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Western Ecuador 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 northwestern Ecuador. The habitat in the new proposed protected area consists of primary and secondary forests which are some of the best remaining semi-humid forests in western Ecuador. There are extremely high levels of species diversity and endemism in this region, and the new proposed protected area will safeguard threatened species such as the Critically Endangered Ecuadorian White-fronted Capuchin and the last wild population of the Endangered Great Green Macaw.
Rainforest Trust and local partner Fundación Jocotoco seek $310,734 to purchase and protect 209 acres of forest to create the new Las Balsas Reserve. The site will safeguard vital populations of numerous threatened species, including the Endangered Lilacine Amazon, a bright green, red and blue parrot. To protect the largest population of this beautiful bird, Rainforest Trust will purchase land containing their threatened roosting sites. The local partner will use radio-tracking to identify key unprotected foraging and nesting strongholds while working with the local community to identify low-impact land use methods. Fundación Jocotoco will also launch a campaign against the illegal parrot trade in coordination with the country’s Ministry of Environment.
Chocó-Tumbes Magdalena, Ecuador
Price per Acre:
Key Species (Based on IUCN Red List):
Ecuadorian White-fronted Capuchin (CR), Great Green Macaw (EN), Lilacine Amazon (EN)
Fundación de Conservación Jocotoco
The Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena biodiversity hotspot hosts a variety of ecosystems in a relatively small area. This combination of variables leads to exceptionally high species diversity and endemism levels.
The area is home to 424 bird species, 18 amphibian species, 18 reptile species and 14 mammal species. Deforestation, both historic and ongoing, threatens all endemic species found within this hotspot with extinction. But the area still harbors the southernmost Jaguar population on Ecuador's west Andean slope, one of the last wild Great Green Macaw populations and a healthy population of Critically Endangered Ecuadorian Capuchins. According to Rainforest Trust President Dr. Robert Ridgely, this area may also still harbor the last population of the Vulnerable Great Curassow in the country. The largest population of the Endangered Lilacine Amazon, unprotected and endemic to western Ecuador, also calls the proposed protected area home.
Habitat destruction and poaching are the main threats to the Lilacine Amazon. Habitat loss threatens their roosting and foraging sites and hunters seek out the parrot for both subsistence and the pet trade.
The Lilacine Amazon's roosting sites are under immense pressure from deforestation due to the increased need for charcoal and agricultural production in the area. Being located on flat, accessible areas along the river, these roosts are likely to disappear soon without protection. As far as the pet trade goes, as of 2018, a farmer around Isla de Corazon had sold 20 Lilacine Amazons out of a total population of approximately 100. This trade could decimate the population if allowed to continue. The Government of Ecuador has implemented a conservation incentive program, "Socio Bosque," where they make payments to local communities for protecting and managing forests. But these payments have been delayed. Continued payment delays, or the potential cancellation of payments, could result in community abandonment of forest protection and a return to habitat deforestation for agriculture.
The Las Balsas community consists of approximately 400 people, mostly living in a single village. Their main income stems from agriculture in the river valley, including corn plantations and cattle pastures.
The community has a verified interest in conservation and has placed about 24,710 acres in the Ecuadorean Socio Bosque program, where individual landowners and communities receive $7-9 per hectare a year for land committed to conservation for 20 years. Employment is also scarce, as 50% of the original population has migrated from Las Balsas to neighboring cities. Emigration peaks are often caused by severe El Niño events, as floods destroy products from local subsistence farming, requiring people to leave the area. The local partner will work with the regional and national Ministry of Environment, which has previously worked in this region, as well as with two other conservation organizations to monitor and reintroduce wildlife.
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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