Dinira National Park has very few problems resulting from excessive human influence. Low population densities in nearby towns and the absence of human communities within the park have definitely contributed to Dinira's well-preserved ecosystems. The rugged terrain and lack of highways also help to keep the park isolated and therefore free from external problems. Yet, Dinira is not entirely free from problems.
• Introduction of exotic species
• Unregulated tourism
• Lack of security and effective control
Most of the communities next to or on the park's borders are agricultural, growing tuberous crops and coffee and/or raising cattle on a small, low-intensity scale. In towns such as Buenos Aires, San Pedro, and Jabón, agriculturalists grow mushrooms, tomatoes, paprika, bananas, and the most important and extensive crop: coffee.
Agriculture outside of the park generates certain problems inside park zones bordering the agricultural communities, specifically deforestation and wildfires. Farmers intending to grow coffee deforested an area close to Humocaro Alto. In addition, forest fires started in nearby towns usually end up burning portions of the park.
Cattle grazing activities for milk production take place in the park's higher altitudes in the páramo vegetation, specifically around the sectors known as Páramo de las Rosas (19P 377737, 1058410) and in Páramo de Cendé. Cattle grazing also takes place close to Barbacoas in the sector known as Aguada de Arenales. The extent of cattle grazing is unknown, and even though cattle are fenced in, most cattle are let out to graze freely in the páramo, sometimes moving down into the forests. When we were climbing up to Páramo de las Rosas, we ran into two rural farmers who were looking for two lost cows in the park. The cows had walked from the northwestern mountain slope up to the "Fila de las Rosas" at 3,044 meters and gone over to the other slope.
In the valley southeast of the Fila de las Rosas, there is an old farmhouse raising dairy cattle (19P 377737, 1058410). The house belongs to a family that has been in the region for many years and who owned the land before it was declared a national park. For many years, hikers used the house as a refuge, but today it is in complete ruins. The rural farmer in charge of caring for the house told us that last year a puma came and killed four cows. We counted a total of 93 cows on the property.
There are several homes within the park where dairy cattle are raised in a traditional way (photo © César Aponte).
Comparing Dinira's data to those of other national parks, wildfires do not seem to be a serious problem. Nonetheless, the fires create disturbances that greatly impact the páramo and subpáramo vegetation (Rina Ricardi and Rodrigo Duno, personal communication) that are characterized by low vegetative coverage and have many endemic species.
During the 2002-2003 fire season, there were three wildfires in the sectors of Carache, La Palomera, and Buenos Aires that consumed 277 hectares of park vegetation in addition to 374 hectares of surrounding vegetation. The fires originated in the towns and the most destructive occurred in Carache, where 246 hectares of páramo vegetation within the park were destroyed and as well as an additional 300 hectares outside the park. La Palomera's fire affected 25 hectares of park forest and Buenos Aires' fire affected 80 hectares of savannahs and pastureland, although fortunately only six hectares were inside the park.
Introduction of Exotic Species
Exotic species, such as pines (Pinus sp.), eucalyptus (Eucaliptos sp.), cypress (Cupressus sp.), and ashes (Fraxinus sp.) have been introduced into the park, around the Buenos Aires park guard station. The now defunct Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Breeding planted the trees during the 1960s as part of their reforestation program to protect the Tocuyo river basin. Several universities' forestry training programs incorporated reforestation using exotic species. Today, the area surrounding Buenos Aires covered by eucalyptus and pine forests extends from 1,700 m altitude to 2,000 m.
Inhabitants of nearby towns seriously pressure La Cascada del Vino in the unregulated recreation zone, especially during the busy Carnival and Saint's Week travel season. The exact number of visitors is unknown because detailed registers do not exist and there is no permanent staff to maintain records, but it is estimated that during Carnival 2003 (March 1-4), 2,500 people visited the area. This huge number of visitors, added to lack of personnel, generates problems. In December 2003, there was not one staff member available to collect entrance fees--even though December is the busiest month of the year. This irregular staffing of volunteer personnel is a serious problem because not only does it reduce the amount of fees collected, but it also results in lack over control of illegal or inappropriate activities.
La Cascada del Vino is the most visited part of the park and it is one of Lara's main tourist attractions (photo © César Aponte).
Large numbers of visitors have created management problems, principally garbage accumulation around the waterfall. Recently, this has become a serious problem because there is no garbage collection. It accumulates ond overflows the existing garbage cans. The superintendent and volunteers did resolve the overflow, but the lack of regular collection remains an issue.
Overall, tourism is very localized, impacting only a very small percentage of the park and can therefore be considered a minor threat.
Lack of security and effective control
There are only two people responsible for security and control. One has been volunteering for the past eight years and is also in charge of collecting and administering fees from the recreation zone. The other has been working for 10 years as a volunteer park guard, and in November 2003 INPARQUES began procedures to hire him as staff.
These two volunteers are responsible for 45,328 hectares of rugged terrain that is difficult to reach. They do not have adequate transportation or communication equipment; they do not have radios or sufficient, appropriate vehicles. During our field evaluation, the only available motorcycle was being repaired.
A cabin for park visitors is partially destroyed because of vandalism, which occurred because of
lack of security in the park (photos © César Aponte).
The security posts are only staffed occasionally and irregularly, mostly because there are not enough park guards for the responsibility. During our field evaluation, we noted several minor park violations but because of lack of staff and transportation, it was impossible to do anything about them. In Buenos Aires, the cabin for hikers has been completely destroyed by vandalism. In addition, a meteorological station was dismantled a few years ago, although it has been reinstalled. Many other activities threatening the park occur without timely detection and/or intervention.
Lack of personnel and consequently lack of regular security is probably the biggest threat to Dinira. Its installations are high quality, but already they are showing signs of deterioration simply because there are no permanent park guards to provide upkeep.