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Rangers rebuild tracks wrecked by rainstorms and mudslides

19 January, 2016 - 10:30 -- World Land Trust
Landslides on the mountainside.
Rangers rebuilding trails.

Lou Jost reports on Fundación EcoMinga rangers who worked bravely in challenging conditions to restore access to remote parts of the reserves. The rangers are funded by the Keepers of the Wild programme of World Land Trust.

The 2015 rainy season was the worst in many years, causing landslides that destroyed houses and roads through central Ecuador where Fundación EcoMinga (EcoMinga) is based. 

The photo (top right) shows the dramatic effect of the rain. It is a mountain in front of my house, streaked with fresh landslides.

Since EcoMinga’s trails often cut across the lower slopes of such mountains, parts of the reserves became nearly inaccessible. The main work of the Keepers of the Wild over the past few months has been to try to rebuild trails across these landslides, and to remove downed trees that blocked them. It was difficult and dangerous work. 


Fallen timber blocked the rivers. © Fundación EcoMinga.

Luis, Santiago, Fausto and Jesus Recalde worked as a team to restore paths, including the one to Cerro Candelaria Reserve, pictured. What the images don’t show is the drop of several hundred feet almost straight down to the river below - and a wall of hundreds of feet of loose material above them too.

The massive floods and landslides even blocked the rivers with fallen timber.

Although the severe weather caused extensive damage to paths and trails, the silver lining in all of this was the exposure of new salts and minerals, which attracted an array of butterflies and animals.

Lou Jost is Co-founder of Fundación EcoMinga

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You can support the invaluable work of EcoMinga’s rangers by donating to the Keepers of the Wild programme.

As well as maintaining the tracks and trails throughout EcoMinga reserves, Luis, Fausto, Jesus and Santiago carry out vital work. Their roles including aiding scientists and researchers who visit the reserve, tracking and monitoring species and educating the local community. 

On World Ranger Day in 2015 WLT launched Keepers of the Wild 2020, to raise £750,000 to guarantee the Keepers of the Wild programme between 2016 and 2020.

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Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

Brave, committed people these Rangers. Pretty hair-raising situations too when you've got to look out for stuff coming down at you from above, as well as avoiding slipping down slopes below you!

I guess in a major El Niño year we have to expect severe weather episodes, but it's always uplifting to hear that there are silver linings too - the butterflies etc feasting on the newly exposed mineral salts. The parrots and other partakers will carry these minerals off and distribute them to the rest of the forest areas in their droppings etc. New life will benefit. Cool!

Submitted by Peter Johnson on

Brave, dedicated rangers indeed: perhaps the climbing community could advise on simple, low cost ways to provide safety lines given the level of risk described in the article.

Peter, that's a good comment, and we have been pursuing that course as well. We just gotten a grant from the Botanical Gardens Conservation International, Richmond, Surrey, which includes funds for climbing equipment (static cords, Gibbs ascenders, harnesses) to safely work in the canopy of two new species of Magnolia that were discovered in our Rio Zunac Reserve. (The idea is to boost regeneration of these very rare trees by protecting developing seed capsules, and other techniques to boost their population, since there are almost no seedlings of these trees in the forest. We don't know why they are not reproducing well.) This equipment could also be used in cases of extreme danger in other situations, though the danger of material falling from above is difficult to remedy. For that, one has to be sensible and patient: we don't work on fresh landslides, we let them sit of a month or two depending on the weather. Our guards make their own choices about this, with safety paramount. I have often emphasized to them the importance of safety, and tell them not to take any risks. They've told me not to worry: "No te precupes, no quieremos morir tampoco" ("Don't worry, we don't want to die either!").

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