number of yearly visitors can be counted on two hands. Unfortunately, because the total area of parkland is enormous, safeguarding against illegal settlement and exploitation is ­difficult. Each year, Colombia loses nearly 494,211 acres (200,000 hectares) of natural forest, according to figures released by the United Nations in 2003. Many scientists, however, believe that the true figure may be higher, because an estimated 247,105 acres (100,000 hectares) of native forest are illegally cleared every year. The vast majority of this loss is primary forest, which covers more than 80 percent of the country. Defores-­ tation in Colombia results from many activities. ­ Small-­scale agricultural activities, logging, mining, and energy develop-­ ment take their toll, as do construction, ­large-­scale agriculture, draining of wetlands, and the cocaine ­trade. Colombia’s Chocó rainforest is probably the country’s most threatened woodland. Gold mining and palm oil planta-­ tions are causing its demise. Coca production, which requires the clearing of trees to plant coca bushes, is also expanding in this region. Many of Colombia’s birds and other animals are on the endangered or the vulnerable species list because humans destroy their habitats. Killing animal species off for meat and for collection of exotic species for the pet trade are also major threats. Despite these significant setbacks, though, most people of Colombia realize that plants and animals are important resources for the future and want to protect them. This realiza-­ tion is part of Colombia’s historical ­development—­the subject of the next ­chapter.


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