Rare Parakeet Gains More Protected Habitat in Ecuador

Reserve Expansion Will Help Create New Ecological Corridor to Conserve Vanishing Cloud Forests
El Oro Parakeets are among the rare species protected at the Buenaventura Reserve. Photo by

El Oro Parakeets are among the rare species protected at the Buenaventura Reserve. Photo by Francisco Sornoza (Fundación Jocotoco).

Contact: Jennifer Howard, American Bird Conservancy, 202-888-7472

(Washington, D.C. May 10, 2016) The Ecuadorian nonprofit Fundación Jocotoco, with the support of American Bird Conservancy and U.K.-based international conservation group World Land Trust, has acquired 233 acres (94 hectares) of critically important cloud-forest habitat in Ecuador, home to a rare parakeet—the endangered El Oro Parakeet—as well as El Oro Tapaculo and other rare species. The acquisition expands the existing Buenaventura Reserve from 5,583 acres (2,259 hectares) to 5,816 acres (2,354 hectares), and contributes to the creation of an ecological corridor that will connect Buenventura to three proposed government reserves, encompassing an area 56 miles long.

“This corridor is vital because although Buenaventura Reserve is a safe haven for numerous endangered species, it is becoming isolated within a sea of cattle-ranched landscape,” said Wendy Willis, ABC International Conservation Program Officer.

“This is a crucial addition to Buenaventura Reserve,” said Martin Schaefer, Executive Director of Fundación Jocotoco. “Most important, the newly acquired property includes one of the last remaining forests in the area. Protecting it allows us to reduce the largest non-forested gap in the southern distribution range of the El Oro Parakeet.” Pastureland that is also part of the just-acquired land will be allowed to regenerate, restoring forest cover for the rare parakeet and other birds.

“Until 1999, when Fundación Jocotoco stepped in, none of this important habitat was protected,” said Roger Wilson, World Land Trust's Director of Conservation. “Fundación Jocotoco are to be congratulated on successfully expanding this protected area and safeguarding the future of its endangered species, including El Oro Parakeet.”

The colorful, highly social, cavity-nesting El Oro Parakeet was only discovered in 1980, and its range is limited to a few areas on the western slope of the Andes in southwestern Ecuador. The Buenaventura Reserve, a stronghold for the birds, is the only place where they are protected. Fortunately, the reserve suffered no serious damage from the recent 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador, though other areas of the country were hard hit.

ABC and World Land Trust each raised half the money to cover the purchase of the land and related legal costs. The Buenaventura expansion was supported by more than 200 donors, including David and Patricia Davidson, David Harrison, Barbara Rizzo, and a matching contribution by The Robert W. Wilson Trust. ABC also raised an additional $15,000 to cover management costs for the new property, which includes guard salaries, fencing, and marking boundaries.

The acquisition enables Fundación Jocotoco to fill in some of the gaps in a landscape increasingly threatened by habitat loss and ranching. Less than 10 percent of the original forests in the area remain, putting both the El Oro Parakeet and other species like El Oro Tapaculo at risk.

“More than 14 years of intense research have shown that the genetic diversity of both species suffers from ongoing fragmentation and isolation,” Schaefer said. That makes the expansion of the Buenaventura Reserve and the longer-term creation of an ecological corridor in the area essential to the long-term conservation of the El Oro Parakeet and the many other species endemic to this unique and threatened area.

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American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere's bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas.  With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

World Land Trust (WLT) is an international conservation charity, which protects the world's most biologically important and threatened habitats acre by acre. Since its foundation in 1989, WLT has funded partner organizations around the world to create reserves, and give permanent protection to habitats and wildlife.

Fundación Jocotoco is an Ecuadorian nongovernmental organization established in 1998 to protect land of critical importance to the conservation of Ecuador's endangered birds and associated biodiversity. Jocotoco primarily achieves this by purchasing lands and managing them as ecological reserves.

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