The National Geographic Society today recognized President Juan Manuel Santos of the Republic of Colombia for his unwavering commitment to conservation. In a ceremony at Society headquarters, Gary E. Knell, president and CEO of National Geographic Society, along with Jean Case, chairman of the National Geographic Society Board of Trustees, honored President Santos for his dedicated efforts to protect Colombia’s environment. Colombia is one of world’s richest countries with respect to biological and cultural diversity, and President Santos has done more than many elected leaders in the Americas to expand protected areas so they’re enjoyed by generations to come.
Since his election to the presidency in 2010, President Santos, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, has made significant strides on behalf of the environment, increasing the total area of Colombia’s network of protected areas to more than 6,500 square miles on land and sea. Most notably, he more than doubled the size of Chiribiquete National Park, located in the heart of Colombian Amazonia. The park contains a variety of natural wonders, from “tepuis” — table-top mountains with isolated, unique ecosystems — to some of the most botanically diverse lowland forests in the northern Amazon. The amazing animal species in Chiribiquete include jaguars, tapirs and birds found in no other region on Earth.
National Geographic and President Santos share a profound commitment to the long-term well-being of Colombia’s wildlife and wild places as the country contains a significant amount of the Earth’s biodiversity. In fact, more than 10 percent of the world’s bird species and more than 15 percent of the world’s frog species are found in Colombia.
Examples of the Society-supported conservation efforts in Colombia include the work of Rosamira Guillen. Guillen, winner of the 2017 National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Latin American Conservation, is the executive director of Fundación Proyecto Tití, an organization dedicated to the protection and conservation of one of Colombia’s most endangered native primate species: the cotton-top tamarin. In addition, National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project, led by Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala, is helping to inform the protection of the Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary 300 miles off the coast of Colombia.
Among others, today’s event at the Society included Ambassador of Colombia to the United States Camilo Reyes, Colombia’s Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development Luis Gilberto Murillo, representatives from the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) and leaders from a number of Colombian indigenous tribes, who presented President Santos with a gift.
Promotional images from the event are available here.