Ecuador

Saving the El Oro Parakeet

Project Cost: $434,421

Funding Raised: $434,421

$930.24 per acre (1 acre = 43,560 sq ft)

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Located in southwestern Ecuador, the Buenaventura Reserve is home to five endangered bird species, including the El Oro Parakeet and El Oro Tapaculo, both endemic. The two latter species are so rare and occupy such small ranges that their future survival depends entirely upon the reserve and its ability to provide sufficient habitat protection.

Areas surrounding the reserve, which hold the potential for expansion and reforestation, are also highly prized as pasturelands. With 95% of western Ecuador’s forest already lost, these areas hold tremendous value for conservation. Their protection may be the last best hope for ensuring the survival of various endangered species in the mountains of Ecuador’s El Oro Province.

With Rainforest Trust’s support, Ecuadorian conservation partner Fundación Jocotoco plans to purchase a 467-acre property in addition to 944 acres that has already been acquired to expand the boundaries of the Buenaventura Reserve. This area is critical to maintain and restore connectivity and gene flow among populations of El Oro Parakeets and other threatened montane species. It will also provide these species with more higher-altitude habitat, an issue that is becoming increasingly important as climate change (in this area mainly increased evapotranspiration) forces them ever higher.
 

Fast Facts

Location:
El Oro Province, Southwestern Ecuador

Size:
467 acres

Key Species:
El Oro Parakeet (EN), El Oro Tapaculo (EN), Ecuadorian White-fronted Capuchin (CR)

Habitat:
Cloud forest

Threats:
Imminent deforestation for pastureland, climate change

Action:
Expand the Buenaventura Reserve

Local Partner:
Fundación Jocotoco

Financial Need:
$434,421

Price Per Acre:
$930.24

Biodiversity

The reserve is home to an incredible diversity of rare and endemic species. This includes five endangered bird species from an overall avifauna of some 300 species, and 41 reptiles and amphibians, a third of them endemic. The reserve also harbors a critically endangered Ecuadorian subspecies of the White-fronted Capuchin monkey. Two orchid species and one frog species are known only from the reserve.

Buenaventura Reserve holds the only protected populations of the endangered El Oro Parakeet and El Oro Tapaculo. Approximately 250 El Oro Parakeets, half of the global population, reside in Buenaventura Reserve, with the remainder in scattered much smaller and perhaps not viable populations. The reserve is also home to an even rarer bird, the El Oro Tapaculo. Like the parakeet discovered in 1985 in what would eventually become the reserve, the El Oro Tapaculo is no longer known to occur anywhere else in the world. Only several dozen pairs remain.

Challenges

Habitat loss is driving species extinction throughout western Ecuador and the area surrounding Buenaventura is no exception. Forest patches in areas around the reserve are severely threatened by logging as nearby cattle ranches continue to grow. Increased fragmentation of natural areas has led to the extreme isolation of bird and mammal populations. This limits gene flow and intensifies the risk of species loss.

Climate change also poses a growing threat to species in the region. Cloud cover has diminished in recent years as more severe and protracted dry and sunny periods have set in. These changes have affected species distribution. The El Oro Parakeet, like other bird species, appears to be moving upward in search of wetter conditions. These climatic shifts make the purchase of higher-altitude parcels more important than ever.

Communities

The Buenaventura Reserve is surrounded by five communities with a total population of approximately 3,000 people. Although the economies of these communities are based primarily on agriculture and ranching, they have developed productive partnerships with Fundación Jocotoco.

Residents are proud to be part of conservation efforts and play a direct role in promoting ecotourism efforts by working both as park guards and as reforestation agents, planting trees. Fundación Jocotoco is also working to develop a new generation of conservation leaders by engaging local children through classroom environmental education efforts, with a new “Hummingbird Garden” in the final planning stages.

Solutions

Rainforest Trust is partnering with Fundación Jocotoco to purchase two critically important parcels that will be added to the northern half of the Buenaventura Reserve. Covering 1,443 acres, the two properties will protect the last high-altitudinal forests with populations of the El Oro Parakeet and the El Oro Tapaculo. They also will provide the foundation with its last significant opportunity to reforest areas presently in pasture.

This expansion will build upon Fundación Jocotoco’s successful program that has resulted in the El Oro Parakeet’s population rebounding by over 33% in the last 15 years. Once incorporated into the reserve, these parcels will be actively protected and patrolled by Fundación Jocotoco’s experienced forest guards, and reforestation of the cleared areas can begin. After considerable study, Fundación Jocotoco’s staff and board have concluded that, out of all their system of reserves, Buenaventura now is the one with species most at risk of extinction. Adding the two properties they have identified to Buenaventura will go a very long way toward reducing that risk.