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Bella Unión Islands


Conservation benefit:Protection of 1,149 acres of forest habitat of critically endangered bat

Community benefit:Ecotourism training; small visitors center; interpretive trail

Date Approved: 02.2022


This project supports a local conservation-based tourism initiative.


This project protects forest, preventing the release of greenhouse gases and reducing erosion that damages coastal and ocean ecosystems.


This project protects freshwater habitat around a river or lake.

To help protect the species, this project is conserving forest on a cluster of seven islands in the upper Uruguay River, the boundary between Uruguay and Argentina. People from nearby communities use the islands for hunting, fishing, and some logging. They sometimes camp on the island and leave trash, which eventually ends up in the river. With a distinct white stripe down each side of its head, the white-lined bat has the face of a fierce, tiny badger. In fact, this little bat, which weighs less than an ounce, is a peaceful fruit-eater in the forests of South America. In Uruguay, the number of bats has fallen as forests have been cut back, and the country considers its population endangered and a priority for conservation. A 2019 scientific paper concluded that the species is critically endangered.

Our nonprofit partner, GruPAmA, is using three tactics to keep the islands’ ecosystems healthy:

First, they are increasing surveillance of the islands, with regular boat patrols and a drone, to deter illegal hunting and tree-cutting.

Second, they are working with the communities on environmental education and livelihood training. The demand for nature tourism has increased in recent years, and GruPAmA is training local people to be nature guides. A small visitors center and an interpretive trail will be built on 550-acre del Zapallo Island.

Finally, GruPAmA will ask the government to declare the area protected and appoint GruPAmA to oversee it. They have already successfully used this strategy to protect an area called Rincón de Franquía.

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