The Chocó-Rainforest in Ecuador is one of the world´s 10 biodiversity hotspots. It has an amazingly high species richness and endemism, but at the same time it is one of the most threatened areas in the world. In the past century over 90% of Western Ecuador`s rainforests have been deforested.
In 2009, the German biologist Nicole Büttner and her Ecuadorian husband Wilo Vaca bought 15 hectares of montane rainforest in the Northwest of Ecuador and founded the conservation project Un poco del Chocó. The idea for this project already existed in 2005, but first Nicole and Wilo spent two years in Germany working and saving money for their project.
Now they live in the reserve fulltime. After constructing their own house they also built up a biological field station where Nicole teaches and supervises biology students. Furthermore independent researchers and visitors can be lodged at the station and visit the reserve. The conservation work of the project is financed through the revenues from ecotourism in the reserve and Nicole’s work with the students.
Most of the land around the reserve is owned by people from the small village Las Tolas. These people are quite poor and most of them use their land to breed cattle for milk production or cut the existing forest illegally in order to sell the wood. As almost nobody reforests, the latter income will be depleted quite soon. In order to support sustainable nature conservation in the region, Nicole and Wilo have started an environmental education project and work together with a group of kids from Las Tolas. Furthermore, they try to convince people from Las Tolas of ecotourism as a sustainable income.
Although the 15 hectares reserve is quite small, its contribution to local habitat conservation is very important. Just recently, Nicole and Wilo found Ecuador’s rarest and critically endangered bird species, the Banded Ground-Cuckoo, in the reserve. But unfortunately, the reserve is still too small to efficiently protect endangered wildlife. Nicole and Wilo now hope that they can protect more habitat around the reserve through the help of visiting birdwatchers.
Donations to Un poco del Chocó will support the conservation work in the reserve and the environmental education work with the kids in Las Tolas.