Posts Tagged ‘Ecuador’

Nature Ramble

Study offers snapshot of rare Ecuador Amazon parrot

Researchers came back with “more questions than answers” about the Ecuador Amazon parrot

UK researchers that headed to South America to learn more about one of the world’s rarest parrots have returned with “more questions than answers”.

A team from Chester Zoo spent three weeks studying Ecuador Amazon parrots.

The parrot was only reclassified as a species in its own right in December, before which it was deemed to be a subspecies of a common group of birds.

Only 600 individuals are estimated to remain in the wild, prompting the new species to be listed as Endangered.

“The truth is that we came back with far more questions than answers,” explained expedition leader Mark Pilgrim, director general of Chester Zoo.

“Suddenly, there are a whole number of things that we didn’t expect and we now have questions about.”

One example was how the birds chose their roosting sites amid the mangroves of Cerro Blanco, located along the coast of western Ecuador.

“We knew from literature from our previous visit that the parrots roosted in the mangroves and flew to the dry forests to feed,” Dr Pilgrim told BBC News.

“The assumption was that they did that to protect themselves from predators that were not found on the mangrove islands, but they fly very far out into the mangroves.

“Shrimp farms use bird scaring devices, which are designed to frighten the herons and shore birds and stop them eating the farms’ stock.

“So is this affecting [the parrots’] behaviour? We don’t know.”

Lovesick parrots?

The study also raised questions about the birds’ breeding behaviour.

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Nature Ramble

Colombia and Ecuador this week and the discovery of a ‘new’ mammal. Well, the animal has been around for a while, it’s just that we didn’t know it.

It’s rather astounding because the last mammal discovered was 35 years ago, so this event isn’t an everyday occurrence.


‘Overlooked’ mammal carnivore is major discovery

Scientists in the US have discovered a new animal living in the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador.

It has been named olinguito and is the first new species of carnivore to be identified in the Western hemisphere in 35 years.

It has taken more than a decade to identify the mammal, a discovery that scientists say is incredibly rare in the 21st Century.

The credit goes to a team from the Smithsonian Institution.

The trail began when zoologist Kristofer Helgen uncovered some bones and animal skins in storage at a museum in Chicago.

“It stopped me in my tracks,” he told BBC News. “The skins were a rich red colour and when I looked at the skulls I didn’t recognise the anatomy. It was different to any similar animal I’d seen, and right away I thought it could be a species new to science.”

Meet the olinguito and the man who discovered the new mammal species

Dr Helgen is curator of mammals at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, which houses the largest mammal collection in the world.

More than 600,000 specimens are flat-packed in trays to save space, their bones picked clean by specially bred beetles and stored in boxes alongside their skins.

Many were collected more than a century ago and were often mislabelled or not properly identified. But recent advances in technology have enabled scientists to extract DNA from even the oldest remains.

The 35cm-long (14in) olinguito is the latest addition to the animal family that includes racoons. By comparing DNA samples with the other five known species, Dr Helgen was able to confirm his discovery.

“It’s hard for me to explain how excited I am,” he says.

“The olinguito is a carnivore – that group of mammals that includes cats, dogs and bears and their relatives. Many of us believed that list was complete, but this is a new carnivore – the first to be found on the American continent for more than three decades.”

Dr Helgen has used such mammal collections to identify many other new species, including the world’s biggest bat and the world’s smallest bandicoot. But he says the olinguito is his most significant discovery. Its scientific name is Bassaricyon neblina. The last carnivore to be identified in the Americas was the Colombian Weasel.

But even after identifying the olinguito, a crucial question remained: could they be living in the wild?

“We used clues from the specimens about where they might have come from and to predict what kind of forest we might find them in – and we found it!”


The olinguito is now known to inhabit a number of protected areas from Central Colombia to western Ecuador. Although it is a carnivore, it eats mainly fruit, comes out at night and lives by itself, producing just one baby at a time.

And scientists now believe an olinguito was exhibited in several zoos in the US between 1967 and 1976. Its keepers mistook it for an olinga – a close relative – and could not understand why it would not breed. It was sent to a number of different zoos but died without being properly identified.

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Nature Ramble

Our ramble today takes us to the forests of Colombia and Ecuador to have a look at a strange bird.

Well, it’s not the bird that is strange, but how it makes its mating call.

Dense wing bones help this tiny South American bird to sing make its unique “wing violin music”.

“The only bird known to sing with its wings contains some secrets of its performance in its bones, researchers have found.

The club-winged manakin, which lives in the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador, performs a mate-attracting song by rubbing its wings together.”

The male club-winged manakin performs its mating call

“Most birds have hollow wing bones, the club-winged manakin’s are “bulky and solid”.

During a courtship display, male club-winged manakins (Machaeropterus deliciosus) knock their wings above their backs to create sound.

Dr Bostwick thinks that having ridged, vibrating feathers attached to a solid, stiff mass is the best way to make sure the vibrations are emitted from the feather as sound, rather than being absorbed into the bone.

Dr Bostwick was the first to decode the mechanism behind the manakin’s unique sound – revealing a new kind of birdsong.”

Source: BBC News Read the full story

Here’s another manakin species, dubbed “the Michael Jackson” bird…

Red Capped Manakin Pipra mentalis ignifera from Panama

Maybe the fact that the bird lives near coca growing areas explains his dance…

Race to save Ecuador’s ‘lungs of the world’ park

The Napo River in Ecuador, an Amazon tributary, runs for 1,075km (668 miles)

The Yasuni National Park, known as “the lungs of the world” and one of the most bio-diverse places on earth, is under threat from oil drilling. The race is on to find the funds required to develop new sustainable energy programmes that would leave the oil – and the forest – untouched.

In the early light of dawn, the Napo River, running swiftly from its headwaters in the high Andes, swirled powerfully past the bow of our motorised canoe.

Suddenly, a dense cloud of green parrots swooped down from the canopy of the jungle and in a cackling din started scooping tiny beakfuls from the exposed muddy bank.

The heavy mineral rich clay, the birds seem to know, is an antidote to the toxins present in the seeds of the forest which are a major part of their daily diets.

As if on cue at 07:30 local time, as the first rays of the sun touched the water, they took flight and were gone and one of the most wonderful spectacles of Amazonian Ecuador was over.

We were drifting on the fringes of the Yasuni National Park, which has more plant species in its million hectares (3,860 sq miles) of swamps, jungle and marsh, than the entirety of North America.

The pygmy marmoset – the world’s smallest monkey – sloths and giant otters are among many other threatened species to find home in the park.

There are also some 300 members of the last nomadic hunter-gatherers on earth, who choose to live in total isolation as they have for thousands of years.

Fund-raising mission

It was a strange thought that people who have no concept of modern life could be watching us from the impenetrable jungle close by.

In Quito, Ecuador’s capital, I talked to Yvonne Baki, the government special envoy who now heads the Yasuni fund-raising mission to save the forest from oil drilling.

Wasn’t it strange to expect the global community to pay Ecuadoreans not to despoil one their most valuable natural assets? I asked Ms Baki.

“Yasuni and the Amazon are the lungs of the world,” she told me.

“The Yasuni fund will be used to finance reforestation, develop new sources of alternative energy and other strategic sustainable development programs.

“Now we’ve opened it to everyone in the world, from private individuals to corporations, as well as national governments. We are not a rich country, yet in one day here we raised $3m – most of it from ordinary people.

“This is a unique project – what other country even thinks of leaving its oil wealth in the ground?” Ms Baki continued.

The clock though is still ticking for Yasuni.

The government initially demanded that $100m (£64m) had to be donated by the end of December 2011. If not oil drilling would get the green light.

The deadline has been put back but Rocque Sevilla, a former politician and conservationist who was the first director of the Yasuni Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini (ITT) project, thinks that the world is not yet ready for such an innovative concept.

Cash contributions

“It is perfectly achievable if we give enough time to the industrialised countries to understand the huge advance in international environmental policy that the ITT project represents,” Mr Sevilla said.

“We in Ecuador too have to understand that, with the rich alternative sources of energy we have, from hydro-electricity to solar power, we can use far less oil,” Mr Sevilla concluded.

Macaw parrot The majority of macaw parrot species in Yasuni park are now endangered

Small yellow boxes for donors to give cash contributions are now in place in Ecuadorean post offices and government offices. Marco Toscano, a friend who drove me to Quito’s airport to catch the plane to the jungle region, told me he would stop by on the way home to put $100 into the fund.

“Many people in Ecuador had no idea about the importance of Yasuni. Now many of us are determined to help in any way we can,” Mr Toscano said.

In the bustling oil town of Coca, on the banks of the Napo river, I meet Eduardo Pichilingue, who has worked monitoring the uncontacted tribes of Yasuni.

For him it is simply a matter of payback time.

“There are areas of Ecuadorean Amazonia which have already been ruined by oil exploitation,” Mr Pichilingue said as I boarded my canoe.

“The Yasuni ITT fund will save biodiversity, isolated tribal communities, and prevent millions of tons of carbon going into the atmosphere. I think the world really owes us this,” Mr Pichilingue continued.

Two hours downstream from Coca, I land on the edge of the Yasuni park. There the Curi Muyu co-operative run by Kichwa Indian women demonstrates to visitors how tribal people can live in total harmony with the jungle.

Antonia Aguinda, a small vibrant woman, shows me a fine earthenware bowl which she made and fired in the simple kiln at the centre of the cool thatched living space.

“The oil business is bad for us,” Ms Aguinda said.

“Some people get jobs and money – some don’t. It divides us against each other. And how long will oil last – maybe 10 years?

“If we can save Yasuni then we all will have work and can continue to share this beautiful place with people from far away.”

Source: BBC News

Red-Green Macaws flying above the clay bank


Majesty at risk

Ecuadorian-UN accord that puts ecology over oil drilling hailed as model for world

White-banded Swallows perching of a tree stump on the bank of Rio Tiputini, Yasuní National Park in Ecuador

23 September 2011 – An Ecuadorian accord to leave vast oil reserves, conservatively valued at $7.2 billion, untapped to protect biodiversity in a national park in return for half that amount from the international community was heralded at the United Nations today as a model in the fight to save the planet.

“It is not often that a government chooses sustainable development over easy money,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a high-level meeting on the Yasuní-ITT Initiative, under which the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Ecuador agreed last year to set up a trust fund to protect the Yasuní National Park, a World Biosphere Reserve in the country’s Amazon region, with an estimated 846 million barrels of crude oil lying under it.

“The initiative is helping Ecuador move on multiple fronts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he told the event, held on the sidelines of the General Assembly’s annual general debate in the presence of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.

“It is supporting indigenous livelihoods and culture. It is protecting biodiversity. It will help to avoid emissions of greenhouse gases. And it is showing the contribution that can be made through an innovative financial mechanism.”

Source: UN News Center Read more


Ecuador is one of the lesser known countries in South America, perched between Colombia and Peru.

With all that is going on in the world it is gratifying to see such a small country making the effort and putting the world’s major powers to shame and disgrace.

Ecuador is indeed a model for the rest of the world.

Let’s hope that others follow the leader.


Yasuní National Park

Such beautiful areas of the planet should be left… beautiful and not fall victim to man’s greed for power and money.

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