December 18, 2011
A key piece of tropical forest has been saved for the Buenaventura Reserve in southwestern Ecuador, thanks in part to efforts by WLT-US. In early December, the 318-acre "Dianita" property was acquired as part of WLT-US efforts to protect the globally endangered El Oro Parakeet, of which less than 1,000 remain.
The addition of this new property to 4,000-acre reserve was the result of joint efforts by WLT-US, World Land Trust, American Bird Conservancy, the Danish Ornithological Society, and Robert Wilson. The reserve, which is owned and managed by WLT-US partner Fundación Jocotoco, protects no fewer than 15 globally threatened species, and is the most important single site for the endemic and Endangered El Oro Parakeet and the Ecuadorian Tapaculo.
There are only about 1,000 El Oro Parakeets in the wild, and the reserve is home to about one-fifth of them.
"Fortunately, those numbers have been steadily increasing as a result of a successful conservation campaign that includes the provision of nest boxes to supplement the scarcity of suitable nest-trees,” said Zoltan Waliczky, Jocotoco’s Executive Director.
The Buenaventura Reserve, in the heart of the El Oro Parakeet’s range in southwestern Ecuador, protects the largest remnant patch of a unique ecosystem that combines elements of tropical wet and dry forests. As little as 5% of this forest, which once spanned northern Peru and parts of the Ecuadorian Coast, may now remain. What is left is threatened by ongoing habitat destruction for agriculture and cattle pasture, making the Reserve vital for the conservation of the rare, endemic birds of the region. The Reserve had been separated into two parts, but these are now connected by the Dianita property, making it an extremely important purchase.
The newly acquired land is 70% cattle pasture, and will need to be restored--something that Fundación Jocotoco excels at doing. In the last three years, Jocotoco has planted more than 40,000 trees in Buenaventura Reserve alone, and over 600,000 plants in their network of eight private reserves, thanks to support from Scottish and Southern Energy and the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
In addition to the El Oro Parakeet and Ecuadorian Tapaculo, the Reserve also protects a stronghold site for the endangered Gray-backed Hawk. This species is typically found only in pairs but is commonly observed in greater numbers in the Reserve. Other threatened species of interest are the Rufous-headed Chachalaca, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Red-masked Parakeet, and Pacific Royal Flycatcher. More than 330 species of birds have been recorded at Buenaventura, of which at least 12 are classified as globally threatened; another 34 species are local endemics.
The Reserve also hosts tourists from around the world at the comfortable Umbrellabird Lodge, which is located less than an hour from the airport in Santa Rosa. A well-developed trail system and several bird feeders that attract numerous hummingbirds and songbirds make wildlife observation easy and enjoyable. Buenaventura is part of the Conservation Birding initiative, where any funds spent are reinvested into the operational costs of the reserve, assuring long-term conservation of the exquisite plants and animals found there.