Our guards and townspeople heroically rescue survivors of a landslide

It has been pouring rain here for several days, after a long drought. That’s a recipe for disaster in these steep mountains. The roads here necessarily pass across nearly vertical slopes, and roads are often blocked by landslides in weather like this. It is pure luck whether a vehicle gets hit by these landslides. Yesterday a bus full of students on a school outing was hit by one of multiple landslides that fell on the Banos-Puyo road that goes past most of our reserves. The bus accident happened at El Placer, the town where our guards live. Two people were killed and many were injured. Darwin Recalde, one of our reserve wardens, was quoted by an Ecuadorian newspaper in their story about what happened:

“A eso de las 10:00 se escuchó un fuerte estruendo cosa que nos hizo asustar mucho, cuando salimos a ver qué es lo que había pasado la montaña se ha ido abajo, lo que le ha arrastrado a un bus de la cooperativa Huambaló fuera de la carretera (Baños-Puyo), entonces con los vecinos acudimos a brindar ayuda a los heridos que en medio del fango se lamentaban del dolor”

“At 10:00 we heard a very loud sound that scared us a lot; when we ran out to see what happened. the mountain had come down and pushed a Huambalo bus off the road, so with our neighbors we went to help the injured  who were in the middle of the mud crying out in pain.”


Ambulances could not get there quickly because of the landslides, and professional rescue workers had to arrive on foot.

Apparently the bus was first hit by a small amount of material. The bus stopped (probably because the road ahead had been blocked) and people left the bus to go to safety. At that moment more material came down and carried the bus and passengers off the road.

Darwin and his neighbors knew that more material could fall on them at any time during the rescue, but this is the kind of people they are, willing to risk their lives to help others.

The road remains closed and rains continue.


Darwin a few years ago at the top of our Cerro Candelaria Reserve.


Releasing a rescued Spectacled Bear in our Rio Zunac Reserve


Ukumari wakes up in his new home as the anesthesia wears off. Photo: Santiago Recalde/EcoMinga.

Jeremy La Zelle and Greg Taylor, the men behind Backpacker Films, visited Banos in September 2015. When they heard about the pending release of a rescued Spectacled Bear in our Rio Zunac Reserve, they asked to join the release team.

The young bear had been found by a farmer two years earlier, badly injured. Doctors performed surgery on it and saved its life. Sebastian Kohn, director of Centro de Rescate Ilitio on the slopes of Volcan Cotopaxi, took it into his care and raised it, taking care to maintain its wild character and not turn it into a pet. The goal was always to return it to the wild. He fed it while hidden so that it did not associate food with people, and the bear kept its distrust of humans.

When Volcan Cotopaxi began to erupt, the Centro de Rescate suddenly had to close, so the bear had to be released quickly. The Ministry of the Environment asked us to receive the bear and assist in its release. Our rangers and a team of specialists carried the bear on a stretcher for several hours to take it to good habitat away from humans. Jeremy and Greg filmed the whole process, and the video below, released a few days ago, is the result.


It’s a testament to the best elements of our own species that so many people put so much effort and so much heart into the rescue and rehabilitation of this poor bear:


The team of veterinarians, bear experts, “stepfather” Sebastian Kohn (yellow shirt at left), and EcoMinga rangers (Luis and Santiago Recalde, not in view, and Fausto Recalde holding the intravenous serum bag). Photo: Santiago Recalde?EcoMinga.


EcoMinga Ranger Luis Recalde holds the bear’s head while the veterinarian tapes its claws to minimize danger to the crew. Photo: Santiago Recalde/EcoMinga.

The bear, after its release, wandered widely and was filmed by camera traps up to seven kilometers from its release site. It was last recorded alive and well about six months after its release, but its body was later found by Ministry of the Environment field staff, well outside our reserve. Some speculated that the bear had been attacked by another bear, but we don’t really know.

Lou Jost, Fundacion EcoMinga


More cat food

The last two posts (here, and here) have been devoted to camera trap videos taken in a single spot in our Dracula Reserve. It is amazing to see how much life there is in just this one spot. Here are a few more animals, near the bottom of the food chain: a Sickle-winged Guan (Chamaepetes goudotii) and a rodent. This is  the same spot where the camera filmed puma and jaguarundi. And nearby we’ve filmed ocelots as well.  The smaller animals shown here are potential prey for all these cats, though probably the jaguarundi and ocelot would be more interested than the puma.

As if the cats weren’t enough for the guan to worry about, the Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori) also hunts guans regularly. In our Rio Zunac Reserve we’ve observed that the eagle feeds its young almost exclusively on guans.


Balck-and-chestnut Eagle photographed by Roger Ahlman near what is now the Dracula Reserve, Carchi, Ecuador. Used with Roger’s kind permission.


Photo by Mark Wilson of our Rio Zunac Black-and-chestnut Eagle bringing a piece of a guan to its nestling.


We have a report of an ocelot eating a Black-and-chestnut Eagle in the Banos area, so even this can be cat food!
Camera trap set up by Javier Robayo, Juan Pablo Reyes, and  Hector Yela. Camera courtesy University of Basel Botanical Garden.

Lou Jost
EcoMinga Foundation


Jaguarundi, Spectacled Bear, and Puma pass by our Dracula Reserve camera trap

In our Dracula Reserve in northwest Ecuador, Javier Robayo, Juan Pablo Reyes, and ranger Hector Yela set up a camera trap to monitor one of our trails. We left it there for two months. It was a well-chosen spot and several different species of mammals marked their territories right in front of the camera.

The most exciting for us was a fleeting glimpse of a slick, agile Jaguarundi (with the curious Latin name  Puma yagouaroundi). This was the first time our camera traps had recorded this species.

On another day a puma (Felis concolor) walks past the very same sot and marks his territory. A puma (the same one?) also passed here at night.

A Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) also thought this same spot would be a good place to scent-mark his territory by rubbing his back against a special tree. We have often recorded this back-rubbing behavior in our reserves’ camera traps (see here and here for examples).

Finally a little antpitta of the genus Grallaria also comes down this same trail. I am not sure of the species. If any reader knows, please tell us in the comments.

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation