The protected area of over 1.5 million hectares is located in the western Amazon region and comprises five different ecosystems: Amazon rainforest, gallery forests, palm forests, dry forests as well as extensive swamps and flood savannas. The diversity of the vegetation is reflected in the enormous biodiversity, with 4,000 different types of plants alone. The park is named after the naturalist Noel Kempff Mercado, who was murdered there in 1986.
Noel Kempff Mercado National Park: Facts
|Official title:||Noel Kempff Mercado National Park|
|Natural monument:||Over 15,000 km² total area; one of the largest intact protected areas in the Amazon basin; Grasslands, savannahs and highlands; Habitat of around 4,000 plant species, over 600 bird species and vertebrates that are endangered around the world|
|Location:||Santa Cruz Department, northeastern Bolivia|
|Meaning:||Testimony to billions of years of evolutionary history since the Precambrian|
Untouched nature away from civilization
The Noel Kempff Mercado National Park is located in the extreme northeast of Bolivia, on the border with Brazil, which is difficult to reach and has hardly been developed for tourism. It is one of around 550 protected biosphere reserves in the world and covers an area of 15 234 square kilometers. Since the national park stretches between 200 and 1000 meters above sea level, there are several different ecosystems close together. Because the climatic conditions vary depending on the altitude, there is a wealth of animals and plants that prompted the official authorities in 1979 to declare the region around the Huanchaca Plateau to be the Huanchaca National Park, which was renamed the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park in 2000 UNESCO list of world natural heritage was added.
According to homosociety, the current name of the reserve is a tribute to the Bolivian biologist Noel Kempff Mercado (1924–1986). He gained great recognition through scientific exploration of the national park; Kempff also died there. In 1986 he started with two other naturalists and a pilot in a small propeller plane for the table mountains of Huanchaca. In the dense rainforest, the research team came across a secret cocaine factory. Noel Kempff Mercado and two of his companions had to pay for this discovery with their lives: They were shot by the gangsters, only the Spanish biologist Vicente Castelló was able to escape. This crime became a national scandal, because the Bolivian authorities and the military delayed the departure of a search team by three days – presumably to give the drug smugglers time to retreat. This fact went down in recent Bolivian history as the “Shame of Huanchaca”. It was not until 1995 that the murderers of Noel Kempff Mercado and his companions were caught, seven years earlier the national park had been renamed the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park in honor of the biologist.
The Noel Kempff Mercado National Park owes its unique flora and fauna to the fact that several different ecosystems come together there: Amazon rainforest, gallery forests, palm forests, floodplain savannas, swamps and dry forests. Over 4000 types of plants are found in the national park, including bromeliads, heliconias and palms. There are also 620 species of birds, 130 species of mammals, around 350 different insects and 70 species of reptiles, including the rare black caiman. The entire national park is very rich in water: rivers, waterfalls, lagoons and flood plains ensure the water supply for animals and plants.
The 980 meters high Caparú Plateau (Meseta Caparú), an isolated table mountain, consists of sandstone and quartzite and is criss-crossed by crystal clear streams and numerous waterfalls. The savannah landscape typical of South America, called the cerrado, is located on its plateau. Since the plateau has been isolated for millions of years, the evolutionary history of this ecosystem can be excellently studied there in a kind of “living laboratory”. But not only biologists are fascinated by the unspoilt nature of Caparú Plateau: A travelogue of the English adventurer Percy Fawcett (1867-1925) inspired the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) for his novel The Lost World (The Lost World, 1912). The work is considered to be one of the first science fiction novels and is about the exploration of a mysterious plateau in the South American jungle, during which Professor Challenger’s team came across living dinosaurs.
Even today, the national park is difficult to access for visitors and hardly developed for tourists. There are two visitor centers in the national park: Flor de Oro in the north of the park and Los Fierros in the south. Flor de Oro can be reached from Santa Cruz in five hours by light aircraft. Those who undertake the arduous journey into the national park will be rewarded with a breathtaking landscape and excellent opportunities to observe animals. Visitors are out and about in almost untouched tropical rainforest and come across crystal clear lagoons and imposing waterfalls, for example the Catarata El Encanto with a height of 80 meters or the spectacular rainbow waterfall Catarata Arco Iris (88 m).