Story updated July 19 at 9:15 EDT to reflect new donation total.
A private bird reserve in Ecuador, which has a species list of 441 on eBird, is raising money from birders and other supporters around the world to protect the property for the long term.
The Paz Bird Refuge (Refugio Paz de las Aves) located in Nanegalito, Ecuador, is well-known as a place to see antpittas, especially the shy Giant Antpitta. Six antpitta species have been recorded on the refuge, but two Giant Antpittas, known as Maria and Willie, are the stars of the refuge. They appear regularly when they are called with a meal of worms by brothers Angel and Rodrigo Paz, who own the property along with other family members.
A GoFundMe page from the Paz family is collecting donations to support the refuge. Their goal was to raise $155,000 by August 1, and on the evening of July 18, they surpassed the total! As of the morning of July 19, the fund has raised $155,395.
The GoFundMe page states:
“After seventeen years of dedicating our lives to these birds and allowing others to share in this experience, we now urgently need your help.
“This past year, the beloved Matriarch of our family passed away leaving the property where we originated the business to her nine children. However, Angel and his brother Rodrigo are the only family members who want to preserve this land and its forests so it can continue to provide a refuge for these rare birds into the future. The other seven members of the family, who need to maintain their own families, have indicated they wish to sell the property in the commercial market, which means it will be used to raise cattle and would destroy the habitat for these amazing birds and further deforest this already fragile area.”
Artist and writer Lisa Brunetti, who wrote a story for BirdWatching about a rare wood-rail species in Ecuador, spoke with a few other birders in her adopted country about the wonders of Refugio Paz de las Aves.
Roger Ahlman, a tour guide and eBird reviewer for Ecuador, said:
“A visit to Paz de las Aves is always the highlight of any tour to the west slope of the Andes in Ecuador. So many good birds here and seeing several species of elusive antpittas up close is always a treat.”
And Cullen Hanks, project leaders for the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, added:
“Angel is doing an amazing job protecting habitat and connecting people with birds. Our time with Angel was one of the most unique and enjoyable experiences in Ecuador.”