Appeal launched to save newly discovered hummingbird

Blue-throated Hillstar
A Blue-throated Hillstar feeds at a flower in southern Ecuador. Photo © Francisco Sornoza

In September 2018, we reported on the discovery of the Blue-throated Hillstar, a hummingbird found only on a remote series of mountaintops in southern Ecuador.

Researcher  Francisco Sornoza-Molina, of Ecuador’s Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, and his colleagues estimated that the species numbered no more than 750 individuals, perhaps fewer than 500, and said that “no conservation measures have been taken to date.”

Now, the wildlife conservation charity World Land Trust (WLT) says that mining corporations have gained the rights to mine the hillstar’s habitat to extract metals.

WLT has launched an urgent appeal to raise £30,000 (about $38,580) and save the hillstar’s habitat from being destroyed by mining. The metal-rich landscapes of Ecuador have seen an increase in industrial mining over the past 30 years. Swaths of Ecuador’s tropical forests have been cleared so that metals such as copper, gold, and lead can be extracted from large open pits, a disaster for local wildlife.

Urgent action needed

The Save the Blue-throated Hillstar appeal would enable Naturaleza y Cultura Ecuador (NCE) to extend a Water Protection Area to include the hillstar’s 70,000-acre range. By incorporating the hillstar’s habitat in the Water Protection Area, it will have government-level protection and will eliminate the threat of mining.

“This is a unique opportunity to save a critically endangered species from extinction,” says Richard Cuthbert, director of conservation at WLT. “If we do not act now, mining corporations can move in on the habitat and create a mine, which would most likely wipe out the hillstar population.

“This situation is the perfect example of why habitat conservation is so important. Habitat loss is one of the greatest causes of species extinction worldwide, and for every habitat we lose, we eliminate a stronghold for numerous plant and animal species. For species such as the Blue-throated Hillstar, with such a small range, this can mean extinction. The fact that we are continuing to discover new species in habitats facing threats like mining shows that we may not even be aware of the ecological damage these activities are causing.”

You can find more information and donate online at worldlandtrust.org/hillstar.

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