Land Purchase Campaign to Save Ecuadorian Cloud Forest
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Endangered Hirtz' Phragmipedium. Photo by Luis Baquero and Gabriel Iturralde.
The Chocó cloud forest in northwestern Ecuador is home to numerous species with restricted ranges, including an Endangered slipper orchid called Hirtz’ Phragmipedium, which is not known to occur in any other protected area besides Dracula Reserve. Rainforest Trust’s partner Fundación EcoMinga has been partnering with orchid botanists to identify key areas for the protection of orchids and other plants such as Anulque Arrowroot and Croat’s Dracontium. While the reserve was founded with an orchid conservation focus, the goals have been broadened to include the facilitation of habitat connectivity among the units that comprise Dracula Reserve, benefiting species such as the Critically Endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkey and Endangered Black-and-chestnut Eagle.
Rainforest Trust and Fundación EcoMinga seek $582,186 to expand Dracula Reserve by 1,475 acres, more than doubling its current size. This will help create a corridor that will ultimately connect the different units of the existing Dracula Reserve to the Awa Reserve. The total size of Dracula Reserve following the acquisition will be 2,616 acres.
Endangered Black-and-chestnut Eagle. Photo by Roger Ahlman.
The Hirtz’ Phragmipedium is an Endangered slipper orchid and is not known to occur in any other protected area besides Dracula Reserve. The orchid’s distribution is highly localized within Ecuador and Colombia, where it is associated with wet areas that are at least partially shaded. The reserve supports Anulque Arrowroot and Croat’s Dracontium in addition to several other plants with limited ranges, which have not yet been evaluated by the IUCN, such as Carapa amorphocarpa, which has so far been found only within Dracula Reserve.
The reserve is also home to the Critically Endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkey, which is one of the rarest primates in the world. Endangered Black-and-chestnut Eagles are sometimes found at the reserve, which is a rare occurrence as it is believed that fewer than 200 mature birds exist in Ecuador. Mammals such as the Spectacled Bear, Puma, Jaguarundi and Ocelot are also found on site and will greatly benefit from a system of connected conservation areas that facilitate movement.
The Choco needs protection to limit the detrimental collection of orchids. Photo by Andrew Kay.
The greatest challenge to conservation work in the region is the construction of new roads, as this can lead to deforestation and loss of habitat connectivity. Other threats in the area include commercial orchid collection and timber extraction.
EcoMinga is exploring ways community members can become involved in the conservation of the reserve. Photo by EcoMinga.
People do not live inside any of the units that compose Dracula Reserve, though indigenous groups inhabit the neighboring Awa Reserve. The local community outside of Awa Reserve is not indigenous and primarily engages in agricultural activities. Some have expressed interest in ecotourism, and Fundación EcoMinga is exploring economic opportunities with the community such as providing bird guide trainings.
EcoMinga will provide the new reserve with secure protection. Photo by Andreas Kay.
Rainforest Trust and Fundación EcoMinga are working to expand Dracula Reserve by 1,475 acres, more than doubling its current size to protect a total of 2,616 acres. This will help create a corridor that will ultimately connect the different units of the existing Dracula Reserve to the Awa Reserve. Linking the different reserve units that make up the Dracula Reserve mosaic is critical, as many of the species in the area are endemic and have very restricted ranges.