Friday, March 21, 2014

Heading for Jorupe

Deciduous dry forest, Tumbesian style, at Jorupe Reserve
(Photos by Narca)

Jorupe Reserve in extreme southwestern Ecuador is only a stone's throw from Peru. One of the reserves under the aegis of the Jocotoco Foundation, Jorupe protects tropical deciduous forest, a habitat that has nearly vanished. Only about 1% of Ecuador's tropical dry forest remains intact.

The reserve is tiny (only about 2 square miles) but very important, protecting an endemic-rich habitat only found here and in neighboring northwestern Peru: the Tumbesian region. I find differing reports on the number of globally-threatened birds that occur in Jorupe, but it's about 20 species.

The reserve's boundaries are all too clear

The Jocotoco Foundation has its sights set on expanding the reserve a modest amount, and on regenerating degraded habitat within the reserve. Tropical dry forest can be more easily regenerated than tropical rainforest, as long as the seed bank is intact and the soils haven't completely washed away. (The regeneration of tropical dry forest was first demonstrated in northwestern Costa Rica.)

Recovery of degraded lands around Jorupe is being achieved through an ambitious project of revegetation. Within a 5-year period, more than 110,000 new trees have been planted.

Two of Jorupe's characteristic trees are these:

A muscular and much-admired ceiba tree, Ceiba trichistandra

Cecropia trees as a group are distinctive. There are more than 60 species of cecropias, and the northern Andes Mountains are the center for their diversity and evolution. Fast-growing, many of them pioneer both natural and man-made gaps within neotropical forests. Their fruits are highly sought by birds. Many of them harbor Azteca ants, which protect their host cecropia from herbivores.

A species of silver-leaved cecropia

Community outreach is part of the conservation effort at Jorupe, and it's winning staunch supporters among the local people. Ecotourism is also benefitting local communities like nearby Macará, a border town. The now-protected watershed also delivers clean drinking water to Macará.

If you wish to help the Foundation at Jorupe or any of its other reserves, you can make tax-deductible contributions to their work through the World Land Trust in the UK, the Rainforest Trust (the US partner of World Land Trust), or the American Bird Conservancy.

The Jocotoco Foundation has an on-site ecolodge, Urraca Lodge, which is beautifully constructed, and allows visitors to be right in the thick of the action.

The balcony of our cabin at Urraca Lodge; 
mixed flocks search the trees all around the cabin.

(Here's a tip, from our very fine guide at Jorupe, Leonidas: if you want to stay in Macará, the recommended hotel is Hotel los Arrozales. We spent a night in the reserve itself, and two nights at los Arrozales, which offered breakfast and air conditioning, and seemed to cater to businessmen.)

Birds like this Comb Duck may be found in the rice fields that occupy the short distance between Macará and the Peruvian border.

Now, against the background of this important conservation work, let's go birding at Jorupe!

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