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Family shares incredible transformation story after turning their cattle ranch into massive wildlife conservatory

The Zapatas' project is a triumphant reclamation of the land that helps restore native wildlife.

Photo Credit: Instagram

A family that once made its living by breeding cattle has converted 40 hectares of the Amazon into a conservatory for wildlife.

In San José de Guaviare, Colombia, the Zapata family has transformed its cattle farm into a reforested jungle area where native plants and animals can thrive, according to Euronews.

Though they sold their cattle over a decade ago, the Zapatas still care for animals. As of June 2023, the Zapata ranch housed 60 animals, including puma cubs, monkeys, armadillos, ocelots, and birds, according to Euronews.

Co-founder Dora Sánchez moved in 1997 to the farmland, where the family farmed cattle for over a decade. She told Euronews, "When we arrived, there was not a single worm; the soil was completely compact." 

In 2012, Sánchez experimented by planting native trees to jump-start an agroforestry system.

"The forest began to change; the fauna began to return. We improved the water conditions, and the soil began to improve. So, little by little, my family understood that it was a good process," Sánchez told Euronews.

With government approval, the Zapatas' land now is a full-time conservatory: the La Nupana nature reserve.

The project is a triumphant reclamation of the land that helps restore native wildlife, especially since livestock has such adverse effects on the environment. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimates that 14.5% of all planet-warming air pollution comes from the livestock industry, which is especially troublesome because areas full of trees — which can help absorb these dangerous gases — are often deforested to make room for cattle and other livestock to graze.

"We must preserve and protect the forest because it is the source of life which will give us water in the future," Sánchez told Euronews.

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