Ecuadorian Reserve Established to Protect Rare Orchid Species

Warrenton, VA (December 23, 2014) –  Rainforest Trust and its Ecuadorian conservation partner Fundación EcoMinga have announced the creation of a new reserve in Ecuador’s Chocó rainforest that will protect rare, newly-discovered orchids and other endemic wildlife species.

Thanks to the support of Rainforest Trust and the University of Basel Botanical Garden, Fundación EcoMinga has purchased two properties that form the 513-acre Dracula Orchid Reserve. The reserve will protect 5 species of the Dracula orchids.

Named for the sinister face-like appearance of their flowers, Dracula orchids are highly endemic; 90 percent of all species are found at three or fewer localities.

The Chocó rainforest, which lies along the Pacific coast of Ecuador and Colombia, holds the world’s highest amount of orchid diversity, especially of the genus Dracula. Together, Colombia and Ecuador contain about 25 percent of the world’s orchid species.

for web The Dracula Orchid
© Andreas Kay
dracula-landscape Ecuador’s Chocó Rainforest
© Andreas Kay
umbrellabirdLong-wattled Umbrellabird   

“The Chocó region of Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, but it’s also one of the most threatened. Thanks to strategic land acquisitions, the new Dracula Orchid Reserve will provide a much needed refuge for many endangered and endemic species,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.

Nearly a third of orchid species found in Ecuador and Colombia are threatened with extinction due to deforestation. It is believed that 14 Dracula species have already gone extinct for this reason. Orchid species also face threats from commercial collectors that supply Ecuadorian and international markets.

“I’ve never seen so much orchid diversity in such a small area. Each ridge has its own mix of species, many of them just recently discovered. A new road built here threatens this unique area with destruction by colonization, but this reserve will save an important part of it for posterity” said Lou Jost, Director of Fundación EcoMinga.

In addition to orchids, the reserve will also protect habitat for many endemic bird species, including the Long-wattled Umbrellabird.

EcoMinga has already begun the process of negotiating the purchase of additional properties that will expand the Dracula Orchid Reserve and protect new species in both the Dracula and Lepanthes genera which have recently been discovered.

Rainforest Trust would like to extend thanks to all donors and partners that helped raise funds for the Dracula Orchid Reserve, especially Luanne Lemmer and Eric Veach, the University of Basel Botanical Garden and the Quito Orchid Society.

Rainforest Trust is a nonprofit conservation organization focused on saving rainforest and endangered species in partnership with local conservation leaders and indigenous communities. Since its founding in 1988, Rainforest Trust has saved nearly 8 million acres of rainforest and other tropical habitats and has 85 projects across 22 countries.

Fundación EcoMinga is an Ecuadorian nonprofit conservation organization that establishes strategic, science-based reserves to protect unique ecosystems containing important clusters of locally-endemic plants and animals. Its focus is on Andean cloud forests, the bioregion with the greatest amount of endemism. The organization has protected almost 12,000 acres of habitat in eight reserves.

New Purchase Protects Critically Endangered Hummingbird

esmereldaswoodstarforweb Esmeraldas Woodstar 
ayampe-landscape Río Ayampe Reserve 
© Jocotoco
grey-backed-hawk  Grey-Backed Hawk
© Francisco Sornoza

December 18, 2014

Collaborating with Ecuadorian partner Jocotoco, Rainforest Trust has supported the purchase of 65 acres to expand the Río Ayampe Reserve.

Located along Ecuador’s Pacific coast, the Río Ayampe Reserve protects critical habitat for the Esmeraldas Woodstar, one of the world’s rarest and smallest hummingbirds. Total populations of the critically endangered bird, which measures only 2.5” in length, are thought to number between 500 and 1,000.

“I’m thrilled that the endangered Esmeraldas Woodstar – always one of my favorite Ecuador endemics – just got a little safer! Found at only a few localities, this tiny hummingbird is protected only at Fundación Jocotoco’s gradually expanding Río Ayampe Reserve,” said Dr. Robert S. Ridgely, President of Rainforest Trust.

Fundacion Jocotoco established the Río Ayampe Reserve in 2012 with the support of Rainforest Trust and other conservation organizations. The new purchase brings its total size to 161 acres.

“Although Jocotoco has been expanding the reserve when and where possible, this latest 60-acre addition being especially important as it’s so close to the river, where the Woodstar nests,” added Ridgely.

The Esmeraldas Woodstar inhabits semi-deciduous and evergreen rainforest along Ecuador’s Pacific coast from sea level to 2,500 feet in elevation. Ninety-five percent of the lowland forest in western Ecuador, however, has been destroyed and converted into cropland and pastures.

In addition, the areas immediately adjacent to the Río Ayampe Reserve continue to suffer from a combination of threats that include over-grazing by goats and cattle, uncontrolled fires, and the construction of new homes and tourist facilities.

To proactively meet these threats and ensure the survival of the Esmeraldas Woodstar, Jocotoco has developed a collaborative relationship with nearby villages. As a result, local residents have proved firm supporters of the reserve’s creation and subsequent expansions.

Jocotoco plans to enlarge the Ayampe Reserve to 700 acres. Once complete, the reserve will stretch for ten kilometers, from the mouth of the Ayampe River to Machalilla National Park.

Other endangered bird species in the area that benefit from the reserve include the Grey-backed Hawk, the Ochre-bellied Dove, the Blackish-headed Spinetail, and the Slaty Becard. The region is also known for its high diversity of rare and endemic plants, and is one of the most important areas for endemic butterflies in Ecuador.

Purchase Conserves Habitat for Atlantic Rainforest Wildlife

14319029908_9f835958ed_z The REGUA reserve now protects over 20,000 acres 
15764433691_7f390a4b1f_z 455 bird species are found in the reserve 
Paula B. Chaves - CopyWoolly Spider Monkeys   
© Paula B. Chaves

December 11, 2014

Rainforest Trust has collaborated with Brazilian partner REGUA to successfully purchase 593 acres, expanding the size of the Atlantic Rainforest reserve to over 20,000 acres.

The new properties will provide much needed protection for rare and endangered wildlife species that have lost much of their habitat due to logging and farmland expansion.

With 93 percent of the Atlantic Rainforest already destroyed, the once-massive forest is now one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems. As a consequence, many species have suffered devastating declines during the last 50 years. Remaining animals rely increasingly on protected areas like REGUA to serve as last refuges.

“Since its establishment in 2001, REGUA has demonstrated a phenomenal commitment to saving the Atlantic Rainforest and its endangered species,” said Christine Hodgdon, International Conservation Manager for Rainforest Trust. “This purchase provides additional protection for the reserve’s many rare species and is an important step forward in REGUA’s mission to protect the Atlantic Rainforest.”

New scientific studies continue to increase the number of species found in the REGUA reserve. At present, the reserve is known to contain 455 bird species, 103 orchid species, 42 reptile species, and 47 amphibian species. The reserve is also home to 80 mammal species, including Ocelots, Pumas and Woolly Spider Monkeys.

In addition to protecting intact portions of the Atlantic Forest, REGUA also restores land damaged by over-grazing and poor use. To do so, REGUA has established a successful reforestation program. The organization has now planted over 280,000 trees.

The reserve, which is located in the Guapiaçu Valley, only 40 miles from Rio de Janeiro, is facing increased threats from land developers. As the valley has become an attractive retreat for the city’s wealthy inhabitants, the construction of vacation homes has begun to pose serious challenges to the valley’s ecological integrity.

The seven properties acquired with Rainforest Trust’s support were identified last year as part of a detailed land study. The study, which mapped forest cover and property lines throughout the entire 186-square-mile Guapiaçu Valley, identified important objectives in REGUA’s future conservation plan.

At present, REGUA is negotiating the purchase of an additional 14 properties, containing nearly 1,000 acres, that will continue to expand the reserve.


Expanded Protection for Brazilian Rainforest

_LCM5966 370 bird species have been identified in Serra Bonita. 
© Luis Claudio Marigo
_LCM8641-(1) Yellow-Breasted Capuchins are found in the reserve. 
© Luis Claudio Marigo
_LCM2937The reserve now protects more than 6,700 acres of rainforest.  
© Luis Claudio Marigo

December 4, 2014

Rainforest Trust supported its Brazilian conservation partner Instituto Uiraçu in the purchase of six properties that have expanded the Serra Bonita Reserve by 986 acres. The acquisition of these properties enlarges the reserve to more than 6,700 acres.

Located in the Brazilian state of Bahia, the reserve protects one of the last intact remnants of the Atlantic Rainforest, an ecosystem rivaling the Amazon Basin in biodiversity. Some of the region’s most endangered species are protected within the Serra Bonita Reserve, which is the second largest private reserve in the Atlantic Forest Biodiversity Corridor.

“At Serra Bonita we’ve counted 370 species of birds, 120 species of orchids, and over 70 species of frogs, some of them new to science,” said Dr. Vitor Becker, Director of Research at Instituto Uiraçu.

Despite its spectacular biodiversity, the Atlantic Rainforest is now considered one of the world’s most threatened biomes. During the last 50 years, 93% of its rainforest has been cleared. The consequences of such destruction have been devastating for many species. Primates like the Yellow-breasted Capuchin have experienced population declines in the range of 80% since 1965.

“As the Atlantic Rainforest continues to disappear, the importance of the Serra Bonita Reserve has steadily grown,” said Christine Hodgdon, International Conservation Manger for Rainforest Trust. “This important expansion will prove beneficial for all of the reserve’s species, especially for Pumas and other large mammals that have large home ranges and need sizable tracts of habitat to survive.”

The reserve protects habitat for five endangered primates, including the Yellow-breasted Capuchin and the Northern Brown Howler Monkey. The entire Northern Brown Howler population now totals less than 250 mature individuals and, without adequate protection, the species will likely face extinction.

The area is also extraordinarily rich in avian diversity and is home to 59 bird species found only in the Atlantic Rainforest, nine of which are threatened. In recognition of this fact, BirdLife has designated the Serra Bonita Reserve as an Important Bird Area (IBA).

These purchases were made possible by the generous support of Luanne Lemmer and Eric Veach, The Orchid Conservation Alliance, Edith McBean, Leslie Santos and Brett Byers, as well as and The Rainforest Site.

Marchers Demand Protection for Guatemalan Rainforest

resizeFUNDAECO2 Marchers demand that the Sierra Santa Cruz be protected. 
resizeDave-Johnson-bannerEndangered Black Howlers are found in the Sierra Santa Cruz.
© Dave Johnson
resizeFUNDAECO1Members of 11 communities participated in the march.  

December 3, 2014

On November 22, local residents and representatives of community organizations in Guatemala’s Sierra Santa Cruz Mountain Range staged a 25-mile march to bring attention to threats facing the area and demand its legal protection. Over 200 people, representing 11 communities, participated in the march.

Located near Guatemala’s Caribbean Coast, the Sierra Santa Cruz Mountain Range is situated in one of Central America’s most biodiverse areas. However, the range is increasingly threatened by expanding cattle ranches and oil palm plantations.

Marchers view the protection of the Sierra Santa Cruz as a critically important issue with wide ranging impacts on their daily lives. The range, which is the last forested mountain range in the Guatemalan state of Izabal, holds critical watersheds that provide water for surrounding villages. Local communities also recognize the degree to which the intact forest positively impacts their livelihoods and see its protection as key to maintaining and improving their quality of life.

To help protect the Sierra Santa Cruz, Rainforest Trust is working with Guatemalan partner FUNDAECO to create a 142,646-acre reserve. The reserve will conserve habitat for Jaguars, Baird’s Tapir and other endangered wildlife species fighting for survival.

“This important effort among local communities, organizations, and conservationists will help avoid the rapid degradation of their resources and livelihoods,” said Marco Cerezo, Director of FUNDAECO (Foundation for Eco Development and Conservation). “It will also support the fight against poverty and the protection of forests and biodiversity in Guatemala, a region that is a vital link in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor”

Although comprising only a fraction of Guatemala, the biologically rich mountains and coastal plains surrounding its Caribbean coast contain nearly half the country’s total species. Creating a protected area in the Sierra Santa Cruz will fill an important conservation gap in the Guatemala’s Caribbean Rainforest Corridor, which is a crucial link in the larger Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.

“Local communities have demonstrated a phenomenal commitment and desire to protect the Sierra Santa Cruz,” said Christine Hodgdon, International Conservation Manager for Rainforest Trust. “We are excited to play a role in helping these communities protect the wildlife and resources that are so valuable to them.”

A declaration by Guatemala’s National Congress to designate the Sierra Santa Cruz as a National Protected Area will ensure key protection and management activities within the reserve, including protection and surveillance of core areas; participatory landscape planning for the sustainable development of communities; and outreach activities like environmental education and sustainable agro forestry in participating communities.

Organizers are planning a second march in the future.

To learn more and help protect the Sierra Santa Cruz, visit our project page.