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Exploring Río Zuñac with orchid expert Lou Jost

14 November, 2014 - 11:49 -- World Land Trust
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Highland Motmot in Ecuador.
Jo Finch by the Río Zuñac.

Jo Finch, an Ambassador for World Land Trust (WLT) is recently returned from Ecuador. She sent us this report of a day spent with Lou Jost of Fundación EcoMinga, one of WLT’s Ecuadorean conservation partners.

Lou Jost is one of the most fascinating people I have ever met. As a botanist and co-founder of Fundación EcoMinga, he has dedicated many years to studying and protecting the flora and fauna of the remote Andean forests of Ecuador.

Lou is an orchid specialist, renowned for undertaking long and strenuous hikes. High in the Andes mountains, he endures changeable weather conditions for days at a time, all in the name of nature conservation. When he offered to show me one of EcoMinga’s reserves, I was careful to specify that I was more in the mood for a gentle stroll than a mountain trek.

He decided to take me along the Río Zuñac. The path took us close to a parcel of land recently purchased by EcoMinga with support from World Land Trust and we were able to see the new property from a distance.

Within two minutes of starting our walk we spotted a majestic Highland Motmot (Momotus aequatorialis), basking in the sunshine on a rock in the middle of the river. It was a magical moment. I managed to get a photo, but it barely captures the beauty of this bird; the wonderful greens and blues clearly visible as the sun fell on its back. 

Along the way Lou pointed out some of the famously tiny orchids he has written so much about. Without him I would never have spotted them. They are smaller than the nail on my little finger and hide underneath certain types of leaves. Their size makes them all the more stunning. 

Half frog/half tadpole

A half frog/half tadpole spied on the walk. © Jo Finch.

During the walk we spotted bats, flycatchers, Inca Jays (Cyanocorax yncas yncas), tanagers, and some wonderful looking insects. I even spied and photographed a half frog/half tadpole. 

We found a lovely spot for lunch on the river, where we were instantly joined by a multitude of butterflies, fluttering around us in the sunshine. One of them took a particular liking to Lou and didn’t leave his shoulder for the duration of our stop. 

During the walk Lou stressed the benefits of WLT’s ranger programme (Keepers of the Wild). Rangers play an invaluable role in protecting and sustaining the reserves and without funds from WLT, it would be hard for EcoMinga to find funds to pay for the rangers’ salaries.

“Lou’s enthusiasm for nature, his mind-blowing knowledge and his dedication to what he does was truly inspiring, reinforcing all the reasons why I support World Land Trust.”
Jo Finch, WLT Ambassador

I had such a wonderful time. Lou was so hospitable and his enthusiasm for nature, his mind-blowing knowledge and his dedication to what he does was truly inspiring, reinforcing all the reasons why I support World Land Trust.

But, as we walked along the banks of the river there were worrying signs that this area was in danger of disappearing. Due to farming, patches of forest had been cleared along the path just a few days earlier.

These signs of forest clearance highlighted to me just how important it is that we continue to protect these extraordinary areas of wildlife while they are still intact, through land purchase and by supporting conservation organisations that work in partnership with local people. This is exactly what EcoMinga does. It is an inspiring organisation protecting a vibrant and significant ecosystem. I would encourage anyone to go and visit this beautiful and unique place.

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More information

You can support EcoMinga’s habitat protection work by making a donation to Keepers of the Wild.

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