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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.
| The endangered Pale-headed Brush-finch
© Fundación Jocotoco
|Little 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.
Marc Ford, Rainforest Trust