As the co-founder of Women for Conservation, I am filled with pride to share some truly inspiring news with our valued W4C family. Today, I have the honor and pleasure to announce that one of our incredible partner ProAves rangers, Cristian Andrés Vásquez Bermúdez, has been awarded the prestigious 2023 IUCN WCPA International Ranger Award.
As the former Director of ProAves El Dorado Reserve, I have had the privilege of working alongside Cristian for many years, and his recognition fills my heart with joy. Our journey together started when I was just 17 years old, coming to ProAves El Dorado Reserve with my parents. Cristian, a dedicated ranger, patiently taught me to identify many of the endemic and endangered bird species of the region, sparking my passion for conservation. We have patrolled and monitored El Dorado and Chamicero de Perijá, and even established new routes for birdwatching. During the pandemic, I spent 3 years supervising him directly and living with the conservation team in El Dorado. It was one of the most rewarding and challenging times I have ever experienced.
Cristian’s dedication to preserving our fragile ecosystems is nothing short of extraordinary. Together, we have undertaken numerous conservation projects, including installing nesting boxes for the endangered Santa Marta Parakeet, working in the native plant nursery, and diligently monitoring and registering bird species on ebird. Cristian’s deep knowledge of bird behavior, nesting spots, and bird calls makes him a valuable asset in monitoring and protecting avian populations within the reserve. While he has shared his knowledge with me in the field, I’ve had the opportunity to teach him to use technical tools such as GPS trackers and drones, enabling him to efficiently patrol and safeguard the reserve from potential threats.
This award marks the second time one of our Forest Rangers has received such prestigious recognition. As you may recall, W4C’s first woman Ranger, Ninfa, received this esteemed award back in 2021 for her exemplary work in the Amazonian Harpy Eagle Reserve. These recognitions serve as a testament to the unwavering dedication of our team and the crucial role they play in safeguarding our planet’s biodiversity.
Before his time as a forest guard, Cristian’s path was very different to conserving nature, as he provided for his family with cattle ranching and agriculture. Culturally it is normal to be a hunter, or to graze animals on the land, but everything changed when he was offered the opportunity to become a forest ranger, transforming his livelihood to become a guardian of the forest. It is beautiful to see the transformation of a person that can influence and inspire others to do the same – it reflects on how the butterfly effect may help us create a future where people live and work in harmony with nature. By recognizing the efforts of those who against all odds prevailed to become an internationally recognized hero of conservation gives us hope, and will have made an impact for generations to come.
Today, Cristian couldn’t be more grateful for this life-changing chance to work as a ProAves forest guard. In his own words, he expresses, “Conservation is important because we need to leave something for the next generation. As a father myself, I truly believe that caring for the natural wonders we have here in Colombia is the best way to leave a livable world for my children.”
Cristian is dedicated to helping others change their lives just as he did. He partners with Women for Conservation’s school programs to help local school children develop skills and a passion for conservation work. His exceptional intelligence, capabilities, and communication skills allow him to connect with the local community, and help rural families transition from extractive lifestyles to dedicating their lives to the noble cause of conservation.
As we celebrate Cristian’s well-deserved recognition, we also celebrate you—the driving force behind our vital conservation efforts. Your steadfast support has allowed us to develop and maintain our vital forest guard programs, empowering extraordinary individuals like Cristian and Ninfa to be the frontline defenders of endangered wildlife.
Our work is urgent, and with your support, we can amplify our efforts and make an even greater impact on the protection of endangered species and their habitats. Together, we will continue to make a difference, one step at a time, towards a more sustainable and harmonious world.
Yours in Conservation,
Co-founder, Women for Conservation (W4C)