Thursday, May 26

Jos Nolle Visits Cerro Blanco

On May 9th, we were visited by Jos Nolle, Chair, International Development of Niagara College, Canada. Jos is a long time friend of the Pro-Forest Foundation and Cerro Blanco. For more than 10 years, Jos has been a enthusiastic link between students from Niagara College and our foundation.
Through their internships, several innovative projects have been carried out at CerroBlanco, including the design and construction of our hummingbird and wildlife garden, the design and construction of artificial nest boxes for endangered Great Green Macaw's and the design and construction of our "Avenue of the Birds" self-guided nature trail.

In his capacity as a Rotary Club member, Jos Nolle led a successful fundraising  campaign among more than 10 Rotary Clubs in Canada and the US, which led to the construction of our Foliage Gleaner Ecolodge. With the support of Jos and Niagara College, two Canadian university students, Daniella Mastracci and Shazia Khan recently completed internships with the Pro-Forest Foundation and supported our work in key areas, especially community outreach through the environmental education programs at our community environmental education center at Puerto Hondo, work the implementation of organic home gardens with our community park guards, among other projects.
We look forward to continuing to work with Jos and Niagara College and say "muchas gracias" for all your support.

Wednesday, May 25

Creating Awareness Abroad

Christine Parrow, Instructor
As the saying goes, the flutter of a butterfly's wings in Ecuador (or in this case, the flap of a macaw's wings) is felt all the way in upstate New York! Our dear friend, Jane Johnson has helped make the connection with Christine Parrow. Christine lives in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York State in the middle of a forest reserve (that sounds familiar!). She teaches art at the State University of New York at Sullivan County, and in her own words, "I always encourage my students to learn about the environment and environmental issues through projects and classwork. When I heard about Cerro Blanco in Ecuador and the amazing work you all do there to provide protection for the animals, birds and plants, I wanted to share it with my class".
Classroom 1
Classroom 2
Classroom 3 copy
Cerro Blanco sign
By Mike Daigle
By Jeralyn Walters
By Jillian Alexander 
By Nina Stewart
By Kaylan Cemelli
By Martin White
By Latoya George
By Carlee Maree
By Kaylan Cemelli
Christine showed her class our DVD on Cerro Blanco and she said the students "were all amazed". She said they especially related to the Great Green Macaw, "which is so magnificent but endangered". "We did not know about the dry tropical forest. Here we have rain and/or snow throughout the year. The reforestation project is inspiring, and the commitment of the staff and local people to keep the forest undeveloped, got a thumbs up from all of us".
We thank Christine and her students for their much appreciated support and for sharing their beautiful drawings with us. We hope you can someday come and visit us and meet our resident artist of sorts, Eduardo Jaime, who just produced some beautiful new mammal ID guides and who is also featured in a current exhibition of painted horses by well known artists in the city of Guayaquil. Eduardo manages to include natural elements in his rendition of "derzu" named after the famous hunter/tracker Dersu Uzala, of the famous Kurosawa film by the same name.
Mammals in Cerro Blanco (Front)
Mammals in Cerro Blanco (Back)

By Eduardo Jaime Arias

From the website,"The work of Eduardo Jaime is constructed with patience and talent, in a series of thematic units that comprehends his particular vision of our natural surroundings. In the period of vegetation, his painting is transfigured, the same occurs with the animals and birds, reminiscences of those things that from an early age caused him amazement. Many of the themes intermix the visual splendor with a rich chromatics charged with meaning. This fecund dialogue conducts the painter to a organized esthetic exposition in which the deep root of equilibrium and order stands out. Eduardo Jaime not only is dedicated to capturing appearances, but also aspires to embody in them the total presence of image and spirit".

Coral Snake on the horse

Urban Art Guayaquil 2011 "Horses of Color" is an initiative that is inspired in the well known "Cow Parade" that was born in 1998 in Switzerland and which has toured some of the most important cities of the world, Zurich, Chicago, New York, Sydney, Houston, London, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires and Quito, Ecuador. 

Urban Art in Guayaquil 2011 "Horses of Color" is a cultural window that is integrated by 31 life sized figures of four emblematic horse races. They have converted in canvasses for famed artists from Guayaquil, "The Pearl of the Pacific" to show their creativity.

Details on the horse

Tuesday, April 26

Cerro Blanco Protected Forest Threatened by Land Traffickers

Eric Horstman

Despite the fact that the constitution of the country of Ecuador recognizes the rights of nature, much still remains to put in practice this groundbreaking legislation.

A case in point is the threat to the natural integrity of the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest by a group of land traffickers.  For some of you in the USA and elsewhere, this may be a foreign term.  For over thirty years in Ecuador, and especially in the city of Guayaquil, much of the expansion of the city has not been in an orderly fashion.

Instead, certain persons wrap themselves in a lie as being community leaders fighting for the rights of the people, in this case taking control of land by force and then dividing it up in tiny parcels to sell to mostly poor people in search of a roof to live under.  Many of these “leaders” have strong political connections and one who operates in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest buffer zone, even as a evangelistic pastor.

The 15,000 acres protected since 1989 in Cerro Blanco due to their close proximity to the city of Guayaquil, has been a target for land traffickers in the past.  Both in 1997 and 2000 a so-called agricultural cooperative (just a front for the traffickers) tried unsuccessfully to take by force a part of the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest.  Thanks in large part to the press and public pressure on local officials the threat was averted.

Once again, the land traffickers have appeared in Cerro Blanco.  In June of last year, five persons were arrested by the environmental unit of the Ecuadorian National Police, while hacking fence lines in Cerro Blanco, on land owned by the Pro-Forest Foundation.  Members of the environmental unit of the Ecuadorian National Police arrested the traffickers and the Foundation pressed charges.  The five detained persons were held for a little over a month and then released, pending their trial.

The leader of this group, has re-appeared, beginning on April 9th, sending a group of 13 persons including two lawyers to enter Cerro Blanco and clear an area of 1,600 m2 on land owned by the Pro-Forest Foundation, and planting corn.  A total of 70 trees that were planted as part of a reforestation project, were cut down as well.
We called the police to take action, as our park guards that are stationed near the site do not have a legal base to take action.  Intimidated by the lies and deceptions of the lawyers accompanying the land traffickers, they failed to take action in this moment.

After nearly a week waiting for the police to provide us with their report, we drew up a contingency plan for the three-day Easter holiday, suspecting the traffickers would strike again.  Indeed, this happened and on Saturday, April 23rd, twenty people tried to enter Cerro Blanco by force with a pre-fabricated bamboo house.  This time, the police acted decisively, preventing the traffickers and their lawyers from entering Cerro Blanco.

Knowing that public opinion served in the past to move authorities to act, we put out Facebook and Tweeter messages, with results.  El Expreso, a Guayaquil based national newspaper, provided coverage, while a friend contacted the Minister of the Environment, who ordered an investigation.
The Police Superintendent also ordered the police to support us and today, personally inspected the sight of the land invasion and reiterated his help.  Today, the situation in Cerro Blanco made the headlines of two other Guayaquil based national newspapers and yesterday and today, I gave interviews to four TV channels, Ecuavisa, RCT, TC and Canal Uno (Teleamazonas has also gone to the invasion site and filed a report).  Right now our efforts are focusing on the authorities to sanction the traffickers both under the penal code for the attempt to take our land by force, and also to sanction with fines for the environmental damage, especially the destruction of the 70 planted trees.

I will keep you posted as things develop.


Wednesday, April 20

The Pro-Forest Foundation Celebrates Earth Day

Eric Horstman

As part of the Pro-Forest Foundation’s outreach program in the communities within the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest buffer zone, we organized a tree planting program with TC Television on Saturday, April 16th.

The event commemorated the celebration of Earth Day and was carried out at the Marianita Rodas Elementary School in the village of Puerto Hondo, with the participation of over 40 students from the seventh grade.
The tree planting was carried out as part of the social responsibility program of TC Television.  Previously, I participated in a special program on water, my comments focusing on the relationship between the protection of forests and water (please see this link
For the Earth Day celebration, TC Television brought twenty celebrities from their different programs to Puerto Hondo.  With the slogan “Lets take care of the world that will be for our children” each celebrity joined up with two children from the school to plant their tree.  Each tree was marked with a bamboo stick with the name of the celebrity and the kids painted on them. 
At the end of the tree planting, a agreement was signed with the Director of the Marianita Rodas Elementary School and myself in representation of the Pro-Forest Foundation, in which the school agrees to take care of the planted trees.
As I explained in my opening remarks, this tree planting represents a symbolic act of recognizing the interconnection that exists between the dry tropical forest that is protected in Cerro Blanco, and the nearby mangroves.
Our contribution to this important initiative by TC Television was the donation of fifty native dry forest trees (and a couple of lemon trees) as well as the labor and technical assistance to prepare the planting site.  The rest is up to the children of the Marianita Rodas School.

In a country that suffers one of the highest deforestation rates in the region, we hope that this initiative will be expanded to other interested schools and organizations in the coastal region as well as the rest of the country.

Tuesday, April 12

Tangerine: Life as a Bird

About two years ago, I received an e-mail message from Jane Johnson.  She explained that she was in the process of writing a book on a Grey-cheeked Parakeet that has shared and brightened the lives of Jane and her husband Cliff.  My name was given to her as someone who knows the species in the wild and could help with observations, etc.
I was intrigued and answered Jane’s message, beginning a back and forth exchange that finally culminated in the publication of her beautiful book, “Tangerine: Life as a Bird” at the end of 2010.
The book focuses on Tangerine, a Grey-cheeked Parakeet (Brotogerispyrrhoptera) that has lived for several years with Jane and Cliff.  I myself rehabilitated and released back in the wild a Grey-Cheek, an endangered species throughout its limited range in Southwestern Ecuador to Northwest Peru.  I could relate toTangerine’s inquisitiveness as it explored the house and interacted with the wild animals outside.

An especially important part of the book is the connection with wild Gray-Cheeks and their habitat in the dry tropical forests of Ecuador.  We are blessed with flocks of Gray-cheeks in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest that pass noisily through the trees as they stop to feed on the fruits and seeds of native forest trees and loudly scold any hawk, human or other potential threat that gets near them.
Jane and Cliff visited Cerro Blanco in January and after a day or two without seeing any Gray-cheeks in the supposed Mecca of the species, I went out early with our visitors and we were rewarded with multiple sightings of Grey-cheeks.
The book has been self published and shortly a web site will be up and running to handle sales, inquiries, etc.  A nice plug for our work in protecting Grey-cheeked habitat is mentioned, with a link to a campaign page that has been set up on the World Land Trust-US website, through which, you can make your tax deductible donations to support our work.  Thank you.

Monday, April 11

First National Census of Great Green Macaw Ara ambiguus guayaquilensis Carried Out in Ecuador

Eric Horstman

The National Conservation Strategy for the Great Green Macaw in Ecuador, which was reviewed and revised in 2009, includes as one of its policies, the implementation of projects for research and monitoring of populations of this critically endangered species in Ecuador.

While work has been done to monitor the local population in and around the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest as well as some forest remnants on private property in the Cordillera Chongon Colonche, no effort has been made to carry out a census of other populations in the species’ range in Ecuador.
Based on the experience acquired in a bi-national census of the same species carried out in Nicaragua and Costa Rica in 2009 and with the support of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, the census was organized and carried out in the provinces of Esmeraldas, Santa Elena and Guayas.
Observers were positioned at strategic sites where macaws have been recently spotted, from 6 AM to 7 PM on December 21, 2010.  Participants included park guards of the Pro-Forest Foundation in Guayas Province, forest guards of the Project Chongon-Colonche of Fundacion Natura and staff of the Jocotoco Foundation at the Rio Canande Reserve in Esmeraldas Province.
A total of six Great Green Macaws were spotted on December 21st, including five individuals in the Bosque Protector Chongon Colonche and one macaw at the Hacienda El Molino, near the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest, by a group of biologists of the Consejo Provincial del Guayas.  The Jocotoco Foundation reported that days before the census, two macaws were seen at Rio Canande.
The overall population of Great Green Macaws in Ecuador is estimated at between 60 and 80 individuals, so this census only scratches the surface of the potential population that exists.  We hope that this year with more time and the support of the authorities, that we can extend the census to more areas in the range of the Great Green Macaw in Ecuador.  My feeling is that this population estimate is perhaps overly optimistic, as the twin threats of deforestation and capture of macaws for the pet trade continues in Ecuador at a rapid clip.

Thursday, March 31


The Ecuadorian Dry Forest is one of the planet’s most endangered ecoregions, with around 1% of the original forest remaining in the Ecuadorian coastal provinces of Esmeraldas, Manabí, Guayas and El Oro. 
The Fundación Pro-Bosque (Pro-Forest Foundation) has focused much of its work during the last eighteen years, on protecting and restoring this critically endangered ecosystem in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest and adjacent areas in the Cordillera Chongón-Colonche.
As deforestation and urban expansion continue to gobble up thousands of acres of native forest in Ecuador every year, once biologically diverse landscapes are being transformed into sterile and barren landscapes, the ecological services of these once verdant landscapes destroyed.
But nature, if given a chance, has incredible recuperative properties and our experience has shown that Ecuadorian Dry Forest can be restored, if its main nemesis, forest fires, is controlled to allow natural regeneration to occur. 
According to a floristic inventory carried out by the JatunSacha Foundation and National Herbarium, the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest’s 14,826 acres include more than 80 tree species.  Thanks to the support of the World Land Trust of the United Kingdom, too date, the Pro-Forest Foundation has planted 353,851 native dry forest trees of 35 species in a total of 882 acres of cut-over land in Cerro Blanco.  The overall survival rate of the planted trees has been between 50 and 65% and we are concerned that the drought of over a month during the current rainy season will affect the 55,000 trees that have been planted this year.

To insure a future for the Ecuadorian Dry Forest, we must work to educate and create awareness among local community members who’s grandparents still remember the forest and the huge trees once found there, memories that are slipping away. 
Thanks to the support of the Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation, we began working in October 2010 until the present in developing and implementing a project to educate local children and adults in the following communities surrounding Cerro Blanco, Puerto Hondo, Casas Viejas and Chongon.  Educational materials have been developed, including a tree guide, poster illustrating dry forest trees and a book on propagation of native dry forest trees by Michael Morgan, former Peace Corps volunteer who worked extensively to identify techniques for the propagation of native dry forest tree species.  So far, 287 kids between 8 and 14 years of age have been visited, received presentations on native trees and taken part in the fun activities included in the tree guide.

With classes about to begin again in the coast, we look forward to resuming our work in the local schools with the help and support of schoolteachers and administrators as well.



Friday, March 25

The Pro-Forest Foundation's annual tree planting program in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest

On February 4th, a total of 88 people participated in the Pro-Forest Foundation's annual tree planting program in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest. The twenty members of the  foundation staff, including  park guards, reforestation workers and administrative staff, were joined by  68 volunteers including 30 students from the Catholic University, 8 members of the Puerto Hondo Ecological Club, 5 interpretative guides from Cerro Blanco and 18 people from many walks of life that found out about the event through social networking.

During a four hour period, a total of 1,900 native trees were planted by the group in areas within Cerro  Blanco that had previously been cut over before the protected forest was created in 1989. This forms a part of the 55,000 trees that are being planted in Cerro Blanco this year with the support of the World Land Trust.

The tree planting coincides with the winter rains, which provides a two month window of opportunity to take advantage of the rains to plant trees, since there are no on-site watering systems. This represents the fourth consecutive year that the Pro-Forest Foundation has invited the general public to participate in its tree planting program. Ecuador suffers one of the highest deforestation rates in the region and it is essential that Ecuadorians recognize the damage that has been and continues to be done through rampant and un-controlled deforestation that is destroying the countries'  natural heritage. Through this event, the Pro-Forest Foundation seeks to create more awareness in the public and support for its conservation programs in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest.