Thanks to the generous support of a donor in Germany, World Land Trust (WLT) has helped fund the expansion of Fundación Jocotoco’s Buenaventura Reserve in Ecuador by an additional 578 acres (234 hectares).
The recent purchase brings the total size of the reserve to 5,873 acres (2,377 hectares). The area protected is one of the largest remaining tracts of foothill cloud forest on the west slope of the Andes in south western Ecuador. The reserve provides critical habitat for a number of threatened species including El Oro Parakeet (Pyrrhura orcesi), one of the world’s rarest parrots.
Buenaventura ranges from approximately 400 metres above sea level to more than 1,200 metres, and much of this recent purchase is at high altitude which is of greater biodiversity. The reserve is an Alliance for Zero Extinction site due to El Oro Parakeet and, of all the Jocotoco reserves, it has the highest number of threatened bird species. Buenaventura is also the location for several single site endemic plant species, and many mammals.
“The purchase is very valuable as it consolidates the reserve, linking several parts into one whole, especially at the 1,000 metre altitude which is critical for the El Oro Parakeet breeding zone,” said Ruth Canning, WLT’s Conservation Programmes Manager (Americas Region).
(Ruth Canning, WLT Conservation Programmes Manager, Americas Region)
Dr Nigel Simpson, WLT Trustee and a board member of Jocotoco, adds: “Thanks to the generosity of World Land Trust and other international donors including Danish Ornithological Society/Bird Life in Denmark, World Land Trust US and American Bird Conservancy, this was a hugely important addition to Buenaventura Reserve, which increases the protection at the key higher altitude.”
Buenaventura Reserve is one of nine reserves that have been created and are now owned and managed by Jocotoco, one of WLT’s conservation partners in Ecuador.
The reserve was established in 2000 for the recently discovered El Oro Parakeet, which is endangered and only known from a few locations in southern Ecuador. The world’s total population is thought to be approximately 350 individuals and the reserve protects around half of them.
Since the initial land purchase of 988 acres (400 hectares) in 1999 to create the reserve, Jocotoco has been able to expand it bit by bit as small properties have become available. Areas where forests had been lost prior to purchase are being restored through a mix of reforestation with native tree species and natural regeneration.
As a result of forest clearance for cattle grazing, the region is threatened by reduced cloud cover due to deforestation, which is resulting in less rainfall at low elevation levels. As a result many species are migrating up the mountains to wetter areas, hence the focus on purchasing land at higher elevations.
Buenaventura is located in an area with a key concentration of endemic biodiversity where the Tumbesian and Choco biomes mix. It is the only known location for several species of threatened and endemic plants, particularly orchid species and, as deforestation continues outside the reserve, it is a last refuge for much wildlife.
In addition to the El Oro Parakeet, the endangered El Oro Tapaculo or Ecuadorian Tapaculo (Scytalopus robbinsi), first described in 1997, also depends on the Buenaventura Reserve for survival. The recently purchased property includes 400 acres of subtropical rainforest – critical for both birds, particularly as the property is at the perfect elevation for the parakeet.
The Ecuadorian White-fronted Capuchin Monkey (Cebus albifrons aequatorialis) used to be present on the Buenaventura Reserve and a number of rescued individuals are being reintroduced.
In addition to the forested areas, 300 acres of pastureland is scattered in fragments throughout the forest and will be restored through natural regeneration and tree planting to reconnect fragmented habitats.