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Three Threatened Frogs Protected Alongside Andean Condors by Vast New Protected Area Around the Antisana Volcano, Ecuador

A consortium of partners including the Amphibian Survival Alliance, Rainforest Trust (RT), Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) have come together to enable local partner Fundación Jocotoco to purchase more than 270,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat in Ecuador. The mammoth property acquisition, which includes the 18,714-foot Antisana Volcano, will create a permanent refuge for three threatened species of frogs from the genus Pristimantis found nowhere else and the largest population of Andean Condor in the Northern Andes.

The final 6,100 acre property, called Hacienda Antisanilla, was acquired to complete a project by international partners, Fundación Jocotoco, the Municipality of Quito, and the Quito Water Authority in a coordinated effort that will both protect endangered species and secure an important source of drinking water for Ecuador’s capital city.

“The purchase of multiple properties around Volcan Antisana represents one of the greatest conservation victories ever in the Andes of South America,” said Dr. Robert Ridgely, President of Rainforest Trust and a driving force behind this conservation success. “The final acquisition of Hacienda Antisanilla caps a decade-long effort by Rainforest Trust and our Ecuadorian partner Fundación Jocotoco to protect this fragile and biodiverse ecosystem. We are grateful to all of the partners, organizations and donors who made this possible, including The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, who provided critical support to acquire the Hacienda Antisanilla property.”

“The purchase of Hacienda Antisanilla was critical, as this property held the most important site for roosting and nesting Andean Condors – Ecuador’s National bird and emblazoned on our national flag.” noted Fundación Jocotoco Executive Director Rocio Merino. “So after years of struggling, we were able to purchase and protect the area thanks to the constant support of Rainforest Trust and Quito authorities.”

“The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation supports the important work of conservation to preserve the rich biodiversity of the Northern Andes,” said Susan M. Coliton, vice president of The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “We saw that the Hacienda Antisanilla property was critical to protecting this population of Andean Condors and were encouraged by the effective cooperation between the conservation effort and the local authorities. We are pleased to have been a part of this successful and important initiative.”

The glaciers of the 3.5 mile high Antisana Volcano give way to unique highland steppe and descend into lush subtropical forests on the Andean slopes and into Amazonian rainforest. Located just 20 miles from Quito, this enormous but undeveloped area first attracted the attention of conservationists in the 1980s. The Ecuadorian government declared it an ecological reserve in 1993, but the area remained in private hands. Much of the land continued to be farmed, and wildlife was increasingly threatened by over-grazing, fires, and poaching.

Now, the mosaic of alpine grasslands, rugged canyons, and tropical forests has been purchased and will enjoy strict protection within the Antisana Ecological Reserve, forming one of the greatest protected areas in the Tropical Andes.

Home to the largest single population of condors in the Northern Andes, Antisana is also frequented by Cougars, Spectacled Bears, and the endangered Woolly Tapir. Antisana is of critical global importance for biodiversity and highlighted as an Alliance for Zero Extinction site due to the presence of no less than three species of threatened frogs – Pristimantis acerus, Pristimantis ignicolor, and Pristimantis lividuseco – found nowhere else. Sadly, the Jambato Toad (Atelopus ignescens), once common in Antisana, has already gone extinct.

All the properties purchased will be improved by the removal of cattle from the fragile native grassland called “Páramo,” while park guards will patrol the area to curtail poaching.

“This enormous land protection project is even more significant as not only does it help to protect the most critical source of water for the ever-expanding city of Quito but it also connects to two adjacent protected areas, Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve and Gran Sumaco National Park,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust, “Combined, these protected areas safeguard 1.8 million acres of biologically diverse Andean and Amazonian ecosystems.”

“The Andes are a global biodiversity hotspot, and the new reserve will help conserve a key ecosystem with species found nowhere else in the world. The project highlights the importance of collaboration among local organizations, government agencies, and international NGOs,” said Dr.  Don Church, President of GWC.

This land purchase project was made possible by the efforts of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Fundación Jocotoco, Rainforest Trust, Ministry of Environment, the Quito Municipality, the Quito Water Authority (EMAAP), the Quito Water Fund (FONAG), EcoFondo, American Bird Conservancy, Blue Moon Foundation, Global Wildlife Conservation, Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, March Foundation, and private donors.

Ridgely, one of Jocotoco’s founders, adds. “I am grateful to one and all.  This surely is the most exciting moment in my conservation career.”

We are very grateful for the support of many Ecuadorian and international organizations and donors to make this dream a reality, including the Anadel Law; Andrew Farnsworth; Amphibian Survival Alliance; American Bird Conservancy; Andrew Sabin Family Foundation; BirdLife International; Blue Moon Fund; Butler Foundation; Cabañas San Isidro; Centro de Rescate Ilitio; Conservation International; EcoFondo; Empresa Municipal de Alcantarillado Agua Potable; Estación Científica Yanayacu; Estudio Jurídico Gallegos y Asociados ; Familia Vallejo, Hacienda Guáytara; Fundación Jocotoco; James & Ellen Strauss; Juan Kohn; Global Wildlife Conservation; Grupo Nacional de Trabajo del Condor Andino; Larry Thompson; Leapfrog Conservation Initiative; Marybeth Sollins; March Foundation; Ministerio del Ambiente, Government of Ecuador; Ministerio del Turismo, Government of Ecuador; Municipio de Quito; Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales; Nature and Culture International; Parque Zoólogico de Guayllabamba; Paul G. Allen Foundation; Rainforest Trust; Robert & Peg Ridgely; Sally Davidson; Sangreal Foundation; The Butler Foundation; The Bobolink Foundation; The March Foundation; The Nature Conservancy ; The Peregrine Fund; The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, and many more supporters.

About the Author


James Lewis

​James Lewis is GWC’s director of conservation programs, specializing in conservation project development and strategic planning. Working closely with the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Amphibian Specialist Group, James focuses much of his efforts on developing conservation programs that address the critical need to invest resources in some of the world’s most threatened yet under-appreciated species.

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