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GWC Helps Expand Critical Habitat for Ecuador’s Rare Birds and Amphibians

Financial Support Aims to Help Offset Carbon Emissions from Big Year of Birding

For immediate release
May 2, 2017

In good news for several globally threatened bird species, the nonprofit conservation group Fundación Jocotoco—with the financial support of Global Wildlife Conservation and close GWC partner Australian Reptile Park—has expanded its Buenaventura Reserve in Ecuador. The reserve is the sole protected area for the endangered El Oro parakeet, which numbers fewer than 1,000 individuals and is found only on the western slope of the Andes in Southwestern Ecuador. American Bird Conservancy and World Land Trust, in addition to other donors, played a pivotal role in securing the land.

“This reserve is a biological jewel, not just for birds but for amphibians and many other species,” said Mike Parr, American Bird Conservancy’s chief conservation officer. “This is a terrific example of how conservation gets done when groups work together.”

In the first quarter of 2017, the partners were able to purchase two tracts of critical habitat to add to the existing reserve, which is the only protected area in the region for 15 globally threatened bird species, including the El Oro parakeet, long-wattled umbrellabird, Pacific royal flycatcher and the rare El Oro tapaculo. The first parcel, totaling 68 acres, was acquired in January 2017. The second site—a private inholding of 31 acres located within the boundary of the reserve—was purchased in March 2017. Acquiring this second tract not only protects access to the central part of the reserve, it preserves an important foraging area for the endangered gray-breasted hawk.

One of the project’s supporters, Australian Reptile Park, has worked with GWC on an innovative plan to conserve Australian wildlife through large-scale, open-range breeding facilities for Tasmanian devils and other rare and endangered Australian marsupials. Both GWC and Australian Reptile Park provided financial support for this project in part to help offset carbon emissions from Australian Reptile Park owner John Weigel’s North American Big Year. At 783 bird species, Weigel broke the record in 2016 for most birds found in North America in a single year. His adventures took him across North America, from the remote Attu Island in Alaska to the southern tip of Florida.

“Although a primary goal of my Big Year was to raise awareness for the plight of the Tasmanian devil and Australia’s other imperiled wildlife, it was important to me that I look to the Americas when offsetting my Big Year’s carbon footprint,” Weigel said. “I wanted Australian Reptile Park to support a project that benefitted some of the migratory birds that I enjoyed during my quest in North America.”

One of the species protected at the reserve, the El Oro parakeet, managed to elude discovery for many years despite its eye-catching colors. The species was first discovered in 1980 and only officially described in 1988. Threats to these birds include habitat loss and fragmentation. Many suitable nesting trees are harvested for building materials and cut down to create cattle-grazing pasture, practices that have been shown to limit parakeet populations.

Conservation efforts on the parakeet’s behalf at Buenaventura are producing results. The just-concluded breeding season produced at least 55 El Oro parakeet fledglings from 22 artificial nest boxes installed at the reserve. In addition to its rare birdlife, Buenaventura harbors several recently described amphibian species currently known only from sightings at the reserve.

“Protecting this habitat is clearly having a direct impact on the survival of this special bird,” said Wes Sechrest, GWC chief scientist and CEO. “We’re thrilled to play a role not only in the recovery of the El Oro parakeet, but also in the protection of all of the wildlife species that call Buenaventura home.”

The expansion of the reserve was also made possible by the generous support of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, and Diane and Richard Huxtable, as well as a number of individual donors.

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Photo: El Oro Parakeet (Photo by Francisco Sornoza)
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Global Wildlife Conservation
Austin-based Global Wildlife Conservation envisions a thriving Earth where all life flourishes. GWC conserves the diversity of life on Earth by preserving wildlands, restoring wildlife and engaging with global guardians. Driven by science, GWC maximizes its impact through conservation solutions in research and exploration, land purchase and protected area establishment, protected area management, poaching prevention, and capacity building. Learn more at www.globalwildlife.org

American Bird Conservancy
American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

Fundación Jocotoco
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.

World Land Trust
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.

Contact
Lindsay Renick Mayer
Global Wildlife Conservation
lrenickmayer@globalwildlife.org
202-422-4671

Jennifer Howard
American Bird Conservancy
jhoward@abcbirds.org
202-888-7472

About the Author

Lindsay Renick Mayer

Lindsay Renick Mayer

Lindsay is the associate director of communications for Global Wildlife Conservation and has a particular interest in leveraging communications to inspire conservation action. Lindsay is passionate about species-based conservation and finding compelling ways to tell stories that demonstrate the value of all of the planet’s critters, big and microscopic.

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