The northwest Andes of Colombia was identified as an area of utmost importance for protection and restoration after Rapid Assessment expeditions were done to identify strategic areas for conservation in 2006. Currently, over 7,000 acres of forests are being protected at the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve, which include the "El Olinguito" and "El Puma" forests. The Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve is the main watershed of the San Juan Antioquia, San Juan Bravo Choco and Dojurgo rivers, the latter being a main tributary of the San Juan Antioquia river.
The nature reserve has over 7000 acres of forests located in three states: Antioquia, Risaralda and Caldas. This was the first conservation project established by THC which began in 2008. Protecting both the San Juan Antioquia and San Juan Bravo Chocó river watersheds, the biodiversity value of this area is incalculable.
Given the great biological wealth found in the area of the reserve, THC has dedicated a large part of its efforts to carrying out studies and inventories of biodiversity. To do this, it has contacted scientists and students belonging to universities and institutes, both national and international. Several groups of vertebrates, invertebrates and plants have been studied.
Birds have been the most studied group of vertebrates so far. Around 20% of all bird species found in Colombia inhabit the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve. There are 30 IUCN threatened and 26 endemic or restricted-range bird species at the reserve, making this area one of the most critical habitats for birds in all of the Americas. A total of 373 bird species have been recorded and all are included in our new bird guide (PDF accesible below).
Mammal studies have also been done with the participation of students from the University of Antioquia, lead by Professor Sergio Solari. In 2013, the first carnivore species to be discovered in the Western hemisphere in 35 years, Baciricyon neblina, known as Olinguito was photographed at the reserve in 2011. Twenty-four camera traps have been placed strategically to "capture" various species. So far 53 species of non-flying mammals in 22 families have been detected.
Amphibians and reptiles have been researched with Professor Adolfo Amezquita, where a significant number of new species have been found for science. Three frog species have so far been described: Andinobates cassidyhornae, Pristimantis ferwerdai and P. tavoi. Several lizards are also under description. In order to streamline the identification of new species, a molecular lab will established at the reserve.
Regarding invertebrates, it has been possible to register nearly 500 species of nocturnal moths. It has been no easy task to identify these species.
We are also working on the identification of Darwin Wasps (Ichneumonidae) and Spider Wasps (Pompilidae) with a group of researchers from Brazil: Rodrigo Araujo, Diego Padua, Daniell Rodrigues y Fernando Dos Santos. In this two families we have already found a significant number of new species. Two scientific articles have already been published. The most recent describing five new species of Dolichomitus (Pimplinae).
Regarding plants, the main study group has been the orchids. Nearly 100 species have been identified at the reserve. Recently an important discovery was made of a new Dracula orchid. Named after Irmelin Indenbirken, mother of philantropist Leonardo DiCaprio, Dracula irmelinae was confirmed as being a new species for science.