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La Paya National Park

La Paya National Park is located in the far western region of the Amazon basin, bordered by the Mecaya River and the Caquetá and Putumayo, both whitewater rivers that carry nutrient-rich sediment from the Andes.  La Paya represents tropical forest, lowland Amazonian plains, and interspersed with occasional undulating areas.  Located along Colombia’s southwestern border, the park is adjacent to protected areas in both Peru and Ecuador.

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Through the Amazonian Cooperative Treaty La Paya has been included in an area forming a biological cooridor in the Amazon and safeguarding the Putumayo and Vaupez indigenous groups and their lands.

Giant anteater cub

Giant Anteater Cub, one of many endangered species protected in La Paya © Hugo Arnal

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total area protected:
1 million acres
map of site

Napo Moist Forests

partner organization:
Fundación Natura

Ecological Importance

La Paya is very rich in palm species, with representatives of more than two dozen genera.  Animals in La Paya include the giant anteater, jaguar, woolly monkey, red howler monkey, pygmy marmoset, tapir, red brocket deer, manatee and two species of freshwater river dolphin.  A detailed bird survey has not yet been completed, but hundreds of species are known to thrive in La Paya, including macaws, guans, toucans and hawks.  In addition, the Amazon wetlands are home to the black caiman as well as other species of the crocodilian genera.


La Paya has been a difficult site to manage due to its remote location, land tenure problems, and local political conflicts. Immigration to the Putumayo district intensified after 1957 when a road opened the region to oil exploration. Although petroleum surveys decreased after 1973, the influx of colonists and their associated impact on the land remains the largest threat to the park. Uncontrolled slash-and-burn agriculture and cattle grazing, as well as overexploitation of aquatic fauna, particularly fish and turtles, continue to take place. In addition to the problems associated with deforestation, erosion, unsustainable agriculture, and over fishing, local settlers engage in clandestine hunting and trapping of animals for the illegal wildlife trade. Such activities place unnatural pressure on certain large or showy species with market potential.

A Strategy of Success

La Paya was determined a National Natural Park in 1984, however, it remained without any official institutional presence until the initiation of the Parks in Peril (PIP) program in 1991. During this time the dynamics in the area were detained and lack of an official presence aggravated much conflict. After Fundación Natura became responsible for implementing and executing PIP, La Paya began its recovery. 

The conservation strategy for La Paya comprised a participatory consultation process with both indigenous communities living within the park’s boundaries and local institutions for the purpose of achieving an adequate management of resources. This entailed the establishment of strategic alliances for the conservation, preservation, restoration and sustainable use of the park’s natural resources and an adequate management of its buffer zones. PIP funding also allowed for several scientific studies to be undertaken at La Paya.

PIP positively contributed in establishing the basis of scientific studies, park infrastructure, equipment and staff for the advancement of conservation activities in La Paya an eventual site consolidation in 1996.

Read more about La Paya...

Fundación Natura
The Nature Conservancy in La Paya

Read more about projects in Colombia...

Chingaza National Natural Park
Cahuinarí National Natural Park
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Natural Park

Colombia Partner Organizations

The Nature Conservancy in Colombia