We have been quietly negotiating the purchase of a mosaic of cloud forest parcels in the Choco bioregion of northwest Ecuador near the Colombian border, southwest of the frontier town of Chical. This area is a center of diversity and endemism for the strange orchid genus Dracula, whose flowers often imitate mushrooms to attract their fungus gnat pollinators. It is also home to many other strange locally endemic plant species. There are no national parks in this region at these critical middle elevations, so private protection is the only option. I will write much more about the special plants of this area in future posts. Today I just want to share two mammal videos made last week by camera traps placed in our newest parcel, a forest of large Podocarpus trees (a tropical American broad-leaved conifer) at about 2200m elevation.
The first video was made by our reserve manager, Juan Pablo Reyes, and our new Dracula Reserve warden, Hector Yela. It is of a big male Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) marking his territory by rubbing his back on a special repeatedly-used tree. Juan Pablo and Hector are good at recognizing these trees, and Juan Pablo has successfully filmed this behavior several times in our Banos-area reserves; I posted a Banos-area video of a back-scratching bear here, and posted more information about this species here. But today’s video is clearer than that earlier one. This bear shakes himself to dry after rubbing on his tree, like a wet dog.
The second video, taken from exactly the same spot, is of an ocelot (Leopardus pardalis). We saw tracks of this animal a few months ago when we were checking out this property for purchase, but of course these cats are hardly ever seen by humans. Camera traps are the only way to observe them reliably.
This camera trap is courtesy of the PCTA (Proyecto Conservacion del Tapir Andino) and Fundacion Oscar Efren Reyes; thanks!!
The former owner of this parcel told us that he had also seen spider monkeys here. These would be the critically endangered endemic subspecies known as the Brown-headed Spider Monkey (Ateles fusciceps fusciceps).
Recently my friend Marc Dragiewicz and his wife Denise managed to film this subspecies at a lower-elevation reserve (Itapoa) dedicated to protecting them. Here is an amazing leap, characteristic of this most agile of all New World monkeys.
It is very exciting to see the richness of the mammal life here!
Also last week, while EcoMinga’s Javier Robayo was investigating properties in the area, he found this magnificent snake on the road. This turned out to be a very rare species, Liophis vitti, previously known from only a few examples from a small area in northwest Ecuador and western Colombia.
We look forward to discovering more about the animal and plant life of this extraordinary mosaic! These purchases were initiated in a joint project with the University of Basel Botanical Garden, and continue with the help of the Rainforest Trust, the Orchid Conservation Alliance, the Quito Orchid Society, and some very generous individual donations. Special thanks to Vera Lee Rao, Steven K. Beckendorf and Cynthia L. Hill, Anne Chao, Mark Wilson, Max Annen, Susann Ziegler, Eric Veach, and Luanne Lemmer. The donors to the University of Basel Botanical Garden are listed on their site.