Agriculture and Deforestation
Within the natural monument there are two small villages, Casupal and La Oficina, which were present before the creation of the protected area. These currently include 24 rustic houses and approximately 125 inhabitants (OCE 1994, INE 2005). The main economic activity, although it is not widespread, is agriculture, principally the cultivation of ocumo, yucca, and cacao, which occurs on a fairly limited basis. The majority of agricultural land lies fallow because the inhabitants mostly conduct these activities in areas outside the monument. However, two newly deforested sites that are being prepared for agricultural use have recently been observed within the protected area. In one area, a stand of medium size trees was clear cut, while the other site was burned, killing off all of the vegetation.
In the areas surrounding the natural monument, there is a great deal of agricultural activity, predominantly the cultivation of yucca, mapuey, ñame, corn, plantains, bananas, and cacao. These activities threaten the continued integrity of the geologic processes of the cave because they occur within the watershed of the Cambural Creek, which feeds the hydrologic system of the cave. In view of this situation, the boundaries of the natural monument (which reach 300 m ASL) do not actually meet the objective of complete protection of this geologic formation. The surrounding boundaries of El Ávila National Park extend to nearly 400 m ASL, but this still does not protect the entire Cambural watershed.
Area burnt for crops in the village of Casupal
According to a study of the Cambural and Casupal sub-basins, 83.5% of the 2,640 ha studied were natural vegetation with only minor interference. The forest continues to be well-preserved, as well as those savannas with no practical use. The remaining 16.5 % consist of conucos (raised gardens) and populated areas (Ríos et al. 1991). Various environmental groups worry that deforestation will decrease the flow of the Cambural Creek and, as a result, affect the geologic processes of the cave. There is also concern that a drier interior environment would favor the propagation of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum, potentially increasing the incidence of hisotplasmosis.
Slope without forest, covered by savanna and fern vegetation
Lack of personnel and equipment
Currently, the Alfredo Jahn cave has park rangers, however their jurisdiction is not limited to the 58 ha of the natural monument; they are also responsible for monitoring the eastern sector of El Ávila National Park. The park rangers lack transportation, equipment or infrastructure, and there is no guard post to serve as a headquarters and information center for visitors. There is not a sufficient institutional presence to address the magnitude of the issues associated with human activities in the area.
Even though there have been no studies regarding the carrying capacity of the cave, it has been recommended that groups entering the cave be of no more than eight people (Ríos et al. 1991). There are natural restrictions for large tourist groups, such as the narrow passages and small chambers. The type of activity that occurs today, adventure tourism and naturalism, is an ideal scheme that could be continued without installing additional facilities such as interior paths or lights (Ríos et al. 1991, Perez 1978). When promoting the cave as a tourist attraction of Miranda State, these limitations should be taken into consideration. A few of the potential impacts of tourism are already being observed in the cave at the current rate of visitation. The damages include painting on the walls (graffiti), broken stalactites, litter, and carbide remnants, a type of solid combustible material used for lighting.
Occasionally, people enter the cave without prior knowledge of the structure of the passages and chambers or without proper equipment such as helmets and flashlights, which puts them at risk of physical harm. Because the cave is humid the entire year, it is not considered a high risk environment for contracting histoplasmosis, however, one of largest recorded outbreaks of the disease did occur in the cave (Suárez et al. 2002).
Agriculture frontier expansion and human colonization
The population growth being experienced in the Brión municipality indicates that the agricultural frontier will probably continue to expand in order to provide food, shelter, and livelihood for the growing population. Despite the legal protection that the natural monument provides, not implementing the measures necessary to regulate land use around the monument could have negative consequences.
This school was built within the monument's limits