Protecting the Nelson Palacios Reserve in Ecuador

Protecting the Nelson Palacios Reserve in Ecuador

Fundacion EcoMinga is an Ecuadorian non-profit NGO dedicated to the protection of areas of high endemism and biodiversity, through the creation of a private protected reserve system, dedicated to conservation of species globally threatened with extinction. Based on our scientific work on hotspots of plant and animal endemism, we have established thirteen reserves in Ecuador, covering more than 10,000 ha (24,710.54 acres).

The Nelson Palacios Reserve becomes the first protected area for Riama balneator. Photo credit: Juan Pablo Reyes - Fundación EcoMinga

When the owner of a property, located closed to our reserves at Baños de Agua Santa, died and the family needed the money quickly, it was urgent to get funding fast, as they could easily sell it to a commercial buyer. The property was very important as it protected four recently discovered, locally endemic amphibians and one locally endemic reptile, and habitat for large threatened mammals. The land is embedded in a mosaic including several other conservation properties. It is the lowest-elevation property of this mosaic.

Several frogs have been discovered and described from here, including Pastaza Valley Robber Frog (Pristimantis pastazensis, EN), Tungurahua Robber Frog (Pristimantis Tungurahua), Marco Reyes's Robber Frog (Pristimantis marcoreyesi), and Punzan's Robber Frog (Pristimantis punzan); the latter species is still known only from a reduced area on the eastern flank of Volcan Tungurahua. This lot is also one of only two localities in the world for the reptile Riama balneator (EN), and it became the only protected area for this species.

Mountain Tapir captured by a camera trap on the Nelson Palacios Reserve. Photo credit: Fundación EcoMinga

Additional threatened species found here include the Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque, EN), Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus, VU), Dwarf Red Brocket Deer (Mazama rufina, VU), Northern Tiger Cat (Leopardus tigrinus, VU), Black and Chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori, EN) and Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan (Andigena hypoglauca, NT). The property also protects access to the tapir salt lick in our Olivier Currat Reserve, and several of the tapirs that use the salt lick also use this property.

With the support of the QRFN, we acquired a lot that nominally was 40 ha (98.8 acres) on the title deed, but the actual possession on the ground was 278 ha (687 acres). The property purchased belonged to the Palacios family, so we named it Palacios reserve in honor of the deceased owner as he wanted to dedicate it to conservation. Its elevation ranges from 2440m to 3720m, with the highest part adjoining Sangay National Park, which protects the cone of Volcan Tungurahua here. The area will be dedicated completely to conservation as part of our network of reserves.

Support from QRFN enabled us to acquire the property quickly, which was critical given the urgent timeline for purchase as the sellers needed the money for an emergency. Funding from QRFN provided most of the funds that were needed to complete the purchase. Fundacion EcoMinga is currently raising funds ($15,000) to amend the title deeds of the property to include the full 278 ha.

Written by Itziar Olmedo (EcoMinga) and edited by Sanjiv Fernando (QRFN)