The Peninsula de Paria National Park, established in 1978, is located in the North-Eastern corner of Venezuela. This protected region of the Sucre State is formed by a dense green jungle chain of mountains covering more than 375 km2 (approx. 145 square miles) of land. Because of the stepped mountains that reach up to 1,300 meters (approx. 4,265 feet ), the main roads go along the southern border of the park, until it reaches the port town of Guiria.
The city of Carupano, and the towns of Rio Caribe and Guiria are the most important and biggest human settlements surrounding the National Park. But inside the Paria region there are several artisan fishermen towns with populations under 2.000 inhabitants. Transportation inside the jungle and to the remote beaches is possible through rustic walking trails or even better by boat. This hilly topography and the distance from big cities help with the preservation of wildlife, however nearby inhabitants occasionally engage in illegal hunting and timber exploitation.
The vegetation mainly consists of a humid forest with almost 30 endemic species of palm trees, orchids, and arborescent ferns. Regarding the fauna, it’s very diverse with up to 33 species of birds like the scissor hummingbird (Hylonympha macrocerca), quetzals and a variety of seabirds. Mammals are well represented by deer, jaguars, small tigers, bats, red holler monkeys, sloths and interesting cetaceans, like the false killer whale (Feresa attenuate). There are more than 40 species of amphibians, as the crystal toad (Cochranella castroviejoi) and 65 species of reptiles including four species of sea turtles which nest on the protected beaches of Paria. It’s not hard to imagine the variety of hundreds of insects, marine invertebrates and fishes inside the local rivers and nearby coasts.
The park administration is run by the Venezuelan National Park Institute (Inparques), a government agency created in 1973. They had several stations and control points inside the Peninsula de Paria National Park, but since 2012 these places have been abandoned due to the lack of budget. Besides, the park rangers inside the national park are not enough, consisting of around 25 workers to cover the whole 375 km2. This lack of surveillance has made furtive hunters, timber cutters and even drug traffickers increase in the region according to the local people and friends of the conservation projects which still working by NGOs and environment ministry personnel. The truth is that the actual situation of Paria is as a “Paper Park” just to meet political agendas and quotas.
The surviving conservationist projects in the area are mainly run by NGOs, but they are working at a minimum effort due to the insecurity situation caused by drug traffickers especially on the central coast of the Peninsula de Paria National Park. On the other hand, the western border is close to the city of Carupano where police and other government armed forces have deterred this problem to some extent. The same happens in the port town of Guiria to the eastern border. Nevertheless, criminality has risen dramatically in the last five years at all locations. Recently recruited park rangers have been migrating to work abroad, although some still remain in the area.
The solution to all these problems could start at the eastern tip, to the southern region, which is named the Paria Gulf near the town of Macuro where three park rangers live. They need a new boat with outboard engines, a better salary, satellite phones, plus surveillance equipment like automatic cameras and drones. The training of at least two more local park rangers and design a model of nature protection with the support of the nearby fishermen community. As a neighbor successful example is our sea turtle conservation project which is still running continuously there after almost 20 years, despite the problems already mentioned.
What I want to envision for the future is a better conserved and less menaced National Park, a more continuous surveillance of Paria, a more secure place to work, control of furtive hunting, flora exploitation and drug trafficking… and maybe have the opportunity to relive an outstanding view which I saw several years ago… a deer looking unto the sea from up of a cliff at the break of a Parian dawn.