A major land purchase has added almost 1,200 acres to a forested reserve in the highly threatened Chocó region of Ecuador.
The expansion will bring protection to over 6,100 acres and more than 360 species of birds. It resulted from the purchase in September 2014 of six properties adjacent to the Río Canandé Reserve, which is located in Esmeraldas province, in a coastal tropical rainforest that extends from southern Colombia to northern Ecuador. The region ranks as the fourth most significant biodiversity hotspot in the world.
The reserve and neighboring properties are situated in the Chocó Endemic Bird Area, which has one of the highest numbers of restricted-range bird species in the world, 62 in all. The forests also boast one of the highest concentrations of endemic species: Approximately 25 percent of the species that occur there can be found nowhere else.
Further, the area contains no fewer than 16 globally threatened and near-threatened species, of which at least 13 occur on the reserve: Plumbeous Forest-falcon, Great Curassow (pictured above), Baudó Guan, Great Green Macaw, Banded Ground-cuckoo, Orange-fronted Barbet, Chocó Woodpecker, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Rufous-crowned Antpitta, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Yellow-green Bush-tanager, Blue-whiskered Tanager, and Scarlet-breasted Dacnis.
Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of the original Chocó forest remains intact. Leading causes of the loss include timber extraction, the rapid spread of palm-oil plantations, bio-fuels development, agricultural activities, and the expansion of settlements.
The Río Canandé Reserve is surrounded by significant tracts of forested land, including the Chachi indigenous territory; a state forestry area that maintains large amounts of intact forest; the buffer zone of the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve; and the nearby El Pambilar Wildlife Refuge, a protected area of about 7,413 acres recently created by the government in a former timber-extraction site.
The purchase was a joint effort of Fundación Jocotoco, Rainforest Trust, American Bird Conservancy, World Land Trust, and March Conservation Fund.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2015 issue of BirdWatching magazine. Subscribe.
This story was provided by American Bird Conservancy, a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas.