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Defensores del Chaco National Park

Date of Submission: 06/04/2022
Criteria: (viii)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Paraguay to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Alto Paraguay
Coordinates: E 857.996,76 N 7.786.662,40 - E 701.568,47 N 7.778.292,02 20 zone south
Ref.: 6610

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This large national park, composed of 720,000 hectares in the middle of the Alto Chaco, guarantees the conservation of the area’s natural processes and the protection of its important biodiversity. It is one of the first protected areas in Paraguay, created in 1975 with the purpose of conserving representative and unique samples of the Chaco in general. It protects important biodiversity and ecological processes, as well as important indigenous communities, such as the Ayoreo, some of which could still live in voluntary isolation (silvicultural) and inhabit areas within the limits of the park and its buffer zones.

The Park houses many unique plant species, including Palo Santo, Quebracho Blanco, Trébol and several species of Algarrobo. The imposing Cerro León, located in Defensores del Chaco National Park, is 40 km wide and 600 meters above sea level, offering unique views of the Paraguayan Chaco.

Defensores del Chaco has three (3) patrol posts, including Madrejón, 220 km north of Filadelfia, and Madrejón, 30 km from Cerro León. There is also a biological station for researchers and it is part of the conservation nuclei of the Chaco Biosphere Reserve, created in 2005 by UNESCO.

The Defensores del Chaco National Park is one of the core areas of the Paraguayan Chaco Biosphere Reserve, declared by the UNESCO’s MAB program in 2005 and together with the Médanos del Chaco National Park, adjacent in the western sector, form a large conservation corridor linking the most arid areas to the high Chaco forest, being the ideal habitat for the protection of rare and unique species of both flora and large mammals.

Since time immemorial, Cerro Léón has been considered the centre of the Ayoreo people’s world, which is still inhabited by clans in voluntary isolation (silvicultural). Many people who live in contacted indigenous Ayoreo communities, comment that their parents were born there and were taken to other areas. Cerro León is part of the cosmovision of an entire community and of the current inhabitants of the Paraguayan Chaco.

There are settlements of native peoples present in different areas of the territory, some of them very close to the Park, a place considered their ancestral and hunting territory, among them the Guaraní Ñandeva in the west and the Ayoreo and Angaité in the northern region, as well as the Ishir or Chamacocos.

Currently, there are permanent settlements of Ayoreos but it remains some in voluntary isolation. Research and monitoring developed by the Amotocodie Initiative, since 2002, reveal the existence of several small groups or family groups, separated and apparently without communication between them, who continue with their traditionally sustained nomadic life, in the north and west of the Chaco. (Amotocodie Initiative 2015)

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Defensores del Chaco National Park guarantees the conservation of ecological and evolutionary processes in its different natural communities, and the maintenance of viable populations of endangered species. The conservation of tropical dry forests is considered a priority worldwide.

The Cerro León massif is a prominent feature in the great Chaco plain. It is a mountainous formation of about 40 km in diameter and several peaks with a maximum height of 600 meters above sea level.

The isolation conditions, the large extension of its surface and the strategic location within the climatic and edaphic gradient, together with recent discoveries, suggest that Cerro León may be the habitat of rare, endemic and even new species.

Criterion (viii): The geology of the national park and its surroundings is made up of diverse formations that belong to geological periods from the Silurian (444 million years to 419 million years) to modern sediments.

The relief of the area is generally semi-flat with hills and slopes in the existing channels. The exception is the so-called Cerro Léon massif, a product of the anticline formed by sandstone and quartzites rocks of Silurian age, surrounded by geological units of more recent ages. This mountain range has a length of 40 km by a width of 20 km and in its upper summit of about 600 meters above sea level. This formation is a rarity in the great plain of the Great American Chaco.

Criterion (x): The National Park and its location as part of a large biodiversity corridor and the characteristic of being one of the Core Areas of the Biosphere Reserve, make it ideal to contain viable populations of large mammals. The PNDCh, possibly forms part of the southernmost habitats for viable populations of Panthera onca, a species that requires large territories for its existence.

The PNDCh houses 460 species of fauna, among which there are several endemic and endangered species at local and international level. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is studies carried out in the area, allow us to assume that there are viable populations of several species such as: Mazama Gouazoubira, or "Guasuvira, Pecari Tajacu, or" Collared Peccary "and Puma Concolor, or" puma ". Population with survival conditions located further south of the continent of threatened species such as Tapirus terrestris, or “mborevi”, Catagonus Wagneri, or “Taguá” and Panthera Onca, or “Jaguar” it may inhabit the PNDCh.

The PNDCh plays an important role in conserving large areas of habitat for extremely important species. In general, it is considered that the PNDCh plays an irreplaceable role in the conservation of pristine and continuous habitat that ensures the preservation of the evolutionary ecological processes of these species. Their extensive surface and the good conservation status and representativeness of the ecosystems make the zone a key biodiversity area.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The National Park created by Executive Power Decree No. 16,806 of August 6, 1975, maintains a unique ecosystem thanks to the protection generated from the aforementioned decree four decades ago. With a nucleus of 720.000 ha provides important environmental functions for the region, and it constitutes the largest National Park in Paraguay.

Its shape and size give it importance as an ecosystem and safeguard of high-value ecosystem resources, as well as the distribution of water from the Tímane River that runs from west to east through paleochannels, entering Cerro León and from there it bifurcates to both sides.

As a natural ecosystem and territorial geography, it is the habitat of large mammals currently threatened by natural landscapes changes and also by large areas needs for their survival, such as felines (6 species), Tapir, Anteater, among others.

Regarding its integrity, the National Park presents unique natural communities, as well as adequate protection for its ecosystem functionality. It is a central and distributed part of the Timane River and its paleocauces, which compose an endorheic basin that allows the survival of the inhabitants of the Upper Chaco. At ecosystem level, it highlighted the regulation of extreme events, climate regulation, water supply, and food supply for the entire region, an aspect that contributes to the sustainable development of productive enterprises and communities in the region.

It is considered a regional development platform area, where an ecoregional gradient is expressed, since the integrity of its attributes are intact, allowing resilience to climate change due to the high conservation values present and secured limits.

It has a Management Plan and park rangers in charge of its protection and conservation. It is considered an important bird area and recently, its boundaries and public tenure were ratified through Law No. 5392/2015 “Which establishes the boundaries of the Defensores del Chaco National Park”. This Law places special emphasis on the ecosystems and livelihoods of indigenous peoples.

Comparison with other similar properties

The attributes that determine the importance of the Defensores del Chaco National Park as a referential and representative site of the Great American Chaco, are geological, in the cosmovision of a native people and in a natural capital that energizes human life, providing environmental goods and services to a wide region of large agricultural and livestock enterprises and migrant communities.

In this order, we consider comparable with:

Complejo  Purús -  Manu (4,500,000 ha in the southeastern Peruvian Amazon), which is made up of the Purús Communal Reserve, the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, the Alto Purús National Park and the Manu National Park; the Murunahua, Mashco-Piro and Madre de Dios Territorial Reserves; as well as 4 protected areas in Brazilian territory, such as the Campa e Isolados do Envira Indigenous Territory, the Mamoadate Indigenous Territory, the Riozinho do Alto Envira Indigenous Territory and the Chandless State Park, protect peoples and clans of various ethnic groups, both in voluntary isolation, initial contact and contacted, with pristine ecosystems that provide ecosystem goods and services, crucial for the survival of communities and their livelihoods.

Likewise, the Uluru National Park of Australia has similar attributes to the Defensores del Chaco National Park, since it is publicly owned, large and shaped, its boundaries are sanitized and delimited, it maintains examples of a unique geology, such as Cerro León in Paraguay. It maintains an exceptional beauty, habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species, besides protecting an ancestral territory of native peoples, who until today coexist in harmony.