Venezuela, one of the ten most biodiverse countries on Earth, is home to extensive rainforests that are increasingly threatened by development. Each year, roughly 287,600 hectares of forest are permanently destroyed, while other areas are degraded by logging, mining, and oil extraction. Between 1990 and 2005, Venezuela officially lost 8.3 percent of its forest cover, or around 4,313,000 hectares.
Total forest area: 47,713,000 ha
% of land area: 54.1%
Primary forest cover: n/a
% of land area: n/a
% total forest area: n/a
Annual change in forest cover: -287,600 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -0.6%
Change in rate 90-00 vs 00-05: 5.9%
Annual loss of primary forests: n/a
Annual deforestation rate: n/a
Change in rate 90-00 vs 00-05: n/a
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: n/a
None or unknown: n/a
Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 47,713,000 ha
Modified natural: n/a
Production plantation: n/a
Production plantation: n/a
Plantations, 2005: n/a
% of total forest cover: n/a
Annual change rate (00-05): n/a
- M t
Below-ground biomass: - M t
Area annually affected by
Fire: 14,000 ha
Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 1,360
Critically endangered: 3
Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 8121000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 21000 m3 o.b.
Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $43,856,000
Wood fuel: n/a
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: $43,856,000
More forest statistics for Venezuela
Energy is Venezuela's most important export and President Hugo Chavez has used oil as a political tool to extend his influence to other parts of Latin America. In 2006, Chavez announced plans to build a massive gas pipeline that would carry natural gas from the oil-rich state 5,000 miles south. Environmentalists fear that the project could damage the Amazon rainforest by polluting waterways and creating roads that would attract developers and poor farmers. Analysts also question the wisdom and viability of the plan, which may cost $20-50 billion depending on who makes the estimate. Venezuela also continues to expand the construction of an electricity transmission line towards Brazil. When completed, the transmission line will carry power from the massive Guri hydroelectric project—it in itself considered an ecological disaster for the amount of land it flooded in the early 1980s—through sensitive forest areas to Roraima state in Brazil. Environmentalists are concerned that the lines will give colonists and developers access to remote forest areas.
Another significant threat to the rainforests of Venezuela is the mining industry. Informal or wildcat gold and diamond miners are particularly active in the southern state of Bolivar where they have a history of violent conflicts with local indigenous people—including the Yanomani—as well as a role in the environmental degradation of the region through pollution of local rivers and deforestation. Over the past decades, successive Venezuelan governments have taken steps to control mining in the region but have made relatively little long-term progress and have made some questionable decisions like granting 40 percent of the 8.6-million-acre (3.4-million-ha) Imataca Reserve to industrial miners and loggers in 1997. Reports in 2005 indicate that President Chavez called in the military to restore order in the area. Coal and bauxite mining are concerns in other parts of the country.
Logging, though heavily subsidized, is still underdeveloped in the country. Historically, most logging occurred in southwestern Venezuela, but due to over-harvesting, logging companies are now focusing on the northern and eastern parts of the country, according to Jeroen Kuiper of Venezuelanalysis.com.
While more than 35 percent of Venezuela is protected in its system of parks and reserves, much of this area exists only on paper. Protected areas are used for logging and mining—both illegal and government-sanctioned—and other forms of development, while some protected areas have been designated despite being cleared long ago. For example, Cainama national park—famous for Angel Falls, the world's tallest waterfall—has been plagued with a number of incursions by legal and illegal miners and loggers in recent years.
Despite these developments, Venezuela has a lot to offer nature-oriented travelers. Home to nearly 1,400 species of birds, Venezuela is one of the best bird-watching places on Earth. The country also has more than 21,000 species of plants, 353 mammal species, 323 reptile species, and 288 amphibians. While highly endangered, Venezuela's cloud forests are especially known for their biodiversity. The tepui formations—forested mesas that date to prehistoric times— of southern Venezuela are among the most beautiful landscapes this author has seen.
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First strike: nearly 200 illegal loggers arrested in massive sting across 12 countries
(02/20/2013) One-hundred-and-ninety-seven illegal loggers across a dozen Central and South American countries have been arrested during INTERPOL's first strike against widespread forestry crime. INTERPOL, or The International Criminal Police Organization, worked with local police forces to take a first crack at illegal logging. In all the effort, known as Operation Lead, resulted in the seizure of 50,000 cubic meters of wood worth around $8 million.
Deforestation rate falls across Amazon rainforest countries
(12/06/2012) The average annual rate of deforestation across Amazon rainforest countries dropped sharply in the second half of the 2000s, reports a comprehensive new assessment of the region's forest cover and drivers of deforestation. While the drop in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has been widely reported, several other Amazon countries saw their rates of forest loss drop as well, according to the report, which was published by a coalition of 11 Latin American civil society groups and research institutions that form the Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG).
New forest map shows 6% of Amazon deforested between 2000 and 2010
(09/21/2012) An update to one of the most comprehensive maps of the Amazon basin shows that forest cover across the world's largest rainforest declined by about six percent between 2000 and 2010. But the map also reveals hopeful signs that recognition of protected areas and native lands across the eight countries and one department that make up the Amazon is improving, with conservation and indigenous territories now covering nearly half of its land mass.
Survivors say gold miners in helicopter massacred village of 80 in Venezuelan Amazon
(08/30/2012) Up to 80 people have been massacred by gold miners in the remote Venezuelan Amazon, according to reports received by the indigenous-rights group, Survival International. According to Reuters, the reports have prompted the Venezuelan government to investigate the alleged murders of the Yanomami isolated community. According to three indigenous survivors, sometime in July a helicopter and what-are-believed to be illegal goldminers massacred the Yanomami community of Irotatheri.
Unidentified poodle moth takes Internet by storm
(08/29/2012) A white moth from Venezuela that bears a striking resemblance to a poodle has become an Internet sensation, after cryptozoologist Karl Shuker posted about the bizarre-looking species on his blog. Photographed in 2009 in Venezulea's Canaima National Park in the Gran Sabana region by zoologist Arthur Anker from Kyrgyzstan, the white, cuddly-looking moth with massive black eyes has yet to be identified and could be a species still unknown to science.
Dry forests disappearing faster than rainforests in Latin America
(08/21/2012) Countries across Latin America lost 78,000 square kilometers of subtropical and tropical dry broadleaf forests between 2001 and 2010, according to a new satellite-based assessment published in the journal Biotropica.
'The lion of the cave:' new predatory, swimming cricket discovered in Venezuela
(08/06/2012) Scientists have discovered what is likely a new species of cricket that is the top predator of its lightless world: a cave in a Venezuelan tepui. The fauna of cave was documented by BBC filmmakers as researchers uncovered not only a large, flesh-eating cricket but a new species of catfish.
Cowards at Rio?: organizations decry 'pathetic' agreement
(06/20/2012) As world leaders head to Rio de Janeiro for the UN Summit on Sustainable Development, environmental and poverty groups are denouncing the last-minute text agreed on by dignitaries as "pathetic," (Greenpeace), a "damp squib" (Friends of the Earth), "a dead end" (Oxfam), and, if nothing changes, "a colossal waste of time" (WWF). "We were promised the 'future we want' but are now being presented with a 'common vision' of a polluter’s charter that will cook the planet, empty the oceans and wreck the rain forests,“ the head of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, said. "This is not a foundation on which to grow economies or pull people out of poverty, it’s the last will and testament of a destructive twentieth century development model."
Photo of the Day: Critically Endangered brown spider monkey discovered in park
(01/26/2012) Researchers with The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Colombia’s National Parks Unit have located at least two individuals of brown-spider monkey (Ateles hybridus) in Colombia's Selva de Florencia National Park. The discovery is important because its the only known population of this particular subspecies (Ateles hybridus brunneus) in a protected area.
8 Amazon countries pledge more coordination in rainforest conservation
(11/27/2011) Eight Amazon countries pledged greater cooperation in efforts to protect the world's largest rainforest from deforestation and illegal mining and logging, reports AFP.
Cultural erosion among indigenous groups in Venezuela brings new risks for Caura rainforest
(11/14/2011) One of the planet's most beautiful landscapes is in danger. Deep in southern Venezuela, among ancient forested tabletop mountains known as tepuis, crystalline rivers, and breathtaking waterfalls, outside influences — malaria, the high price of gold, commercial hunting, and cultural erosion — are threatening one of world's largest remaining blocks of wilderness, one that is home to indigenous people and strikingly high levels of biological diversity.
Amazon still neglected by researchers
(03/28/2011) Although the Amazon is the world's largest tropical forest, it is not the most well known. Given the difficulty of access along with the fear of disease, dangerous species, indigenous groups, among other perceived perils, this great treasure chest of biology and ecology was practically ignored by scientists for centuries. Over the past few decades that trend has changed, however even today the Amazon remains lesser known than the much smaller, and more secure, tropical forests of Central America. A new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science, which surveyed two prominent international tropical ecology journals (Biotropica and Journal of Tropical Ecology) between 1995 and 2008, finds that Central America was the subject of twice as many studies as the Amazon. In fact, according to the authors, much of the Amazon remains terra incognito to researchers, even as every year more of the rainforest is lost to human impacts.
Italy and Panama continue illegal fishing, says new report
(01/15/2011) On Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its biennial report identifying six countries whose fisheries have been engaged in illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing during the past two years. The report comes at a time when one-fifth of reported fish catches worldwide are caught illegally and commercial fishing has led to a global fish stock overexploitation of an estimated 80 percent.
Epidemic hits Amazonian indigenous group
(10/31/2010) An epidemic, suspected to be malaria, has struck down dozens of people of the Yanomami tribe in the Venezuelan Amazon, reports the Associated Press. Leaders of the three impacted village told health workers that approximately 50 people have died so far, many of them children.
Photos: world's top ten 'lost frogs'
(08/09/2010) The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Conservation International (CI) have sent teams of researchers to 14 countries on five continents to search for the world's lost frogs. These are amphibian species that have not been seen for years—in some cases even up to a century—but may still survive in the wild. Amphibians worldwide are currently undergoing an extinction crisis. While amphibians struggle to survive against habitat loss, climate change, pollution, and overexploitation, they are also being wiped out by a fungal disease known as chytridiomycosis.
Left Must Fine Tune Its Position on Cuba Embargo in Light of Oil Spill
(05/26/2010) With no end in sight to the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, some may wonder whether BP’s spill could become truly international in scope. That, at least, is the fear in Cuba where people are worried that strong currents could carry the slick to pristine white beaches along the island’s northern coast. In a rare moment of cooperation underscoring the grave seriousness posed by the BP spill, the U.S. and Cuban governments have been holding talks on the matter.
BP and the Perilous Voyage of Bama the Manatee
(05/23/2010) To the degree that Americans are paying attention to the environmental plight of marine wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, they may focus most upon dolphins and whales. However, the U.S. public is much less familiar with another marine mammal, the manatee, which could also be placed in jeopardy as a result of the BP oil spill. One of the most outlandish creatures on the planet, the shy and retiring manatee, which gets its name from an American Indian word meaning "Lady of the Water", is one of my favorite animals.
Colombia’s Next President: A Renovation for the South American Left?
(05/17/2010) Mired in populist demagoguery and environmentally-unfriendly resource extraction, the South American left is in dire need of ideological renovation. But, where is the likely inspiration to come from? You could not pick a more unlikely candidate than Colombia, a key U.S. ally in the region. And yet, if recent polls are correct, the Green Party could be cruising toward electoral victory in the troubled Andean nation and is currently poised to capture the presidency.
The Oily History of Offshore Operations: From Venezuela to the Gulf
(05/01/2010) Though undoubtedly shocking and disconcerting, the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is hardly the first incident of its kind in the region. Indeed, as I watched the footage of the ominous oil spill approaching the ecologically sensitive coast of Louisiana, I was struck with a profound sense of déjà vu. Long ago, while researching my dissertation on the environmental history of the petroleum industry in Venezuela, I combed through archives and libraries in the U.S., Britain and South America to uncover the oil companies’ sordid past. Starting in the 1920s, American and British subsidiaries of Standard Oil of New Jersey, Gulf and Royal Dutch Shell turned environmentally pristine Lake Maracaibo, which empties out into the Gulf of Venezuela and the Caribbean, into toxic sludge
Half a trillion spent on fossil fuel subsidies mostly "a complete waste of money"
(04/22/2010) Despite a warming planet linked to the burning of fossil fuels, governments around the world still spend 500 billion US dollars a year subsidizing fossil fuel industries. A new study from the Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) of the International Institute for Sustainable Development looks at the difficult political situation behind ending fossil fuel subsidies.
El Niño in Venezuela: Hugo Chávez’s "Katrina" Moment?
(03/22/2010) Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has been in power for more than ten years, during which time he has deflected numerous electoral challenges, a recall effort, a coup d’etat and even an oil lock out. A politically adroit statesman, he has demonstrated enormous staying power throughout all these political crises. Yet, Chávez’s luck may have finally run out: a devastating El Niño-linked drought has recently ravaged Venezuela and the government has been forced to undertake conservation measures for water and electricity. Hardly amused, some are holding Chávez responsible for the energy crunch and the drought could exact a heavy toll on the Venezuelan president in September’s legislative elections.
Savior of endangered crocodiles dies of malaria
(02/25/2010) Crocodile-expert and conservationist, Dr. John Thorbjarnarson, died of falciparum malaria in India on February 14th at the age of fifty-two. While many conservationists work with publicly popular animals like tigers and whales, Thorbjarnarson’s passion was for crocodiles. A Senior Conservation Scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Thorbjarnarson proved instrumental in saving both the Orinoco crocodile and the Chinese crocodile from extinction.
New spiny pocket mouse discovered in the mountainous rainforests of Venezuela
(02/08/2010) Researchers have discovered a new species of spiny mouse that lives on four mountainous forests in the Cordillera de la Costa mountain range of Venezuela.
Copenhagen Climate Summit: Hugo Chávez is an Inappropriate Environmental Messenger
(12/17/2009) Like him or not, one thing is for sure: the flamboyant Hugo Chávez has never shied away from the limelight. I was therefore somewhat surprised to read some initial press accounts suggesting that the Venezuelan leader might stay away from the United Nations climate summit being held in Copenhagen, Denmark. "If it's to go and waste time, it’s better I don't go," he said. "If everything is already cooked up by the big [nations], then forget it." Chávez however hinted that he might change his mind if ALBA nations could reach some type of common position towards the Copenhagen summit. ALBA, an initiative designed to facilitate trade and reciprocity amongst like minded progressive regimes in Latin America, has taken up the issue of climate justice as of late. Two months ago Bolivian President and ALBA ally Evo Morales called for the creation of an actual climate justice tribunal. The Global North, Morales said, should indemnify poor nations for the ravages of climate change.
High gold prices, army collaboration, play role in mining invasion in southern Venezuela
(11/25/2009) Illegal gold mining involving wildcat miners, the Venezuelan army, and indigenous groups is threatening one of the country's most biodiverse river basins, according to local sources.
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Unless otherwise specified, this article was written by Rhett A. Butler [Bibliographic citation for this page]
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Last updated: 5 Feb 2006