Last November, two new species of rodent were discovered in protected areas managed by our Ecuador partner Fundación EcoMinga. Pattonimus ecominga was found in the Dracula Reserve, while Pattonimus musseri was first identified in the Manduriacu Reserve. Now, less than a year on, a third EcoMinga reserve – Río Zuñac – has become the site of another incredible discovery. In just a single short trip, biologists uncovered no fewer than five new tree species, helped in no small part by our Keepers of the Wild who have now been honoured with their own place in the scientific canon.
The new species have been classified within a single established genus, Sciodaphyllum. Four of the five are restricted entirely to the Río Zuñac watershed, and of these four not one has a range greater than 8km². They also share the same conservation status: Vulnerable. For Lou Jost, Director of EcoMinga, the discovery has “proved once again the amazing endemism, diversity and conservation importance” of the Rio Zuñac Reserve.
World Land Trust (WLT) were thrilled to learn that one of the species, Sciodaphyllum recaldiorum, has been named in honour of the Recalde family. Abdon and Jesús Recalde were the first rangers hired to protect EcoMinga’s reserves, just a few years after the organisation was founded in 2005. Once hunters in their youth, the brothers have since dedicated their lives to the research and protection of Ecuador’s remarkable biodiversity. Jesús in particular has “steered the evolution and growth of Fundación EcoMinga with his gentle wisdom,” says Lou.
Abdon and Jesús have since retired, but passion for conservation runs deep in this family – Fausto, Santiago, and Jesús’s son Darwin are all now employed as Keepers of the Wild in EcoMinga reserves. According to Lou, the Recaldes’ intimate knowledge of Ecuadorian wildlife and aptitude at field research has made them “famous among Ecuadorian biologists”. In recent years, Fausto and Luis Recalde have even been credited as co-authors of scientific papers, as both were instrumental in collecting specimens of new Magnolia species. All this “illustrates very well that the Keepers of the Wild are more than just caretakers,” continues Lou. “They are the eyes and ears of our forests.”
The recently published Sciodaphyllum paper also brought another welcome surprise. Long-time WLT supporter Puro Coffee has their very own species too: Sciodaphyllum purocafeanum! The Fairtrade company have been instrumental in EcoMinga’s conservation work over the years. The tree now joins a frog (Pristimantis puruscafeum) and orchid (Teagueia puroana) as species discovered in EcoMinga reserves that have been named after Puro.