Friends of El Silencio

is creating forest, forest products and a home for endangered species

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1/15 night at El Silencio + get a video or picture


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2/15 night at El Silencio + get a video or picture


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1/3 night at El Silencio + get a video or picture




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About Friends of El Silencio

Welcome to the Friends of El Silencio patreon page!

What is 'Friends of El Silencio' about?
We at Fundacion Biodiversa Colombia set up this page so that there is a reliable platform for us to receive regular donations to help us protect and expand our El Silencio Natural Reserve. You can donate one-off, or on a monthly basis and receive some of our great perks: monthly pictures or videos of the amazing creatures in El Silencio. Each donation tier comes with its own amazing species, and ... for every $15 you also get to stay a night at the nature reserve! (see 'visiting details' below). We will also keep you up to date with developments and projects in our reserve with videos and other updates, so that you can get an insider’s view into what it takes to manage a reserve like El Silencio, and with our ‘Patreon goals' and posts we will let you know where your money is going!

El Silencio in a nutshell ...
We (Julio, Herney, Rosita, Fernando, Mate, Silvia, Susana, Dafna, Andres, dos Catalinas, Nicolas, Paula, Paola, Marisol, dos Natalias, Jorja, Mario, Juan David, and Daniel) are a passionate group that are fighting for the last remnants of forest and wetlands and the local people of the Regional Protected Area of Barbacoas in the middle-Magdalena valley in Colombia. These forests are a last refuge for the critically endangered varied spider monkey and endemic blue-billed curassow. In addition, they are home to the endangered varied capuchin and endemic white-handed tamarin, and also jaguars, pumas, ocelots, tapirs, tayras, giant caracoli trees and much much more. In the wetlands, the critically endangered Magdalena-river turtle and vulnerable American manatee swim. By conserving and replanting forest we create crucial forest corridors for animals and capture CO2, and help regulate water cycles. For our mission we have bought land to create a 600 ha natural reserve called El Silencio, where we protect forest, conduct research and run productive forest projects. The latter serve as sources of income as well as examples for neighbors as to what could serve as an alternative to cattle ranching, which is the main cause of deforestation in the area. We invite you to join us on this mission!

Where your money goes:
  1. Forest guards
  2. Reforestation
  3. Equipment and other requirements of our productive projects
  4. Overflow fund: if by good fortune we get more money than we spend at any moment, we will save that money in a fund for a rainy day or to contribute to a major expense such as land purchase.
What you can expect from us (more details below):
  1. Protecting endangered species and restoring forests
  2. Capturing CO2
  3. Regulation of water
  4. Food forests and other productive projects
  5. Monitoring and raising awareness about the Barbacoas Protected Area
  6. Creating conservation incentives for landowners in the area
  7. Addressing the big cat-cattle conflict
  8. Developing sustainable sources of income for local communities

More details

1. Protecting endangered species and restoring forests
El Silencio Reserve protects one of the last large tracts of forest in the Middle-Magdalena valley and is home to critically endangered varied spider monkeys and blue-billed curassows. Our forests guards prevent hunting and illegal logging in our reserve. To expand the area of protection we are constantly trying to find additional funds to expand the reserve and/or create forests corridors to neighboring forest patches. We have signed voluntary agreements with major large landowners in the area where they promise not to log any more forests, and allow us to create forest corridors to connect isolated patches. This protects about 76% of the forests in the area. In addition, we are planting various tree species, especially hardwood species like Colombian and Big-leaf mahogany that have been logged, to re-establish species that have been lost or are very rare. We also plant fruit sources for endangered curassows and primates.

2. Capturing C02
In our reserve we are restoring cattle grasslands to forest, increasing the carbon in the degraded soils, as well as in the biomass above the soil. We estimate that about 15 m2 of forest stores about as much as a years worth of driving a car. The soil is relatively fertile and when given a chance vegetation quickly recovers. In addition, we are developing a carbon trading program, where we in our reserve, as well as any neighboring ranches with forest, can receive funds for standing forest that is suitable habitat for endangered species. As such we prevent additional C02 emissions due to deforestation in the greater area.

3. Regulation of water
Loss of vegetation in the area tends to reduce water infiltration in the soil and increase runoff. This tends to cause drying of the area through greater water runoff and less infiltration into the soil. Through vegetation recovery water infiltration increases and original streams reappear (as has already happened in El Silencio reserve). In addition, we do our part to reduce rapid runoff to river systems, which tends to cause flooding downstream.

4. Food forests and productive projects
Cattle ranching is the main activity in the area. Land is first cleared (deforested) and then planted with exotic grass species. The land is then sprayed with pesticides (glyphosate) in order to prevent native plant species taking over the grasslands. Meanwhile the soil is much less protected from sun and rain and loses its fertility. At this point more forest is cut down to open up new fertile lands.
This agricultural strategy has not only brought the spider monkeys and curassows to the brink of extinction, but is clearly unsustainable. In addition, jaguars and pumas loose habitat and prey and sometimes resort to hunting domestic animals (horses, mules, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs). Angry ranchers then retaliate and shoot or poison the predators.
To address these issues, we allocate part of our land in El Silencio for productive projects. On the one hand this will enable us to generate income to sustain the reserve, and on the other hand can act as a demonstration to neighboring farms that alternatives to traditional cattle ranching can be profitable and sustainable. Some of the projects that we are working on are:
  1. Silvo-pastoral systems: this is a project where we show how smart-rotation cattle ranching in a system combined with trees can lead to greater productivity than traditional methods.
  2. Big-cat friendly cattle rearing: here we test how systems with electric fencing can prevent conflict between farmers and big predators.
  3. Sustainable timber production: in this project we grow trees of high quality native timber species and harvest them sustainably.
  4. Sustainable food forests and non-timber products: in this project we grow a mixture of various species that can be combined into a ‘forest ecosystem’, namely cacao, rubber, sacha inchi (for oil), and vanilla. This can be combined with other fruit species and timber species.
For all projects we aim to generate wildlife friendly vegetation in (at least) part of the area, so that at the very least the productive forest provide corridors between protected natural forest, but preferably the productive forest also includes food species which can sustain the endangered species.

5. Monitoring and raising awareness about the Barbacoas Protected Area
We are continually monitoring and keeping an eye on the 30,000 ha Barbacoas protected area. we aim to detect deforestation, pollution, illegal hunting and conflict between cattle and large cats. We contact the parties involved to hear their side of the story and to see if we can help to resolve the issue. If that does not help we contact the local environmental authorities.

Creating conservation incentives for landowners in the area 
Through carbon captures schemes, and tax break schemes we are trying to organize with the local municipality, we are continually trying to set up financial incentives for local landowners to conserve their forests and wetlands. In addition, with our pilot and demonstration project on sustainable and nature friendly agricultural projects, we aim to convince local landowners that adopting sustainable practices is not only good for the environment but also more sustainable financially.

Addressing the big cat-cattle conflict
Many farmers in the area have problems with big cats killing their cows, pigs and goats. The farmers deal with this by shooting the cats or placing poisoned carcasses. We try to address this issue by informing farmers about techniques they can use to reduce conflict with the big cats (jaguars and pumas). This involves corralling their cattle in electrified fences at night. We also help to look for funding to finance these conflict reducing solutions.

8. Developing sustainable sources of income for local communities
We believe that nature conservation is not only about plant and animals, but includes people as well. We engage with local communities and set up projects to help them achieve sustainable sources of income. In particular we have been engaged with the local fishing community of Boca de Barbacoas. Projects include, catering for tourists in terms of meals, managing fish stocks, training in reforestation, production of curios to sell to tourists, and workshops with the community about conservation.

Visiting details
You can save up your nights over the year so that you can visit for a longer period at a later stage. We will be happy to help you get to the reserve, or come with us during one of our field trips from Bogotá, Medellín or Puerto Berrío. The $15 per night includes meals. You will have to cover your own transport costs though.
$256.45 of $400 per month
When we reach $400 we will be able to hire 1 forest guard!
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By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 143 exclusive posts
By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 143 exclusive posts

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