News Release: Ecuadorian Reserve Expanded to Protect Last Population of Bird Species


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(Warrenton, VA., January 29, 2015) Fundación Jocotoco, an Ecuadorian conservation organization, has collaborated with Rainforest Trust and American Bird Conservancy to purchase 104 acres of land that will help ensure a future for one of the world’s most endangered bird species.

The purchase will expand Jocotoco’s Yunguilla Reserve in southern Ecuador’s Azuay Province, which was established in 1998 to protect critical habitat for the endangered Pale-headed Brush-finch. This bird numbers between 200 and 250 individuals and is found only in south-central Ecuador in arid areas between 5,250 and 6,890 feet in altitude.

Atlapetes-pallidiceps.-Aldo-Sornoza-IMG_3344 The endangered Pale-headed Brush-finch 
© Fundación Jocotoco
Little woodstar Brendan RyanLittle Woodstar Hummingbird in the reserve 
© Brendan Ryan

After a 30-year disappearance, the species was rediscovered in 1998 in Ecuador’s Yunguilla Valley. At that time, the brush-finch’s total population was estimated at 30 individuals. To prevent its extinction, Jocotoco took immediate action to create the Yunguilla Reserve.

The Yunguilla Valley is intensely cultivated wherever water is available, and much of the existing vegetation has been removed by grazing animals. Most of the brush-finch’s remaining habitat, which is approximately half a square mile in size, is protected within the reserve.

Because of intense conservation and management efforts, the reserve has successfully helped the Pale-headed Brush-finch rebound. Its population has increased significantly, and it is one of the few species in the world that has recovered from being critically endangered.

Although the Yunguilla Reserve has been expanded several times since its creation, its size—380 acres before the recent purchase—offered limited carrying capacity for the Pale-headed Brush-finch.
Being restricted to a single site has left the Pale-headed Brush-finch vulnerable to external threats. Three large fires, spreading from neighboring agricultural land, have negatively impacted the survival and the reproduction rates of the species.

The recent purchase will create a new satellite protected area two miles from the present Yunguilla Reserve. Because the two areas are separated by a mountain ridge, the risks of fire affecting both sites at the same time will be greatly reduced. The sites are also connected by a water channel which will encourage the dispersal of brush-finches between them.

“Jocotoco’s effort to save the Pale-headed Brush-finch is a wonderful example of how successful wildlife conservation can be achieved with expert knowledge and dedication,” said Christine Hodgdon, International Conservation Manager for Rainforest Trust. “Rainforest Trust is excited to continue supporting this invaluable project as it continues to expand and develop.”

The Yunguilla Valley is one of many threatened habitats in the coastal dry forests of western Ecuador and northwestern Peru. The region is of high biological importance, containing at least 84 endemic species of birds, 19 of which are threatened with extinction.

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.

Media Contact:
Marc Ford, Rainforest Trust


2014 Victories Provide New Protection for Rare and Threatened Wildlife

January 29, 2015

Thanks to the active participation and generosity of its supporters, Rainforest Trust saved thousands of acres of critical habitat in a series of landmark victories for wildlife in 2014.

In Colombia, Rainforest Trust teamed up with conservation partner ProAves to create a new 1,850-acre reserve in the remote Serranía de Perijá mountain range that offers protection for endemic bird species like the Perijá Thistletail, Perijá Metaltail and Perijá Brush-finch in one of Colombia’s most threatened ecosystems. This conservation victory not only conserves habitat for endangered species but also saves the last remnants of a vanishing cloud forest that shelters newly discovered plant species. In addition, it safeguards a critical source of drinking water for nearby communities.

Guatamala’s Sierra Caral Amphibian Reserve, established with Rainforest Trust’s support in 2012, grew by 41,000 acres this year and was designated a national park by the Guatemalan National Congress. This lasting achievement occurred, in large part, as a result of the efforts of Rainforest Trust’s Guatemalan partner FUNDAECO. The new designation offers increased protection for a dozen globally threatened amphibians in one of Guatemala’s most biodiverse landscapes.

Colombia’s Chocó Rainforest, legendary for its biological richness, received increased protection when Rainforest Trust supported ProAves in the purchase of 1,772 acres to expand the Las Tangaras Reserve. Located near Colombia’s Pacific Coast, the reserve is a stronghold for rare bird species like the Gold- ringed Tanager, Black-and-gold Tanager, and the Chocó Vireo. This major expansion provides hope for many of the Chocó Rainforest’s endemic species.

The Chocó Rainforest received further protection when Rainforest Trust collaborated with Ecuadorian partner Jocotoco to enlarge the Rio Canandé Reserve by 1,222 acres. Like the Las Tangaras Reserve, Rio Canandé hosts an incredible diversity of animal species. Among its most threatened wildlife are its Great Green Macaws and Brown-headed Spider Monkeys.

In Borneo, Rainforest Trust worked with a conservation partner to purchase over 20 properties of rainforest that will serve as a critical wildlife corridor connecting protected areas. The purchase will provide safe passage for Orangutans and Pygmy Elephants along the Kinabatangan River.

Finally, Rainforest Trust supported Brazilian partner REGUA in the purchase of 449 acres to continue expansion of its Atlantic Rainforest Reserve. The purchase will help conserve one of South America’s most threatened forests and will provide refuge for Woolly Spider Monkeys and Red-billed Curassows.

Rainforest Trust Partners with Aqua-Firma to Protect Wildlife


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January 26, 2015

Rainforest Trust is partnering with the travel company Aqua-Firma to protect critical wildlife habitat in South America and Africa.

Aqua-Firma has donated a total of $10,000 in matching donations to support two Rainforest Trust’s projects that will protect Indri Lemurs in Madagascar and save Amazon Rainforest in Peru. The donations will protect a total of 11,020 acres.

Known for its commitment to exploration and conservation, Aqua-Firma offers responsible wilderness trips to locations offering dramatic encounters with wildlife and the natural world.

“I find it impossible not to be inspired by the ambition and detailed planning of the Rainforest Trust. They select a combination of the most critically endangered tropical ecosystems, species and people to protect; and with their Sierra del Divisor project in the Peruvian Amazon, they plan to do so across a vast area,” said Ralph Pannell, Director of Aqua-Firma.

aquasquare Aqua-Firma specializes in eco-friendly wilderness travel 
1280px-Springtamarin - Copy Sierra del Divisor widlife: Goeldi’s Monkey
© Wikipedia

“Aqua-Firma is proud to offer its financial support to this project and we urge everyone to do so. More people will benefit from their efforts than will ever know what has been achieved,” Panell added.

The travel company consults with environmental scientists, conservationists and leading naturalist guides to create extraordinary eco-friendly travel experiences for its clients.

“Rainforest Trust is proud to partner with Aqua-Firma as they not only provide outstanding nature tours to protected areas worldwide, but they go a critical step further in providing financial support to enable more of our spectacular planet to be protected,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “We congratulate the passion and commitment for conservation by Aqua-Firma Worldwide and are delighted that they will also plan to visit our new protected areas in the future.”

In August 2016, Aqua-Firma will be arranging a “Rainforest Wildlife & Marine Life Journey” to Madagascar, which will include a visit to the Mangabe Reserve that Rainforest Trust is currently helping to establish.

The trip will provide visitors a chance to visit one of Rainforest Trust’s projects and also include opportunities to view Indris, Golden Mantella Frogs and other the wildlife protected in the reserve. This is an opportunity to help local communities establish a foundation for sustainable ecotourism. To learn more, contact Ralph Panell at or call 857-250-0680.

Study Highlights Importance of Rainforest Trust Project Site


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January 20, 2015

A rapid biological inventory conducted in the Peruvian Amazon by the Chicago Field Museum resulted in the discovery of eleven species potentially new to science confirming the region’s biological importance.

The purpose of the study, which took place in the Tapiche-Blanco watershed of Peru’s Loreto Department, was to create a detailed inventory – for the first time – of the flora and fauna found within the proposed White Sands National Reserve.

The creation of the 740,000-acre White Sands National Reserve is part of a major conservation project by the Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon (CEDIA) with Rainforest Trust’s support. Upon establishment, the reserve will consolidate a 10-million-acre wildlife corridor by connecting the Sierra del Divisor Reserved Zone to the Matsés Reserve.

The proposed reserve contains large expanses of wetlands, peatland forests, white-sand forests, and hyperdiverse upland forests. Recent imagery has also demonstrated that the area possesses the largest above ground carbon stocks in Peru.

Despite a history of unregulated logging, hunting, and fishing, forests in the Tapiche-Blanco watershed remain intact with high conservation value. The watershed is considered a conservation priority not only by Peru’s park system (SERNANP) but also national and regional governments.

The region hosts a diverse primate community 
© Aaron Martin
IMG_2936 - CopyThe project site maintains a high conservation value  
© Rainforest Trust

The region is located within the global epicenter of biological diversity, a fact reflected in the study’s results. Its findings confirm the presence of:

• 55 mammals, including a diverse primate community of 13 species. It is estimated that 204 species inhabit the region.

• 151 species of fish, including four species potentially new to science. It is estimated that 400 different species – accounting for 40% of Peru’s total fish species – live in the region.

• 64 amphibian and 48 reptile species, including four frog species that may be new to science. It is estimated that the region has a herpetofauna containing at least 124 amphibians and 100 reptiles.

• 394 bird species. Regional avifauna is believed to include a total of 550 species.

• 1,000 plant species, including three palm species potentially new to science. It is believed that the regional flora includes 2,500–3,000 vascular plants.

In total, the area provides habitat for eleven threatened species, including nine mammals and two reptiles.

“This study is of great benefit for our protection efforts. We now have a wealth of evidence about the biological importance of the region and can make an even stronger case as to the merits of its conservation,” said Christine Hodgdon, International Conservation Manager for Rainforest Trust. “At the same time, the extent of what we stand to lose and the urgent necessity of preserving it has never been clearer.”

The results of the recent survey have already been presented to local authorities and inhabitants. It will also be offered to regional and national policy-makers.

Despite its impressive biodiversity, the Tapiche-Blanco area remains vulnerable to destruction by extractive industries. In addition to logging, the area is threatened by road building and oil drilling. By supporting the creation of the White Sands National Reserve, Rainforest Trust is helping to prevent destruction of the unique and fragile ecosystems found in the Tapiche-Blanco watershed.

Since 1999, The Chicago Field Museum has coordinated rapid biological inventories in close partnership with host country organizations. The goal of these surveys, which usually last a month, is to identify important biological communities in the region of interest and determine whether these communities are of outstanding significance in a global context.

Learn more about Rainforest Trust’s project to protect the Tapiche-Blanco watershed.

Sightings Confirm Importance of Ecuadorian Reserve


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January 5, 2015

Ecuador’s Narupa Reserve has been the site of several important bird sightings that underline the reserve’s effectiveness in protecting wildlife.

Within the space of several weeks two Harpy Eagles and a large flock of threatened Military Macaws were spotted in the reserve.

The Harpy Eagles, an adult and juvenile, were observed by forest guard Mario Pilataxi deep inside the reserve at an elevation of approximately 4,000 feet.

Harpy Eagle Brian Gratwicke Harpy Eagle
© Brian Gratwicke/Flickr
2008_0314FEBREROYMARZO0063 Narupa Reserve
© Jocotoco
Military MacawMilitary Macaw   
© Beth Hoffman/Flickr 

“It’s almost unheard of for the Harpy to be recorded at so high an elevation, and the fact that two individuals – including a young bird – seems to indicate that an eyrie [nest] of this spectacular eagle, the largest in the world, can’t be too far away,” said Dr. Robert S. Ridgely, President of Rainforest Trust.

Harpy Eagles inhabit the highest reaches of rainforest canopies, typically at elevations of 3,000 feet and lower. The Harpy Eagle is the largest and most powerful raptor found in the Americas, and among the largest living Eagle species in the world.

Destruction of tropical forests, however, has caused a decline in Harpy Eagle populations and the species is now almost extinct in Central America.

The Narupa Reserve, located in Ecuador’s Napo Province, protects 1,871 acres of rainforest in the foothills of the Eastern Andes. Narupa is the confirmed home to over over 300 bird species.

Several weeks before his encounter with the Harpy Eagles, Pilataxi made another important sighting when he observed a flock of 21 Military Macaws in the reserve.
The sighting, which was only the second of Military Macaws to take place in the protected area, suggests that the reserve may be home to a growing flock.

Numbering less than 10,000 globally, Military Macaws are now a threatened species. The population and distribution of these Macaws has decreased significantly over the last fifty years, primarily due to deforestation and the illegal pet trade. Military Macaws form large flocks and can live more than 50 years.

Ridgely believes that a nest may exist within the reserve and reports that Pilataxi has plans to search for it in the near future.

In addition to Military Macaws, four other globally threatened species have been recorded in the Narupa Reserve. This includes its flagship species, the Cerulean Warbler, a long-distance migrant that breeds in eastern North America and spends the winter in northwestern South America.

Several large mammals of note have also been detected in the reserve. Camera traps have confirmed the presences of Pumas, Ocelots, and Brazilian Tapirs.