New Endangered Species Refuge Designated in Ghana

The beautiful landscape of Onepone Endangered Species Refuge. Photo courtesy of Herp Conservation Ghana.

On August 21, the Ghanaian government approved the designation of 847 acres — the size of Central Park — as the new Onepone Endangered Species Refuge, safeguarding habitat for numerous threatened species. Rainforest Trust worked closely with its local partner Herp Conservation Ghana to establish this protected area in Ghana’s Togo-Volta Hills near the border with Togo.

“This new refuge is wonderful news for the Critically Endangered Togo Slippery Frog as well as many other threatened and endemic species,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “We are honored to have had such great support from local communities to preserve this biodiverse region, which previously was at risk from deforestation.”

The unique biodiversity of the Togo-Volta region makes it a priority conservation site for endemic plants and animals, including the Critically Endangered Togo Slippery Frog and the Endangered Ukami Reed Frog. Critically Endangered Hooded Vultures, Vulnerable Black-bellied and White-bellied Pangolins and a plethora of endemic butterfly and amphibian species all reside within this forested habitat that is facing increasing pressures from forest degradation and hunting. Demand for timber and charcoal production, conversion to agricultural land and new settlements drive much of the forest loss.

Endangered Ukami Reed Frog. Photo courtesy of Herp Conservation Ghana.

The new refuge was named for the traditional name of the local people, who have been integral in the official designation. Two local communities gave up land for this designation, and Community Management Committees and a Protected Area Management Board will be created. Rangers will be selected from these communities as well. In addition to these benefits, this new protected area will safeguard a forest stream that is currently a major source of clean water for the rural communities. Water-gathering and washing in the stream have negative impacts on wildlife – specifically the amphibian population. This project will improve the community water supply by constructing two solar-powered, underground water wells. Increased access to clean water will have both ecological and social benefits. First, it will reduce human dependence on the forest stream, decreasing frog habitat degradation. Second, these wells will reduce the time it takes women and children to collect water, a notoriously arduous and dangerous task that is often undertaken twice a day for several hours.

This protected area was made possible by donors to this project and to the Conservation Action Fund. All gifts to the Conservation Action Fund are matched through the SAVES Challenge and used 100 percent in support of our conservation activities.


Header Image: Critically Endangered Togo Slippery Frog. Photo courtesy of Herp Conservation Ghana.


Dracula Reserve Expansion: New Protection for Ecuador’s Endangered Orchids

This August, Rainforest Trust helped purchase a 36.7-acre parcel to expand a unique orchid reserve in northwestern Ecuador. The Dracula Reserve was created in 2014 and is part of the global Chocó-Tumbes biodiversity hotspot that is restricted to a narrow swath of land from the Andes to the Pacific along western Colombia and Ecuador.

“With less than 10 percent of Ecuador’s precious Chocó rainforests left standing, Rainforest Trust has focused significant effort on purchasing the most threatened private names to expand and consolidate protected areas in this region of tremendous conservation importance,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman.

“Sadly, fourteen Dracula species have already gone extinct due to deforestation in the region, so every acre we can add to these spectacular orchids’ habitat is vital.”

As its name suggests, this reserve is one of three locations that safeguards approximately 90 percent of the Dracula orchid genus, while also offering protection to other threatened orchids such as the Endangered slipper orchid called Hirtz’s Phragmipedium. While the reserve was founded with an orchid conservation focus, many other types of flora and iconic fauna are also protected by the reserve, including the Critically Endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkey, one of the rarest primates in the world.


Critically Endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkeys. Photo by Michael Moens.


Rainforest Trust is continuing to work with local partner Fundación EcoMinga to expand the Dracula Reserve, with efforts underway to purchase several more properties that will add 1,475 acres, more than doubling its current size to 2,616 acres by 2019. This will help create a corridor of protection that not only connects the different units of the existing Dracula Reserve, but also connects Dracula to the Awa Ethnic and Nature Reserve, spanning 284,986 acres across the Ecuador-Colombian border.

This land purchase was made possible through the support of the Orchid Conservation Alliance and the Conservation Action Fund. All gifts to projects and the Conservation Action Fund are matched through the SAVES Challenge and used 100 percent in support of our conservation activities.


Header Image: Endangered Hirtz’ Phragmipedium. Photo by Luis Baquero and Gabriel Iturralde.


Continued Expansions Protect Ecuadorean Andes, a Global Biodiversity Hotspot

In May, Rainforest Trust helped secure a 133-acre strategic land purchase — an area the size of 100 football fields — to expand the protection of Tapichalaca Reserve. The reserve was first established in 1998 after Rainforest Trust’s President Dr. Robert Ridgely discovered the iconic and Endangered Jocotoco Antpitta nearby.

For twenty years, Rainforest Trust has worked with its longest-standing Ecuadorean partner Fundación Jocotoco to expand a network of nature reserves that are some of the last sanctuaries for many threatened and endemic species in the Ecuadorean Andes.

The Tapichalaca Reserve is Jocotoco’s first reserve (of more than a dozen today) and encompasses spectacular montane forest on Ecuador’s eastern Andes slope, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.

“Strategic land purchases to expand nature reserves is key to Rainforest Trust’s work to protect threatened species into the future,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “We are delighted to work again with Fundación Jocotoco to secure this private property in the Ecuadorean Andes.”

The reserve harbors at least 55 plant species endemic to the slopes of Cerro Tapichalaca, including a Critically Endangered vine. It also protects significant numbers of threatened animal species, ranging from large mammals such as Endangered Mountain Tapirs to the Endangered Black-and-chestnut Eagle. The list of globally threatened species protected by Tapichalaca Reserve will likely grow as a number of species, such as the endemic Tapichalaca Tree Frog (Hylacirtus tapichalaca), have not yet been assigned an IUCN threat category.

The beautiful landscape of Tapichalaca Reserve. Photo courtesy of Jocotoco.

Rainforest Trust will continue to work with Jocotoco to expand this and other reserves throughout Ecuador, a nation that hosts more species per square mile than most others on Earth.

This purchase was made possible by the Conservation Action Fund and supporters of our work in Ecuador. All gifts to the Conservation Action Fund are matched through the SAVES Challenge and are used 100 percent in support conservation action.


Header Image: Endangered Mountain Tapier. Photo courtesy of Martin Schaefer.