• photo: David Agro

    Land acquisition for Rio Canande Reserve, Ecuador

In Brief


Esmeraldas Province in Northwestern Ecuador


Increased protection for the biodiversity of the Ecuadorian Choco region.

Conservation Value:

Located within the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena biodiversity hotspot, Río Canandé Reserve contains a staggering amount of biodiversity. The remaining lowland tropical rainforests of this area are being rapidly converted to oil palm plantations and securing more land is a very high conservation priority. Canande reserve harbours 110 of the 212 species of amphibians and reptiles in the Ecuadorian Chocó, 62 species of range-restricted birds, the Critically Endangered brown-headed spider monkey, and the largest population of one of the rarest endemic tree species in Ecuador. See details below in the "In Depth" section.


The Ecuadorian Chocó is still a tropical forest frontier region where effective governance is often lacking with forest being cleared rapidly despite these forests being designated officially as protected areas. It is estimated that only 2% of the original Ecuadorian Chocó vegetation remains. The main drivers of deforestation include: road development projects that promote the immigration of colonists into the area, leading to recurring cycles of colonization and forest degradation and conversion; doubling of agricultural activities within the region; major increases in timber extraction; and the establishment of large-scale plantations of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis). The largest remaining forest tract in the Chocó region is within and around the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve—part of the Ecuadorian National System of Protected Areas—which spans an altitudinal gradient from 30-4939 m. The pressures on this ecological reserve and neighbouring properties have increased in recent years in the areas around the reserves' boundaries.

Actions & Results:

ICFC and colleague Rainforest Trust funded the purchase of three properties totaling 170 ha to expand the Río Canandé Reserve, located in Esmeraldas Province, Northwestern Ecuador. In addition, with ICFC’s support, in 2017 Fundación Jocotoco planted 211,754 native tree species on Rio Canandé and two other reserves.

Project Field Partner:

Fundación Jocotoco

Size of Area Involved:

This project is adding ~170 hectares to the reserve's 200 ha.  The focal area for working with communities is 30,000 ha.


Cost to ICFC in 2017: US$81,075, which was matched 1:1 by an anonymous donor to Rainforest Trust.

We hope to participate in further acquisitions in the Ecuadorian Chocó. Your support for this is needed!

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Bothriechis schlegelii (credit: Tropical Herping)

In More Depth...

Conservation Significance

The Rio Canandé Reserve is situated within the Ecuadorian portion of the Chocó-Darién biogeographic region (the Chocó), an area which has been identified by BirdLife International as an Endemic Bird Area due its high number of Restricted-range Species (62) in the world. It is also part of the important Bird Area EC005 Verde-Ónzole-Cayapas-Canandé. When it comes to amphibians and reptiles, the Rio Canandé Reserve is the most herpeto-diverse locality west of the Andes in Ecuador, and the most diverse in the Chocó region. The Ecuadorian Chocó is home to 212 species of amphibians and reptiles, 110 of which are found within the Rio Canandé Reserve (Ortega-Andrade et al., 2010). In comparison, richer communities of amphibians and reptiles in the Neotropics are only found in the upper Amazon basin i.e., 220 in Leticia, Colombia; 185 in Santa Cecilia, Ecuador; and 271 in Yasuni National Park, Ecuador (Arteaga, 2016). Furthermore, the Ecuadorian Chocó, and in particular the Rio Canandé Reserve, are special because 10% of their species are endemics.

About 22% of the species known to occur in the Rio Canandé Reserve have not been evaluated by the IUCN, although some are likely to qualify as endangered, and 20% of species have been evaluated as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered. These include: the elusive and Endangered Mache Glassfrog (Cochranella mache), the recently described and Not Evaluated Nieto’s Rainfrog (Pristimantis nietoi), the Vulnerable Ornate Rainfrog (Pristimantis ornatissimus), and the Not Evaluated Dwarf-Gecko (Lepidoblepharis grandis). Lastly, the Rio Canandé Reserve area also harbours probably the most important population of the Critically Endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkey (Ateles fusciceps fusciceps), a subspecies of the also Critically Endangered Black-headed spider monkey (Ateles fusciceps). The Brown-headed Spider Monkey is one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world. In addition, the Rio Canandé Reserve also harbours the largest population of one of the rarest endemic tree species in Ecuador, the Critically Endangered Ecuadodendrum acosta-solisianum, which is only known from two localities.

Table 1: Threatened species protected by Reserva Rio Canande, with IUCN Red List designation: Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), and Vulnerable (VU).

Brown-headed Spider Monkey (Ateles fusciceps) (CR; at least 13 groups counted in one survey in 2015. The Canandé watershed together with the Cotacachi-Cayapas Reserve is the global hotspot for that species.)

Plumbeous Forest Falcon (VU), Great Green Macaw (EN; at least 36 individuals. This is the largest known group in Ecuador), Scarlet-breasted Dacnis (VU), Baudó Guan (EN), Banded Ground-Cuckoo (EN), Brown Wood-rail (VU), and Plumbeous Hawk (VU).

Plants: Ecuadendron acosta-solisianum (EN, 100 adult trees identified; more surely occur as only 10-20% of Canandé Reserve have been surveyed. Known to occur at Cambugán but no numbers are available.100 seedlings produced) , Magnolia canandeana (CR)

Amphibians & Reptiles: Cochranella mache (EN). P. ornatissimus (VU), P. rosadoi (VU), Hyloxalus awa (VU), H. toachi (EN),  B. medemi (VU), Echinosaura horrida (VU),  Teuchocercus keyi  (VU), Corallus blombergi (EN), , Spilotes pullatus (VU), Rhinoclemmys annulata (NT), R. nasuta (NT)

As mentioned above, the Ecuadorian Chocó is one of the most heavily deforested hotspots on the planet. Thus, protecting the remaining lowland tropical rainforests around the Rio Canandé Reserve is of critical importance. The strategic land acquisitions to expand the Rio Canandé Reserve will help protect the remaining forests in the region and their biodiversity.


Fundación Jocotoco established the Rio Canandé Reserve in the vicinity of the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve in 1999 to protect the threatened biodiversity of the Chocó ecoregion. The reserve is protected through five park guards who live inside the reserve on their work days. Park guards perform reforestation, patrolling and maintain the trails and huts inside the reserve.

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