Fundación Jocotoco and the Las Balsas community partner to protect the highly threatened Lilacine Amazon parrot

Lilacine Amazon Las Balsas Michael Moens Jocotoco

The Lilacine Amazon is a highly threatened, large parrot endemic to the dry forests of western Ecuador. This species is declining very quickly owing to a combination of habitat loss and illegal wildlife trafficking. Recent data on population monitoring suggests that the species is undergoing a 99% decline over the three generations (BirdLife 2020). This is why this species is being uplisted to the category of Critically Endangered.

Lilacine Amazon Las Balsas Michael Moens Jocotoco.

Thanks to the support from the Quick Response Fund for Nature, American Bird Conservancy, and Rainforest Trust, Fundación Jocotoco has established the first protected area for this species. Our new Las Balsas Reserve supports by far the largest and most important population of Lilacine Amazons. Our monitoring data shows that these parrots move seasonally. In the wet season, up to 90% of the global population are using the reserve and adjacent forests with a maximum of 2340 and 2578 individuals recorded in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Our data show that the global population is considerably larger than the previous estimate of 550-1000 mature individuals (BirdLife 2020). The support from the Quick Biodiversity Response Fund and partners is thus vital to save this quickly declining species from extinction. 

Las Balsas Reserve also protects other critically endangered species, such as the Ecuadorian Capuchin Monkey and the last surviving population of Great Green Macaws in the dry forest. The Great Green Macaw is also being uplisted to the category of critically endangered in 2020. Fundación Jocotoco monitored the nest of a pair of Great Green Macaws and reintroduced six individuals into the wild in 2020. To expand the protection of this site, Fundación Jocotoco is now carrying out studies to locate and protect jointly with the Las Balsas community the nesting sites of Lilacine Amazons. 

Team looking for nests. Michael Moens.

Expansion of Tapichalaca Reserve

With the support of the Quick Response Fund for Nature and the Wilhelma Zoo, Stuttgart, Germany, Fundación Jocotoco bought a critical 92 ha property to connect the hitherto isolated parts of Tapichalaca Reserve. Tapichalaca Reserve is located on the east slope of the Andes in southern Ecuador. Tapichalaca protects one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. This reserve, with its misty cloud forests and windswept parámo grasslands, is a key place for the conservation of dozens of highly threatened species of plants and animals, many of them found nowhere else. In particular, Tapichalaca connects two national parks and is therefore key for maintaining connectivity on a regional scale.

For example, Tapichalaca is the only place to see the enigmatic and elusive Jocotoco Antpitta. This secretive species was only discovered in 1997 by renowned ornithologist Robert Ridgely. This discovery led to the establishment of Fundación Jocotoco, which nowadays protects approx. 23,500 ha. Tapichalaca also protects rare and almost equally elusive large mammals, such as the endangered Mountain Tapir, the vulnerable Spectacled Bear and Jaguar. The populations of all these large mammals have rebounded thanks to the effective protection of Tapichalaca Reserve. Fundación Jocotoco has recorded 14 Spectacled Bears recently, with several females using the reserve to raise their cubs. The reserve expansion is a critical step to restore connectivity among forests remnants. 

The reserve also protects many unique species from other groups. For example, the Tapichalaca Tree Frog, known from only a handful of streams. Also, approx. 55 rare and threatened plant species found a refuge in Tapichalaca Reserve. Many of these plant species are not known from anywhere else. This long list includes particularly many orchid species, ranging from species with diminutive flowers to those with large exuberant displays. 

Authored by Martin Schaefer