Canaima National Park
From the World Conservation
Union (IUCN)details of Canaima National Park, with kind permission of
NAME Canaima National Park
IUCN MANAGEMENT CATEGORY
II (National Park)
Natural World Heritage Site - Criteria i, ii,
BIOGEOGRAPHICAL PROVINCE 8.04.01 (Guyanan)
GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION Canaima national
park is located in the south-east of Venezuela in Bolívar State (Piar
and Roscio districts). The park protects the Venezuelan (north-western)
section of the Guayana Shield. It is bordered by the Río Carrao and the
Lema Mountain Range to the north, the Pakaraima Range as far as the Brazilian
border to the south, the headwaters of the Río Venamo and the Roraima
Range as far as Roraima-tepui to the east, and the Río Caroní to the west.
The nearest city is Ciudad Bolívar some 600km to the north. 4° 41'-6°
29'N, 60° 40'-62° 59'W
DATE AND HISTORY OF ESTABLISHMENT Canaima
was established as a national park on 12 June 1962 by Executive Decree
No. 770, and management is regulated under the Forest Law of Lands
and Waters, 1966. Its size was doubled to the present area under Executive
Decree No. 1.137 of 1 October 1975. National park objectives are stated
in the 1983 Organic Law of Territorial Planning as natural areas
unaffected by human disturbance where recreation, educational activities
and research are encouraged. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994.
LAND TENURE Government. The traditional
occupants, the Pemón, have claimed land rights (Government of Venezuela,
ALTITUDE 450m to 2,810m
PHYSICAL FEATURES Canaima includes the
uplands of the Gran Sabana and the eastern table mountains (tepuis)
of the Roraima Range, as well as the sandstone plateau of Chimantá and
Auyán-tepui and the north-western Canaima lowlands. It comprises Precambrian
rocks which have been subjected to 600 million years of erosion to form
a spectacular landscape. It is composed mainly of horizontal sandstone
and lutite strata with inserts of igneous rocks (diorite dykes and colse).
There are three disjunct physiographic units: undulating lowlands between
350 and 650m; the flat plateau of the Gran Sabana (800-1500m); and the
tepui summits (2000-2700m). The summits reach 1000-2000m above the surrounding
plateau and their surfaces are often scarred by gullies, canyons and sinkholes
of several hundred metres depth. Water drains from the flat summits forming
hundreds of waterfalls. The Río Caroní, with its many tributaries arising
within the park, supplies the Guri dam which provides electricity to large
areas of the country. There are many waterfalls in the park including
Angel Falls, the world's tallest at 1002m (Government of Venezuela, 1993).
CLIMATE The climate of the great savanna
plateau is temperate with a mean annual temperature of 24.5° C with the
temperatures on tepui summits as low as 0° C during the night. Precipitation
varies greatly depending on local orographic features though mean annual
rainfall is 2600mm. In the north-west of the park, there is a dry season
between December and April, whereas in other areas rainfall is more or
less constant throughout the year (Government of Venezuela, 1993).
VEGETATION The most important types
of vegetation are: savanna, moriche Mauritia groves, shrublands,
montane forests and pioneer vegetation on the summits of the tepuis. Savannas
can be divided into two types. On poor sandy soils, extensive grass savannas
dominated by Trachypogon plumosus (IK) and Axonopus pruinosus
(IK) are found. On more localised damp, richer soils, herb savannas consisting
of Stegolepis ptaritepuiensis (IK), S. guianensis (IK) and
Brocchinia steyermarkii occur. Forests are only found along rivers,
in damp depressions and on the lower slopes and gullies of the tepuis.
Tepui vegetation is characterized by endemic species and carnivorous plants,
for example Heliamphora spp., Drosera roraima (IK) and Utricularia
humboldtii (IK). The Canaima national park contains an estimated 3000-5000
species of phanerogams and ferns. The tepui system (comprising all the
tepui formations and known as Pantepui) contains a high proportion
of endemic taxa. For example, 900 species of higher plants have been identified
from Auyán-tepui, of which some 10% are endemic to this massif. Canaima
is also famous for its diversity of orchids, with an estimated 500 species
recorded in the park (Government of Venezuela, 1993).
FAUNA The fauna is diverse, though not
very abundant: 118 mammals, 550 birds, 72 reptiles and 55 amphibians have
been recorded (Government of Venezuela, 1993). There are six species of
mammals of conservation concern: giant anteater Myrmecophaga tridactyla
(V), giant armadillo Priodontes maximus (V), giant otter Pteronura
brasiliensis (V), bush dog Speothos venaticus (V), little spotted
cat Leopardus tigrinus (K) and margay Leopardus wiedii (K)
(Groombridge, 1993). The only endemic mammal is the rodent Podoxymys
roraimae. The avifauna is varied and contains over thirty species
endemic to Pantepui (ICBP, 1992). The less mobile orders, amphibians,
reptiles and fish, exhibit even higher levels of endemism.
CULTURAL HERITAGE The forests and savannas
have been occupied for 10,000 years by various groups of Amerindians of
the Carib family, collectively known as the Pemón. Indeed, the savanna
formations of the Gran Sabana itself are almost certainly a product of
regular burning by indigenous inhabitants in prehistoric times. Two archaeological
sites, containing various hand-fashioned stone tools estimated to be 9000
years old, have been found in the park (Government of Venezuela, 1993).
LOCAL HUMAN POPULATION The park is sparsely
inhabited, mostly by Pemón, with less than one person per km² and a total
population of 10,000. The Pemón live mainly in the eastern sector of the
park in scattered communities of 40-100 individuals. Many Pemón maintain
traditional lifestyles of swidden agriculture, hunting and gathering.
They also trade artifacts. They now have access to drinking water, electricity,
schools and basic medical care (Government of Venezuela, 1993).
VISITORS AND VISITOR FACILITIES Tourism
is encouraged but restricted to designated areas such as Laguna de Canaima
in the western sector of the park which can only be reached by air and
where a limited number of concessionaries provide visitors with board,
lodging and recreational services. A main road from Ciudad Bolívar runs
along the eastern border of the park through the Gran Sabana, bisecting
its south-east corner. There are no other metalled roads within the park,
the western section being accessible only by air.The park currently receives
100,000 visitors per year, 90% of whom visit the Gran Sabana (Government
of Venezuela, 1993).
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND FACILITIES The
first scientific research was carried out by the naturalist Sir Robert
Schomburgk in 1838. The first tepui summit was reached in 1884, and research
on these areas has continued ever since (Government of Venezuela, 1993).
CONSERVATION VALUE Canaima National
Park exhibits an exceptional geomorphology produced by weathering processes.
The distinctive tepui formations give rise to numerous waterfalls, including
Angel Falls, the world's highest. The high level of endemism found on
the summits of the tepuis has led to the recognition of Pantepui as a
unique biogeographical entity. Canaima is the homeland of one of the largest
Amerindian populations in the country. The park protects the headwaters
of the Río Caroní which supplies Guri, the country's largest hydroelectric
power station and source of 60% of the nation's energy (Government of
CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT Santa Elena
de Uairén, a town lying 20km to the south of the park, is the main administrative
centre. The park is divided into two sectors for administrative purposes.
A management plan and regulations for the eastern section of the park
were issued under Decree No. 1,640 dated June 5 1991. Objectives formulated
in the management plan include provisions for indigenous agricultural
production under strict regulation. Other activities are strictly controlled
and hunting and collection of wildlife is forbidden. There is no management
plan for the western sector of the park (Government of Venezuela, 1993).
The park is currently under the administration of INPARQUES, the National
Institute of Parks (IUCN, 1997).
MANAGEMENT CONSTRAINTS According to
the Government of Venezuela (1993), most of the threats to the park result
from poor on-site management which is a product of insufficient financial
and human resources. The conservation of the park is in jeopardy due to
lack of qualified personnel and appropriate visitor facilities and the
inability of the management to control activities within the park. The
main problems are: illegal gold mining activities causing siltation and
mercury contamination of watercourses; excessive burning of vegetation
by indigenous people; and soil erosion, soil compaction and litter resulting
from tourism (Government of Venezuela, 1993). Mass tourism is rapidly
growing, with road construction, illegal airstrips, and helicopter flights
opening up previously inaccessible areas. there is also a tangible risk
of fire accidently spreading from campsites (WWF and IUCN, 1997). The
park is also under threat from a project supported by the Government of
Venezuela to construct a series of power transmission lines running
160km from the Guri Dam to the north of the park to Brazil and to a mining
site north of the park. Local people were not consulted about the scheme,
and no adequate Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out. The development
may encourage mining and logging in the park, and will damage the cloud
forests on the low table mountain of Sierra de Lema in the north of the
park, one of the areas richest in endemism in Venezuala (Sharpe and Rodriguez,
1997, IUCN, 1997). Large-scale mining operations have started up outside
the park over the over the past few years causing deforestation and contamination
of local rivers (IUCN, 1997).
STAFF Until recently there were no staff
monitoring the park, although there is now a team of 10 park guards and
3 technicians (Sharpe, 1996).
BUDGET The budget was Bs. 150,466 (US$37,000)
for the 1982 financial year (IUCN, 1982). More recent information is not
LOCAL ADDRESSES No information
- CVG-EDELCA (1986). Caroní. Corporación
Venezolana de Guayana - Electrificación del Caroní, C.A. (CVG-EDELCA),
CVG-EDELCA (n.d.). La protección de la cuenca del
Río Caroní. Corporación Venezolana de Guayana - Electrificación
del Caroní, C.A. (CVG-EDELCA), Caracas. 52pp.
Gorzula, S. and Medina, G. (1986). La fauna
silvestre de la cuenca del Río Caroní y el impacto del hombre. Evaluación
y perspectivas. Interciencia 11(6): 317-324.
Government of Venezuela (1993). World Heritage
List Nomination: Canaima National Park, Venezuela. 53pp. + Maps and
Groombridge, B. (Ed.) (1993). 1994 IUCN
Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge,
UK. lvi + 286pp.
Grupo Ingenería de Arborización (GIDA)
(1986). Incapacidad Gerencial y Falta de Planificación Ambiental:
Destrucción en el Parque Nacional Canaima a Causa del Asfaltado de
la Carretera El Dorado - Santa Elena de Uairén. Unpublished Report.
ICBP (1992). Putting biodiversity on
the map: priority areas for global conservation. International
Council for Bord Preservation, Cambridge, UK. 90pp.
IUCN (1982). IUCN Directory of Neotropical
Protected Areas. Tycooly, Dublin, Ireland. 436pp.
IUCN (1997) State of conservation of
natural World Heritage properties. Report prepared for the World
Heritage Bureau 21st Session, 23-28 June 1997, Paris, France.
Miller, K.R. (1963). A Proposed Plan for
the Development of Canaima National Park, Venezuela, based upon National,
Regional and Local Influence. Thesis, University of Washington.
Romero, A. (1992). Canaima. Palmaven,
Sharpe, C. (1996) Threat analysis and conflict
resolution begins in Canaima national Park, Venezuela. Mountain
Protected Areas Update. June 15th 1996.
Sharpe, C. and Rodriguez, I. (1997) Powerline
at Canaima N.P. (Venezuela), World Heritage Site. Mountain Protected
Areas Update. June 1st, 1997.
Schubert, C. and Huber, O. (1989). La
Gran Sabana: Panorámica de una región. Cuadernos Lagoven, Caracas.
Weidmann, K., Pérez Vila, M. and Huber,
O. (1985). La Gran Sabana. Fundación Polar, Caracas. 184pp.
WWf and IUCN (1997) Centres of plant
diversity. A guide and strategy for their conservation. Volume 3:
the Americas. IUCN, Cambridge, UK.
DATE 1982, updated March 1994, July
:: the lost world :: Venezuela's Gran Sabana