Juan Mayr Maldonado

Juan Mayr Maldonado

Colombian photographer who is known for his work in environmental conservation.

Juan Mayr Maldonado, born in Colombia on May 27, 1952, established the Pro-Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Foundation in 1986 after living for two years with the Kogi indigenous people in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Santa Marta, and interacting with various indigenous groups and other communities. The foundation led a campaign to restore the environment, to develop measures and strategies to protect the environment and for sustainable development in the region. In 1994, the Colombian government handed over management of some 50,000 acres to the indigenous communities in the Sierra Nevada, in the departments of Magdalena, La Guajira and César along the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the highest mountain range in the world that is associated with a coastal formation and has great importance because of its vast biodiversity and ecological complexity. Because of its geographic situation, it contains various climactic systems that range from hot and dry to permanently snowy and has corresponding ecosystems characteristic of arctic tundra, tropical forests and even deserts. The constant use of the land, however (for grazing livestock, timber and other agricultural activities), by the region’s inhabitants has resulted in a precarious state of environmental degradation in which only 18% of the original vegetation remains.

The intrinsic relationship between land management in the watersheds throughout the region and the coastal resources in general makes integrated planning for these resources essential. The communities and populations in these areas, in one way or another, depend to a greater or lesser extent on the environmental resources the region provides and this affects the options for sustainable development. These principles led Mayr Maldonado to get involved and lead efforts to achieve greater protection and conservation of the natural and cultural resources of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Mayr Maldonado has a long career of environmental protection and sustainable development, for which he has received various awards and honors. In 1993, he was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for the Central and South American region. From 1998 to 2002, he served as minister of Environment for Colombia. Also in 1998 he was elected vice president of the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN for its Spanish acronym). He has been awarded the Order of Civil Merit honor from Spain at the Knight level, the Order of Democracy recognition from the Colombian congress, and the Parker-Gentry Award from the Chicago Museum of Natural History. In 2000, Mayr Maldonado, representing Colombia, was elected chairman of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. He is currently the Colombian ambassador to Germany.


Author: Harrison Flores Ortiz
Published: June 06, 2012.

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