Even if we humans are animals ourselves, the coexistence between humans and other living beings is not exactly smooth. Due to the way we behave and consume, the impact on animals has been huge over the past few centuries. We’ve built roads, polluted the environment, hunted animals because their bodies can mean something to us, we’ve even hunted them because their behavior is incompatible with our way of life. And that has taken its toll. Many animals suffer and the ecosystem does not exactly thrive under our actions.
Even if the Bolivian nature is quite beautiful, the animals living in the country do not always have it easy everywhere. As everywhere on earth, we humans are destroying their habitats – sometimes unintentionally, sometimes intentionally. One of the places in Bolivia that has been severely affected by human encroachment is the Camino de las Yungas, also known as the Camino de la Muerte or death road. Sounds pretty grim and we’re sad to report that the term is not at all misleading.
return of the animals
About 300 people died on the Camino de las Yungas every year. The reason for this immense death toll lies in the nature of the road. On one side, a 600-meter cliff gapes with no barrier to prevent vehicles from falling into the abyss. On the other hand, the natural circumstances do not help. The sandy road turns into a slippery muddy road as soon as it rains and fog is a very common sight on the Camino de la Muerte. Verdict: It wasn’t exactly a smooth ride. From 1930 to 2006 it was the only road connecting the capital La Paz with the north of the country.
Since then, the Cotapata-Santa Barbara Highway has opened, meaning traffic on the Camino de las Yungas has shrunk by a whopping 90%. Saving many lives and the animals living in the area. According to scientists at the Wildlife Conservation Society, no fewer than 16 mammals and 94 birds, including mountain paca and tiger cats, now live where cars once ruled the area.
Bolivia’s former “Death Road” is now teeming with wildlife. Our camera traps photographed 16 medium and large mammal species and 94 wild bird species. https://t.co/N2TgqrdLvm pic.twitter.com/NuZCyMavxb
— WCS (@TheWCS) August 8, 2022
Amazing as almost no animals were sighted in the region between 1990 and 2005. A big step in the right direction, even if coca cultivation and the associated deforestation are now threatening their habitat.