El Ávila National Park is located along the central stretch of the Cordillera de la Costa Mountains in northern Venezuela. El Ávila was declared a park in 1958, fulfilling an interest in its protection that had been prevalent since the 19th century. With its creation came the protection of the forested mountains that surround Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. These mountains now serve as both a recreational area and as a buffer to pollution and urban expansion. El Ávila has always been an important resource for the inhabitants of Caracas, who have used the area for a variety of activities, some of which have threatened its conservation. A hotel and a cable car, which climbs to the highest point at 2,135 m above sea level and drops down the other side to the city of Macuto, were opened in 1956. After being out of service for 20 years, this cable car was reopened in February of this year. It now carries such a large number of people into the park that they could well become a threat to its conservation if not properly regulated.
This park has a high diversity of fauna and flora. More than 100 butterfly species, approximately 120 mammal species, 20 amphibians, 30 reptiles and 500 bird species (36% of Venezuela avifauna) have been documented. Nine bird species are endemic to Venezuela and three threatened bird species live in this park. In addition, more than 1,800 plant species from diverse taxonomic groups can be observed. Several of these plants are endemic to the Cordillera de la Costa mountain range with some endemic to the park itself.
El Ávila can be classified as vulnerable because there is a risk that the diverse threats it faces will increasingly erode its biodiversity, unless in the near future constant monitoring occurs. The most immediate threats to the park, forest fires and illegal settlements, are located primarily near Caracas. However, the concentration of resources and vigilance in those areas closest to the city has resulted in more problems in the more isolated northern slope and eastern sector of El Ávila. These areas suffer from a lack of signs, infrastructure and vigilance. Other threats include the presence of exotic plants, the cable car and poaching.