Wednesday, July 9

The Natural Symbol of Guayaquil Is Going Extinct

By Mauricio Velasquez   

For those that don´t know, the city of Guayaquil has a symbolic bird, its most distinguished brand, the Guayaquil Macaw.  It is a sub species of the Great Green Macaw that is endemic to the coast of Ecuador.  The distribution range of the population is very reduced and it is in danger of going extinct.  This grave state is caused by the high deforestation rate of dry tropical forest and its continued burning to ¨clear the land¨ to carry out unsustainable agricultural practices.  The macaws are captured for their illegal commercialization and they are often sold in both local and international markets.  All of these factors have the bird symbol of Guayaquil against the ropes as we say in boxing terms and at the point of a fatal end.  It is estimated that only 30 to 40 individuals currently remain in their natural state.

The progress of Guayaquil destines them to die.  Nobody is unaware of the urban growth in the coastal highway, where besides the housing developments that surround the Chongon Cordillera, are also found countless mine quarries that diminish the area of the forest in its hills.  Sites where our symbolic bird lives.  If it wasn´t enough, the connectivity of the macaw´s habitat will be also lost for a project that is working silently and plans to construct a new periphery highway in Guayaquil through the western boundary of the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest and cut the biological corridor linking Cerro Blanco with the Chongon and Colonche Protected Forest.

In 2005, the National Conservation Strategy in situ for the Guayaquil Macaw¨ was promulgated.  In the same year, the Municipality of Guayaquil issued an ordinance that declared this animal  ¨the natural bird symbol of the canton¨ in addition to being the flagship species for dry tropical forest conservation programs within the boundaries of the canton.  Later, a inter institutional work group was formed (where, although it sounds strange now, the Ministry of the Environment and the Municipality worked together) to initiate conservation actions, among them, the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Municipality of Guayaquil and the Pro-Forest Foundation to:
  • Consolidate the Declaratory of the Protection of the Guayaquil Macaw (Ara ambiguus guayaquilensis) through the monitoring of the state of the populations.
  • Elaborate a Forest Fire Prevention Plan.
  • Reintroduce and monitor individuals of the Guayaquil Macaw (Ara ambiguus guayaquilensis) born in captivity in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest.
  • Train professionals in the management of natural protected areas.
  • Implement conservation activities for wildlife through the strengthening of wildlife rescue centers.

However, the year after the signing of the agreement (2009) the head of Environmental Planning in the Municipality of Guayaquil and its Environment Director, changed their priorities for action and let this important conservation initiative wilt, sentencing in this way, the destiny of the species.

Despite this, the Pro-Forest Foundation, one of the last Mohicans of conservation in Guayaquil continues practically alone in its efforts to prevent the extinction of the Macaw and has carried out reforestation efforts in more than 250 hectares in Cerro Blanco with 35 native tree species, many of these plants have fruits that constitute the food base of  the symbol of Guayaquil in its natural habitat.  Although this work is important, it does not guarantee that the macaw won´t go extinct.

As a Guayaquileño, I´d like a consultation to be made to the citizens of Guayaquil in which they are asked if they are in agreement that the extinction of the Guayaquil Macaw is carried out.  And at the same time, this consultation also is made with the principal national, provincial and local environmental authorities.

The first step in order to act is recognizing the problem and really we are not doing anything to prevent Guayaquil from losing its natural symbol.  

Friday, May 30

Hummingbird behavior and evolution (Amazilia amazilia)

By: Sarah A. Cowles
Ph.D. Student, Uy lab
Department of Biology
University of Miami

Hello! My name is Sarah—I’m a biology grad student from the University of Miami, and I’m studying hummingbird evolution and behavior. My research focuses specifically on Amazilia hummingbirds (the scientific name is Amazilia amazilia; el nombre en español es Amazilia ventrirrufa). I am examining differences in plumage color across multiple populations of Amazilia hummingbirds throughout the South Coast and Southern Highlands of Ecuador. In addition, I’m planning to reconstruct the evolutionary history of this species. 

I’ve spent two weeks at Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco with my awesome field assistants David and Javier. We’ve been capturing hummingbirds around the reserve using mist-nets, and taking morphological measurements, a few feathers (for later color measurements), and a few drops of blood (to extract DNA for phylogenetic analyses) from each bird before giving it some sugar water and letting it fly away. Here at BPCB, the birds are an emerald green color with blue-green gorgets and a rufous belly. We have been finding them around patches of purple morning-glory flowers in the reserve.

The reserve is absolutely beautiful —a peaceful and quiet forest just outside of busy Guayaquil. We’ve seen tons of lizards, insects, spiders, snakes (including a viper!), some small mammals, deer, and plenty of birds of course—from several big hawks to tiny hummingbirds, and everything in between. It’s transitioning from the wet season to the dry season right now, so there are a lot of falling leaves and soon to be flowers here. BPCB has absolutely been a wonderful place to do fieldwork in Ecuador! 

Wednesday, May 28

Volunteers drawn beauties Cerro Blanco Forest

During the months of April and May 20 a call for volunteers was performed with for artistic drawing skills, so that we have the participation of Mr. Hugo Mite and Mr. Raúl Galdea who made beautiful drawings of the biodiversity of dry forest tropical which are being used in the design of environmental education material for the Pro-Forest Foundation.

The Weekly Live Guayaquil newspaper El Universo made ​​them a story for his selfless to participate with their talent for a good cause work.

Adaptation and release of Six Great Green Macaws In The Cerro Blanco Protected Forest

The Jambeli Rescue Foundation has developed a successful captive breeding program for the Great Green Macaw over a 10 year period.  One of the principal objectives of this program is the release of adult GGM´s in its dry tropical forest habitat and contribute to the conservation program for the species in its natural state.

The Pro-Forest Foundation has more than twenty years experience in the development of programs and projects benefitting the conservation of the dry tropical forest ecosystem, especially the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest, which has been used by Great Green Macaws as nesting, roosting and feeding sites.

The Pro-Forest Foundation has carried out several programs and projects that benefit directly the Great Green Macaw in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest and adjacent areas including protection of nest sites and habitat through park ranger patrols and law enforcement, habitat restoration and enhancement through the construction and placement of artificial nest boxes as well as environmental education and awareness building in local communities both for adults through an honorary park warden project as well as primary and secondary school programs.

The Jambeli Rescue Foundation and Pro-Forest Foundation have joined with other organizations in Ecuador to prepare and implement a Great Green Macaw National Conservation Strategy beginning in 2003 to the present.  The strategy includes a ex-situ component which includes the reproduction and eventual release of Great Green Macaws to help bolster the wild population in Ecuador, which is critically endangered.

In March we had to Will and Sophy as volunteers in Cerro Blanco, they from England. Them project was to record photos and videos about adaptation's project. The photos and video presented here are the result of his outstanding work.

Expedition Chester Zoo in the Cerro Blanco Forest to find the Red-lored Amazon

Last January we had the pleasant visit of a technical team from Chester Zoo from England, whose visit was to study the Red-lored Amazon (Amazona lilacina) to determine their habitat, behavior, diet, reproduction, etc.. The study was conducted for 10 days in two areas specifically Cerro Blanco Forest and Mangroves of Puerto Hondo.

Tuesday, May 27

Vacation Camp 2014 on Cerro Blanco Forest.

During the months of March and April 2014 Tania and Jaime Echeverria of Papooms conducted the Vacation Camp 2014 on Cerro Blanco Forest. A great opportunity where the little kids learned about the tropical dry forest and the importance of conservation. Painted, played, sang, made ​​crafts and above were connected with nature and learned to appreciate it and love it.

Tuesday, October 22

Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco Hosts Casa Abierta

Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco hosted its Casa Abierta event on Saturday 19 October opening its doors and sharing its many exciting projects and initiatives with the children, students, families and groups of friends who visited to find out more about the inner workings of Cerro Blanco and enjoy a day out in the beautiful forest.

The purpose of the event was to provide an insight into the many conservation, research, reforestation and tourism projects and activities at Cerro Blanco, which are not normally accessible to members of the public. Other local organizations also attended and set up expositions - providing an overall picture of the fantastic work going on in the various grassroots conservation groups and communities of the Guayaquil area. 

Some of Cerro Blanco's expositions included control and prevention of forest fires, protection and vigilance, research, the forest nursery and reforestation, environmental education and internships. Partner organizations taking part included the Fundacion Jambeli who operate an animal rescue and Papagayo breeding centre, The Nature Conservancy who are promoting the initiative for a wildlife corridor, the UPMA putting under the spotlight the grim reality of the illegal animal trade, and the Amigos del Estero who were promoting awareness of the importance of and threats to the Guayas estuary.

Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco and its partners also presented in the bar area on a broad range of topics, from illegal animal trafficking to butterfly research projects, offering expert views as well the opportunity for group discussion.

There were plenty of arts and crafts in action to. In celebration of the book Tangerine, about the day in the life of a Grey Cheeked Parakeet who lives in New York, there was an area set aside for coloring, cutting and gluing, as well as a competition in which three lucky winners got copies of the book to take home.

As part of the event there was also a mini bat festival in honor of the AICOM award received by Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco; bat lovers could spend time making bat masks and other bat-related arts and crafts, and for those who wanted to get up close and personal to our night-time friends there was also a special evening bat hunt to track down bats living in Cerro Blanco, and so learn more about this fascinating animal and their important role in the forest ecosystem.

Within the beautiful forest of Cerro Blanco, employees, friends and visitors had a fantastic day out, learning more about the importance of the conservation, research, regeneration and educational initiatives of Cerro Blanco and partner organizations, as well as enjoying nature; be it by going on a short guided walk through the forest, a cycle around the bike path or just by having a relaxing lunch under the trees.