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Western Ecuador is part of the global Choco-Tumbes biodiversity hotspot that is restricted to a narrow swath of land from the Andes to the Pacific along western Colombia and northwestern Ecuador. As a result, the cloud forests of northwestern Ecuador are home to numerous species with restricted ranges, including an Endangered slipper orchid called Hirtz’ Phragmipedium. This orchid is known to be protected only in the Dracula Reserve, which Rainforest Trust helped establish in 2014. Our local partner Fundación EcoMinga has been working with orchid botanists to identify additional key areas for the protection of orchids and other plants such as the Endangered Anulque Arrowroot and Croat’s Dracontium. While the reserve was founded with an orchid conservation focus, the goals have been broadened to include building habitat connectivity among the units that comprise the Dracula Reserve, benefiting additional 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 the Dracula Reserve by 1,475 acres, more than doubling its current size to 2,616 acres. 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.
Carchi Province, Ecuador
Key Species (Based on IUCN Red List):
Brown-headed Spider Monkey (CR), Black-and-chestnut Eagle (EN), Hirtz’ Phragmipedium (orchid, EN), Anulque Arrowroot (Calathea anulque -EN), Croat’s Dracontium (plant, Dracontium croatii – EN)
Road construction, commercial orchid collection, timber extraction
Expand Dracula Reserve
Cost Per Acre:
The Hirtz’ Phragmipedium is an Endangered slipper orchid not known to occur in any other protected area besides the Dracula Reserve.
The orchid’s distribution is highly localized within Ecuador and Colombia where it is associated with wet, partially shaded areas. The reserve supports Anulque Arrowroot and Croat’s Dracontium, in addition to several other plants with limited ranges that have not yet been evaluated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), such as the tree Carapa amorphocarpa, so far only found within Dracula Reserve. The reserve is also home to the Critically Endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkey, one of the rarest primates in the world. Endangered Black-and-chestnut Eagles are sometimes found at the reserve, exciting news 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.
The greatest challenge to conservation work in the region is the construction of new roads, as this can open the way for deforestation and loss of habitat connectivity. Other threats in the area include commercial orchid collection and timber extraction.
People do not live inside any of the units that compose the Dracula Reserve, though indigenous groups inhabit the neighboring Awa Reserve.
The local community outside of the reserve is not indigenous and primarily engages in agricultural activities. Some have expressed interest in ecotourism, and our local partner is exploring economic opportunities with the community such as providing bird guide trainings.
Thanks to the generous support of our Board members and other supporters who cover all of our operating expenses, Rainforest Trust is able to allocate 100% of donations to conservation action. No board member receives financial benefit and our staff salaries are modest.
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