In late March 2013, Rainforest Trust partner Jocotoco acquired rights to a 57-acre property adjacent to the Ayampe Reserve. This strategic purchase more than doubles the size of the existing reserve and provides critical protection for the Esmereldas Woodstar, one of the most endangered hummingbirds on the planet.
Not only does the property contain one of the last forest remnants found in the area, but its importance as a nesting site for the Esmereldas Woodstar has also been confirmed: Jocotoco staff members discovered an active nest within its borders in March.
“With this acquisition it’s going to be possible to extend our relationship with the local community of Tunas,” said Carolina Arroyo, a Reserve Director for Jocotoco. “We’ve been working with this community to actively promote conservation and habitat restoration. Through these efforts Jocotoco has strengthened its protection of the Esmereldas Woodstar and the endemic flora and fauna found in the area.”
Little about the thumb-sized Esmereldas Woodstar – which ranks as the second smallest bird in the world – has been known until recently. The very existence of this bright emerald-colored bird was in doubt until 1990, when it was rediscovered in Ecuador’s semi-deciduous coastal forest after a seventy-eight year disappearance.
Unfortunately, not much of what scientists have learned about the current state of this fascinating hummingbird, locally known as the “little star,” is reassuring. It’s estimated that as few as 1,000 individuals remain. There is little doubt that habitat destruction in the form of logging, agricultural expansion, and most recently, development of tourism infrastructure, accounts for such low numbers.
Hope for the Esmereldas Woodstar has come in the form of the Ayampe Reserve, which was created last year with Rainforest Trust support and protects a vital piece of remaining habitat for the hummingbird. Working with local communities, Jocotoco has begun reforestation projects to repair and regrow the lowland forests found along Ecuador’s Pacific Coast in which the hummingbird thrives.
This purchase, made possible with the generous support of Rainforest Trust donors, signals a major step towards permanently protecting the Esermerldas Woodstar. The newly acquired land not only fosters community participation – a key element in determining the reserve’s long-term sustainability – it also builds momentum towards Jocotoco’s eventual goal of establishing a six-hundred-acre reserve, which will protect a core population of the Esmereldas Woodstar.