| El Oro Tapaculo © Claudia Hermes
| Forest near discovery site © Claudia Hermes
| Reintroduced Capuchin monkeys were also spotted recently in the reserve © Michael Bauer
Researchers from the University of Freiburg announced May 6 that they have found the largest population of El Oro Tapaculos known to date. The discovery of approximately 20 pairs occurred in southwest Ecuador on land recently purchased to expand Fundación Jocotoco’s Buenaventura Reserve.
The expansion, which significantly increases protection of the species, was completed with Rainforest Trust’s support in 2013.
“The density of the El Oro Tapaculo population in the newly purchased area is much higher than in any other part of Buenaventura Reserve. That means it is much higher than in any other part of the world studied,” said Dr. Martin Schaefer, senior scientist at the University of Freiburg, supervisor of the El Oro Tapaculo Project, and president of Fundación Jocotoco.
Little is known of the endangered El Oro Tapaculo. Field observation is made difficult due to the fact the bird is found only in the densest cloud forests, and its population size and ecology remain mysteries.
Without a confirmed sighting in recent years, scientists feared that the El Oro Tapaculo might have gone extinct.
“This discovery is not only great news for an endangered bird species, but also confirmation that Buenaventura is one of the most important reserves for avifauna in Ecuador,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.
The Buenaventura Reserve was created in 1999 to protect habitat for the El Oro Parakeet. Since its creation, the reserve has steadily grown in size and now totals 4,600 acres. Rainforest Trust has aided in the purchase of 4,025 acres during the last 15 years.
“Buenaventura’s most famous endangered bird is obviously the El Oro Parakeet, the species for which the reserve was established originally. But it’s turned out that the El Oro Tapaculo is far rarer! Recent research has shown that the property purchased in 2013 contains by far the best habitat for the admittedly obscure tapaculo, so now its future is far more secure,” said Dr. Robert S. Ridgely, president of Rainforest Trust.
More than 330 species of birds have been recorded at the Buenaventura Reserve; 12 species are classified as globally threatened, 34 as local endemics.
The reserve protects one of the largest tracts of cloud forest remaining in southwestern Ecuador. Combining characteristics of the Tumbesian forest of southern Ecuador and northwestern Peru with the wet Chocó rainforest of northwestern Ecuador, this rainforest is one of the most threatened in the world. Estimates indicate that less than 10% of the original forest remains.