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Noel Kempff Mercado National Park

Located in the northeast region of Bolivia in Santa Cruz, Noel Kempff Mercado National Park harbors biodiversity quite distinct from other ecoregions represented within the country’s system of protected areas. Noel Kempff is striking in its natural beauty: its geological features include the towering Caparuch Mesa at 800 meters above sea level and numerous waterfalls such as the spectacular Arco Iris falls that drop 60 meters into pristine tropical Amazon forest.

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When Hermes Justiniano, co-manager of Noel Kempff, first visited the park in 1986, four years before PiP arrived, he happened upon three guards, two in sandals and one barefoot, who were in charge of the park's 1.8 million acres, an area roughly the size of Yellowstone National Park in the U.S.

Caparu plateau

Caparuch plateau, one of many plateaus in Noel Kempff © Hermes Justiniano

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total area protected:
3.8 million acres
map of site

Beni Swamp, Cerrado; Gallery Forest, Bolivian Lowland Dry & Rondonia/Mato Grosso Moist Forests

partner organization:
Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza (FAN)

Ecological Importance

Noel Kempff has 139 mammal species, 74 reptile species, 62 amphibian species and 254 fish species. Nearly one-tenth of the world's estimated 1,000 giant river otters live along Noel Kempff's waterways. Other river animals found in Noel Kempff include capybaras, pink river dolphins, and the spectacled caiman. Recent biological inventories at Noel Kempff have found a rich and biologically diverse fauna, including the South American tapir and six species of cats. Rare species found within the park include the jaguar, bush dog, giant armadillo, marsh deer, and maned wolf. Harpy eagles, jabiru, wood and maguari storks, Amazonian umbrella birds, helmeted manakins, hoatzins and more than 20 types of parrots are among the park's 620 bird species. Close to 30 species of new plants, mammals, and reptiles have been discovered within the last ten years.


The natural resources in the region around Noel Kempff have been degraded from logging activities and forest clearing for cattle ranches and agriculture, raising fears that Noel Kempff could soon become an island sanctuary in the midst of a treeless landscape. As roads are built, previously unreachable habitat is accessible to construction crews, loggers, and colonists. Uncontrolled timber extraction as well poaching of wildlife for the illicit international market often follow. Additional threats to the park have come from the increasing number of incursions by gold miners whose activities have contributed to the elevated levels of water pollution, soil erosion, and poaching.

The international demand for both live animals and their products (skins, furs, and feathers) creates incentives for local hunters to target economically valuable species. Other threats include overfishing and overharvesting of river turtles and their eggs.

A Strategy of Success

During the period of Parks in Peril (PiP) funding, 1991-1994, much progress was made at Noel Kempff to lead to its consolidation. With PiP funding, Noel Kempff was able to establish physical infrastructure, hire sufficient numbers of trained, on-site staff, declare the area officially protected and demarcate its boundaries, and launch sustainable ecotourism ventures. The role of Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza (FAN) at Noel Kempff during the PiP project has established it as one of the leading conservation organizations in Bolivia. 

Under PiP funding, FAN and The Nature Conservancy staff worked to create sustainable development and sustainable commercialization ventures to mitigate commercial logging, non-sustainable wildlife extraction, deforestation for agriculture and cattle ranching, and illegal drug trafficking. Local people have been hired as park guards and ecotourism staff, and local communities now benefit from ecotourism. 

Since PiP funding in Noel Kempff, FAN, the Bolivian government, three private investors, and The Nature Conservancy have embarked on a 30-year Climate Action Project that added 2.2 million acres to the park and ended several logging enterprises within the park.

Read more about Noel Kempff Mercado...

Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza (FAN)
Noel Kempff Climate Action Project
The Nature Conservancy in Noel Kempff

Read more about projects in Bolivia...

Amboró-Carrasco National Parks
Eduardo Avaroa National Park
Tariquía Flora and Fauna Reserve

Bolivian Partner Organizations

The Nature Conservancy in Bolivia