El Pahuma

Lalo Loor








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Powerful Earthquake Strikes Coastal Ecuador

A massive quake shook the coast of Ecuador on Saturday, April 16. The epicenter of the earthquake was located only a few miles northwest of the city of Pedernales, which lies 30 km to the north of Ceiba's reserve, the Lalo Loor Dry Forest. Reports from Pedernales, and other coastal ctiies, reveal significant loss of life and massive infrastructure damage. The Ceiba Foundation is working to verify the status of staff in the reserve, and of our friends and neighbors in the nearby towns of Tabuga and Camarones. Simply reaching many rural towns is currently impossible for the authorities, as roads and bridges are compromised, and communications are largely out of service.

The power of this earthquake, and the scale of damage, make it clear that recovery efforts will be arduous, lengthy, and expensive. We ask all those who have a personal connection to coastal Ecuador -- former students and volunteers, researchers, friends, and family -- to hope for the best, and help Ceiba create an Earthquake Recovery Fund for the recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Please DONATE HERE, and encourage anyone you know who wants to help to support this fund.

For ongoing updates in what is obviously a fluid situation, please refer to Ceiba's facebook page.

Tropical Conservation Semester Students Spot Migratory Birds at El Pahuma

During a recent visit to the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, students in Ceiba's flagship study-abroad program made a noteworthy discovery on their first day of birdwatching. In cloud forest at 2400 m of elevation, we spotted a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and several Bay-breasted Warblers. Both birds are Neotropical migrants, passing their winters in South American forests like Pahuma, but migrating hundreds of miles in the Spring to reach the rich breeding grounds of North America. Although these two species have been seen elsewhere in Ecuador, they had not previously been known from El Pahuma. As a conservation organization dedicated to habitat protection and education, we are thrilled that Pahuma's forests are providing a safe haven for overwintering migrants, and proud that Tropical Conservation Semester students contributed to the discovery. You can read more about each species at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website: Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Bay-breasted Warbler.

Pre-Departure Orientations at UW

Ceiba's summer 2015 courses are ready for departure! All participants are invited to attend the orientation sessions provided at UW, where you'll receive details about schedules and travel, packing and purchasing, flights and lodging, and have all your other questions answered by Ceiba and UW Study Abroad staff. The orientation for both summer courses -- "Tropical Ecosystems: Andes * Amazon * Pacific Coast" and "Water for Life" -- will be held on April 24, from 2:30 - 4:30 pm, in Van Hise room 483. If you are a participant from another university, please contact Ceiba's office by phone or email to arrange for your participation by video conference; you also will receive a detailed summary of the orientation content and answers to questions.

Ceiba Summer Courses Get Underway!

Ceiba offers a suite of summer programs focusing on water quality ("Water for Life"), tropical ecosystems and ecology ("Andes, Amazon, Pacific"), and internships ranging from environmental education to scientific research ("Conservation Internships"). Students arrive in Ecuador in late May, and stay for two weeks to two months. During this time participants tour the Andean highlands, including the the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve (Ceiba's first conservation project) where the Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan and numerous species of hummingbird abound, and the high alpine region on the called paramo. After this visit to the upper-elevation systems of Ecuador, the courses descend to the Pacific Ocean, to explore coastal forests and mangroves, and take up residence at the Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve. Stay in touch with our programs via Facebook, or come to Ecuador and see the incredible diversity for yourself.

New Mammal Species Discovered in Ecuador

Ecuadorian and US researchers recently announced the discovery of a new mammal species, the olinguito, from the mountainous forests of Ecuador and Colombia. Something like a cross between a raccoon and a monkey, the olinguito is a close relative of the diurnal kinkajou and the nocturnal olingo, both tree climbing fruit eaters that are rarely observed. The new olinguito occurs in upper elevation montane forest, just like the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, and it is very likely that Pahuma harbors a population of these amazing creatures.

Ecuador Cancels ITT Program

Several years ago, when massive oil reserves were found beneath a hyper-diverse area of Amazon rainforest known as the ITT region, the Ecuadorian government made the world a unique proposal: pay us to protect it. They argued, not unconvincingly, that leaving the oil in the ground meant sacrificing national wealth that could be used for shools, roads, hospitals and other benefits to the the nation's citizens. In response to the world's outcry that the forests could, under no circumstances, be destroyed for oil exploration, Ecuador offered to ignore those resources in exchange for monetary compensation. However, fluctuating commitment to the ITT program on the part of the Ecuadorian government, and a lack of conviction on the part of international donors that drilling would be halted in perpetuity, produced a weak level of support that yielded only a few million dollars, far short of the $3.6 billion originally sought. In August, Rafael Correa's government announced the abandonment of the ITT conservation proposal, indicating that they would indeed plan for drilling in this region. It is a sad day for conservation, and for the plants and animals and people that inhabit this spectacular region. For a more informed perspective, read this report by Dr. Kelly Swing, science director of the Tiputini Biodiversity Station located near the ITT area.

Ceiba Summer Courses Get Underway!

We just concluded a terrific Tropical Conservation Semester here in Ecuador, where students swam with sharks and sea turtles, woke to howling howler monkeys, and saw numerous pink river dolphins in the Amazon. Now, a new group of students are arriving to Quito to begin their 4-8 week summer programs. Students participating in the Andes to Amazon Tropical Ecology course will tour many of Ecuador's incredible habitats, including the orchid-rich cloud forest and monkey-rich rainforest, before descending to the Pacific coast. Those students in Engage Children in Science travel to the coast in just a few days, to begin a rewarding four weeks working with local teachers to improve their science instruction. Finally, our Conservation Interns will spend the next two months in coastal communities, contributing to environmental education programs and sustainable women's cooperatives. Stay tuned for more news from the field!

Get Funky for the Monkeys at 5th Annual Tropical Forest Funkraiser -- Nov. 29, 2012

Come in from the cold at the High Noon Saloon on November 29 @ 8 p.m. for an evening of tropical rhythms! Enjoy dancing among a forest of tropical plants to Tani Diakite, Harmonious Wail and the Handphibiens as we raise funds to support habitat protection in Ecuador. There'll be silent auction and tropical plant sale too, with proceeds benefiting our cause. Get an orchid in bloom or a Christmas cactus for someone special. Maybe trick out your apartment with a new palm tree. How about a banana plant, bet you don't have one of those! Come join us, fill your ears full of great music, and your soul full of doing good for the planet.

Three Sightings of Elusive Puma in Ecuador

Three separate sightings of pumas were recorded this week by students and researchers on Ceiba courses or working at our reserves. The second largest cat in South America after the jaguar, the puma (Felis concolor) is also known to North Americans as the mountain lion and cougar. This graceful, quiet predator also occurs in the tropical forests of Central and South America, where it eats a variety of prey from small mammals to ground birds. During a visit to the Amazon rainforest by the Tropical Conservation Semester program, one lucky student came face to face with a puma while hiking trails in search of birds. She spooked the cat from a resting perch, but got a good look at it before the feline slipped noiselessly into the forest. Only a few days later, instructors Joe Meisel and Catherine Woodward came across another puma during a brief, midday forest hike: the animal, a gorgeous reddish-cinnamon color, bounded quickly into the underbrush, but not before we clearly saw its muscled flanks, slender legs, and black-tipped tail. Earlier that same week, according to email reports from snake experts working at the Lalo Loor Dry Forest reserve, another puma was spotted deep in the forest. The presence of this unfairly persecuted cat (virtually no attacks on humans have been recorded in the tropics) in the reserve is a sign of healthy ecosystem processes at work. We are delighted that our conservation efforts are helping to protect these magnificent creatures.

Ceiba Takes to the Airwaves on WORT's Access Hour

October 3, 2011 - Students and staff from Ceiba held a wide ranging hour of interviews and discussions about tropical conservation in the 21st century. Led by Joe Meisel and hosted by Madison's WORT radio station, the show highlighted the foundation's approach to conservation in Ecuador, our forest reserve projects, and the study abroad programs Ceiba leads each year. Lisa Naughton, a professor of Geography from UW Madison and a Ceiba board member, spoke about her experience working on land tenure rights and other fundamental issues that affect conservation in Ecuador. Former students described their adventures on field courses in the Amazon and Galapagos, and how service learning programs are making a real difference near the Lalo Loor reserve. Download the entire program here (mp3 file - 27 megs) or stream it from WORT (show aired Oct 3 at 7 pm).

Embarking on Service-Learning: New Courses Foster Sharing Between Students and Communities

October 1, 2011 - Ceiba's study abroad programs have always had a profoundly positive impact on the students that attend them. Now, two new programs seek to enhance the benefit for local communities in Ecuador. "Land Use, Water Quality, and Human Health" centers around the establishment of a community-based research project in which local teachers and high school students will work with U.S. undergraduates to monitor streams utilized by the communities for drinking and bathing. In the context of this community project, students will learn how land use practices impact water quality, and in turn, water quality impacts human health. The other course is titled "Engage Children in Science" and will provide an international outreach experience to U.S undergraduates who will work with Ecuadorian teachers to build capacity for inquiry-based science education. Both are "service-learning" courses, defined as "course-based, credit-bearing educational experience[s] that allows students to participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility." Bringle & Hatcher (1995). Ceiba is collaborating with the UW-Madison to offer these new programs to their undergraduate students starting in summer 2012. Contact us for more information.

Community Workshops Target Conservation Laws

September 30, 2011 - One of the greatest challenges to conservation is adequate law enforcement. But sending the police out to crack down on illegal loggers and hunters can be avoided if people abide by the law in the first place. In Ecuador, we have found that most local people don't break laws out of criminal intent or disrespect for the law, but rather, they simply don't know what the law is! With funding from Conservation International, and cooperation from the Ministry of Environment, Ceiba is providing workshops in rural communities surrounding protected forests, to inform villagers of the laws affecting forests and wildlife, helping people understand the reasons the laws exist, and informing them about how to obtain permits for legal extraction activities. We also spread the word about the Forest Partners (Socio Bosque) program and encourage people to register their forests in this national habitat protection program.

Ceiba Spearheads Grass-Roots Campaign for New Community Center

August 1, 2011 - It was the mission of Kara Pillsbury, Ceiba's community liaison, to help the citizens of Tabuga raise the funds they needed to build a community center. With the help of the community president, Augustín Martínez who donated the ground floor of his modest house, Kara had already launched a community library, but the space was small, and the community needed a medical consultancy and meeting room as well. She embarked on a grass-roots fundraising campaign, and raised nearly $15,000 to build the community center. The local government pitched in a foreman for the construction job, and transport of materials. The community center is nearing completion, but much remains to be done, and Kara is still helping to raise additional funds for books, chairs, and other supplies that the library needs. See the video here, and help if you can!

Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation enrolls more than 12,000 acres in Ecuador’s Forest Partners programForest Partners Socio Bosque Program logo

August 26, 2010 –  Culminating a year-long partnership with Conservation International – Ecuador, Ceiba has set aside 12,000 acres of tropical forest as part of Ecuador’s ground-breaking Forest Partners program (called “Socio Bosque” in Spanish), a country-wide effort to halt deforestation and combat global climate change. In 2009, Ceiba became the first non-profit organization to sign a memorandum of understanding with Ecuador’s Environment Ministry to implement the program (see below).  Forest Partners provides financial compensation for 20 years to landowners who commit to protecting their forest.  Although not specifically tied to any particular ecosystem service, the payment recognizes the value of forests in protecting water quality and preventing CO2 emissions from deforestation.  The Ceiba Foundation is one of several conservation groups doing the field work to implement the project.  The work can be very demanding, requiring rigorous field work in thick vegetation, tropical heat and biting insects to map the forest parcels.  Thirty-seven separate forest parcels are now protected under the program.  International funding based on carbon-markets, including REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), has paid for Ecuador’s effort so far, but more support will be needed to cover the program’s long-term costs. View press release.

Manabi Conservation Corridor - Ceiba Foundation

A Present for Earth Day - 5,500 Acres of Forest Saved

To help celebrate Earth Day this April 22, Ceiba has a nice present for the planet: 5,500 acres of tropical dry forest set aside for conservation in Ecuador! We have been working in this region since 2004 to create a forested biological corridor, starting with the establishment of the Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve. In 2009 we partnered with Conservation International and the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment to implement their revolutionary forest protection scheme Socio Bosque, or Forest Partners. The program provides annual compensation for landowners who protect forests and the ecosystem services they provide. Ceiba has worked diligently for years to show residents of Ecuador's central coast the intrinsic value of their forests: they provide water for towns and crops, protect incredible plant and animal diversity, and offer a unique ecotourism opportunity in a country where most coastal forest has long since been lost. This year with our help landowners signed agreements setting aside 2225 hectares (5498 acres), and that's just the beginning. We are building on the strong support for conservation growing in the region, and are focused on our goal of a establishing the Manabí Biological Corridor. If you want to see some of the amazing habitat we are working to save, come visit or volunteer at the Lalo Loor Reserve.

TCS Students Add Species to the Lalo Loor Dry Forest List

A week long stay on Ecuador's Pacific coast was the latest adventure for the Tropical Conservation Semester (TCS) program. At the Lalo Loor Dry Forest the winter rains had just begun, and the forest was bursting with life: new green leaves, innumerable caterpillars, and quite a few frogs and snakes were active at night. In fact, program participants added at least 2 species to the reserve's list of reptiles and amphibians! A Turnip-tailed Gecko (Thecadactylus rapicauda) was spotted climbing a tree near the biological station; we found a unique-looking tree frog (Trachycephalus jordani) on the same night with an odd "helmet," actually a large patch atop its head where the skin is literally fused with the skull bones. We also had excellent views of a gorgeous Snail-eating Snake (Dipsas gracilis), so named because they can dislocate their long jawbone and inch it around the curve of a snail shell, until they snag the snail on the lower fangs and pull it out. Work on the fauna and flora of this unique transitional forest continues to reveal new finds!



Andean Condors Greet Tropical Conservation Semester Students

The 2010 Tropical Conservation Semester is underway! Undergraduate students took off from Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Carolina and California, and landed in the high Andes of Ecuador to attend Ceiba's annual study-abroad program. With backgrounds ranging from biology to Latin American studies to political science to engineering, we have quite a diverse group this year. After two weeks in Quito, taking intensive Spanish and terrestrial ecology classes, we journeyed to the slopes of the towering, glaciated Antisana Volcano (5750 m), where we were lucky enough to see three Andean Condors! This rare giant -- the largest flying land bird in the western hemisphere -- is regarded as near-threatened due to habitat loss and hunting, so we considered ourselves very fortunate. Next up, an extended trip to Ecuador's western coast, the Lalo Loor Dry Forest, and an excursion to a mangrove restoration project. For more information about the Tropical Conservation Semester, please visit the program home page.

Ceiba on Madison's WORT Radio Station

July 2009 - Ceiba directors Joe E. Meisel and Catherine Woodward were interviewed on the July 30 episode of Perpetual Notion Machine, a program on Madison's own WORT radio station (FM 89.9). The half-hour show, airing at 7:00 pm, offers listeners stories about science and technology. Joe and Catherine were invited to discuss Ceiba's recent move to the city of Madison, the foundation's ongoing conservation projects in Ecuador, and our study abroad programs offered through the University of Wisconsin. If you missed the on-air broadcast, you can use your browser instead of a radio and listen to the show online.

Ceiba partners with Ecuadorian Environment Ministry to implement the Forest Partners Program, "Socio Bosque".

Posted 4/20/09. In January 2009, the Ceiba Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding with Ecuador's Ministry of Environment to implement a pioneering new program that rewards landowners for conserving their forest. The program, called Socio Bosque in Spanish, or the Forest Partners program, is part of Ecuador's efforts to reduce deforestation and protect ecosystem services. The government is calling on local non-profit organizations working in rural areas throughout the country, where native forest still remains, to implement the program. Ceiba, with its history of promoting conservation in the northern Manabi province (see the Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve) was selected as the organization to to sign up landowners in this region along Ecuador's Pacific coast. Our efforts there aim to protect more than 10,000 hectares of threatened tropical deciduous forest.

Hook-billed Kite found at Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve

On a recent visit to the Lalo Loor Dry Forest, students from the 2009 Tropical Conservation Semester saw a bird not previously counted in inventories at the reserve. Christine Mertens was the first to spot a pair of Hook-billed Kites perched in a tree over the stream. These handsome birds, with gray and tan barring on the chest and strong white tail bands, have a patchy distribution and nomadic habits, and previously were unknown in the reserve. Their sharply pointed, downward-curving bills are adapted for eating their primary food source, snails. Recently the countryside around the reserve has experienced an increase in snails, thanks to the collapse of an ill-advised escargot project: according to local rumor, the snail "farm" failed to find backers in France, and the owners dumped thousands of adult snails along the roadside; several years later their populations are soaring. Perhaps the Kites have arrived to take advantage of these introduced, and unwanted, pests!

2009 Tropical Conservation Semester is Underway

Twenty four students from Wisconsin and around the US arrived in Ecuador to begin the 2009 Tropical Conservation Semester.  A unique collaboration between Ceiba and the University of Wisconsin - Madison, this program provides students with intensive field study of key terrestrial and marine ecosystems of the tropics, and hands-on involvement in ongoing conservation programs.  The group just returned from the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, where a very rainy weekend was thoroughly enjoyed!

Tropical Forest FunkRaiser - Dance your Socks Off!

Save this date!  Ceiba's second annual Tropical Forest FunkRaiser will blast off December 18.  Raising money for tropical forest protection, the event will feature funk bands -- Mama Digdown's Brass Band, Chafo and WADOMA, the West African Dance of Madison -- as well as contests, great tropical photographs, and tons of foot-stompin' fun!  Held at the High Noon Saloon on the near east side of Madison, Wisconsin (Ceiba's new home), the FunkRaiser should provide a great evening of music and dance to all ages.  Details are over on the main funkraiser homepage.

Ceiba Foundation Moves to Wisconsin

In a reflection of our deepening ties with the University of Wisconsin, and of our strong connections to the forward-thinking community of Madison, the Ceiba Foundation moved its main office to Wisconsin in November 2008!  Our new office is located at 301 S. Bedford Street, near the University of Wisconsin campus. If you live in Madison, consider contacting Ceiba to ask about volunteering to help our tropical conservation projects, all without leaving the state!  [Press Release]

Andes to Amazon Summer Course Ends With a Bang - An Anaconda!

The latest trip to the Amazon jungle turned out to be a great one for this year's Andes to Amazon students. After nearly two weeks in the rainforest, we were treated to a fantastic look at a Tapir, the largest mammal in South American, swimming across the Tiputini River just downstream of our canoe! And as if that weren't enough, on the final day we were lucky enough to see, curled up on a pile of logs, the most enormous Anaconda I have ever seen!  An absolutely gigantic creature, perhaps over 15 feet long (!), and quietly digesting a couple of very large items that bulged out like hay bales.

Rufous-necked Wood-Rail Observed at Lalo Loor Reserve

Recent bird survey work at the Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve turned up an unexpected and exciting discovery. A definitive identification was made of a family of Rufous-necked Wood-Rails (Aramides axillaris), inhabiting the reforestation plot just behind the new EcoCenter. This attractive, chicken-sized bird is known only from the marshes around Guayaquil, far to the south, and from a solitary record in Esmeraldas province; thus, the sighting at Lalo Loor represents the first record of the species in all of Manabí province, and only the third record in the country outside of the Guayaquil! Rated by the IUCN Red List of endangered species as "lower concern," this species has suffered declines throughout its range due to habitat loss. We are delighted to report the existence of (and reproduction by) this thrilling species within the reserve. For more information, please consult our bird species list, or come visit the reserve and see for yourself!

The Tropical Conservation Semester Completes Spring 2007 Semester

In January of 2007, Ceiba inaugurated the Tropical Conservation Semester.  This unique semester-abroad program, a collaboration between Ceiba and the University of Wisconsin, brings undergraduate students to Ecuador for a truly unparalleled experience.  We begin in Quito, where students receive intensive Spanish language classes on a local university campus while living with host families in Quito.  From there, we head to the cloud forest and high mountains of the Andes, before descending into the Amazon rainforest for a three-week adventure at world-famous Tiputini Biodiversity Station.  After returning to (and drying out in!) Quito for a week, we are off again.  This time, we explore the wild Pacific coast, visiting Ceiba's dry forest reserve, the Bosque Seco Lalo Loor.  Soon we are winging to the world-famous Galapagos Islands, which the program tours by boat (not bad for schoolwork, eh?), visiting all the major islands, both on dry land and beneath the waves.  Finally we settle at university campus on San Cristobal Island, the GAIAS station, where students conduct marine research projects and live with host families for two weeks, learning first hand what life on the Galapagos is really like.  The end of the semester offers students a unique opportunity to intern with a local conservation or research organization of their choice.  In 2007students studied fishery effects on hammerhead sharks, tracked rainforest monkeys for behavioral, and helped Ceiba establish environmental education and guide training programs in two communities near the Lalo Loor reserve.  In 2007 we saw an Andean Condor, climbed a volcano, nearly got stepped on by a tapir, established a new relationship with the Peace Corps, and created a brand-new orchid reserve in the Eastern Andes!  Who knows what might happen next year!

Conservation Philosophy Published in Orchid Journal Selbyana

Ceiba has long believed that conservation of private lands can play an important role in country-wide habitat protection programs. We believe that private lands conservation can be particularly important in the highlands of the Andes, where few large reserves exist and extreme rates of endemism indicate very small forests can harbor surprising numbers of unique species. Ceiba presented an outline of this rationale to the 2004 IOCC conference (see below), and was invited to publish a more extensive treatment of the topic in the conference proceedings. Focusing initially on our involvement with the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, Ceiba's officers Joe Meisel and Catherine Woodward expanded on our discussion of significance of endemism rates, a review of legal mechanisms underpinning private conservation, and the value of helping local landowners retain control of their forest. .The resulting paper was just published in the prestigious orchid journal, Selbyana (volume 26 (1,2), pages 49-57) in 2005. For a complete text of the article, please visit Selbyana's website, or contact Ceiba.

Ceiba Presents Conservation Work at IOCC 2004

Catherine Woodward, current president of Ceiba, spoke about the value of private lands for orchid conservation, using the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve as an example. Her talk highlighted how orchid species often occupy narrow geographic ranges and thus can often be well protected even on private landholdings, outside of large parks and reserves. The accompanying paper was published in the Proceedings of the International Orchid Conservation Congress (Selbyana 26 (1,2): 49-57) in 2005.

Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve

In early 2004, the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation established of the Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve (Bosque Seco Lalo Loor), located along the coast of Ecuador in the province of Manabí.  The new reserve is Ceiba's second in Ecuador, protects some of the last remaining tropical seasonally deciduous forest found in the country, a habitat type that has been so severely deforested in the past that only some 2% of the original extent remains.  We are excited to take the lead in protecting this valuable habitat, home to an astonishing number of threatened species such as the Red-masked Parakeet, Gray-backed Hawk, Little Woodstar and more.  We encourage you to support our efforts in the dry forest by visiting the reserve, volunteering your time and energy, or making a donation to Ceiba.

El Pahuma and Ceiba win award at Quito Orchid Show

An international orchid show as held at the Centro Cultural in the Catholic University in Quito from February 6 - 8, 2004. Hundreds of orchid enthusiasts from around the world attended the event. With the support of Ceiba, a joint exhibit was created with with the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve and art students from the Colegio Fernandez Madrid high school. The display was an artistic rendition of cloud forest diversity, including a mural painted by faculty and students of the CFM art department. Ceiba's president, Catherine Woodward, organized the design and set up of the display, which won the award for "Most Artistic Display" by the show's judges.

Chicago Fundraiser with World Parks

Ceiba has been asked to join a conservation alliance between World Parks (USA), the Jocotoco Foundation (Ecuador) and Nature & Culture International (Ecuador). All four organizations are dedicated to conserving the incredible biodiversity found in the forests of Ecuador, with distinct but complementary missions. Jocotoco concentrates on endangered bird species, NCI is focused on the very dry forests of southern Ecuador, while Ceiba continues to work in the highland cloud forests and in the deciduous coastal lowlands. World Parks, in an effort to bring these groups together, organized a superb fundraiser held November 12, 2003 in Chicago. For more information, or to make a donation, please contact Ceiba.

Ceiba on Orchid Conservation in the Tropics

Ceiba was invited to speak to members of the San Diego County Orchid Society about orchid conservation in the tropics.  The presentation was made at the Society's annual meeting in Balboa Park, San Diego, on June 3, 2003.  The Society has long been a supporter of our orchid conservation projects:  they provided funding for the installation of the botanical garden at the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, and supported the first orchid inventory in the reserve which discovered nearly 300 species (10% of all Ecuador orchids!).  Currently, the Society is supporting our efforts to promote protection of private lands in the tropics through the implementation of conservation easements.  Ceiba's vice-president, Joe E. Meisel, spoke to the Society's members about the threats that face orchids and their habitat in the tropics, and our efforts to protect these fantastic plants at the El Pahuma reserve.

Students See Anaconda on Tiputini River

The Tiputini River in amazonian Ecuador continues to provide some of the most memorable wildlife experiences for Ceiba's tropical ecology field course.  In recent years, our students have seen a rare Harpy Eagle, a tapir, and even a tamandua (tropical anteater) swimming across the muddy river.  This year topped all others when we found a large Anaconda sunning itself on a pile of logs wedged in the river.  We managed to obtain fabulous looks at this creature, pulling to within a few yards of it before it slithered heavily into the water.  But not before staring everyone down and flicking its tongue at us.  You can read about all our adventures in the 2002 course report, complete with photos and many other stories of wildlife we found.  General information about our field courses is also available.  And look out for the addition of several new courses this coming year!

Nature Center Opens at El Pahuma Orchid Reserve

A brand new Nature Center has opened at the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve!  Begun in February 2001, construction of the attractive two story wooden building was completed January 2002.  Thanks to the support of the American Orchid Society and numerous private donors, the Center now serves as an educational facility for visitors to El Pahuma.  Currently on display is an exhibit designed by Ceiba staff on the ecology and of the reserve's cloud forest.  Large colorful panels provide information on the animals that use the forest, some of the characteristic plants such as bromeliads, and the important role played by mountain forests in producing a steady supply of fresh water for the region's many streams.  A grand opening of the Information Center as well as the Orchid Botanical Garden (see below) is planned for early 2003, and will be announced on this website.

2002 Field Course Awards Two Scholarships

Participants in Ceiba's 2002 tropical ecology field course will share their experiences with two Ecuadorian students, supported this year by our scholarship fund.  "Tropical Ecosystems:  Andes to Amazon," our annual course in Ecuador, takes students to the chilly heights of the Andes, the dry Pacific coast, steep montane forests in the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, and of course to the virgin rainforest of the Amazon basin.  The course offers participants the chance to enjoy the incredible diversity of Ecuadorian habitats, and observe first-hand the abundant wildlife found at each site.  Beginning several years ago, Ceiba established a scholarship fund to support the enrollment of students from Ecuador, to allow them to visit some of the remote parts of their own country, and to share these experiences with the other students on the course.  In 2002, thanks to private donations, we are able to offer full scholarships to two Ecuadorian students, whose qualifications and knowledge we expect to be a great benefit for everyone.  If you approve of offering scholarships to local students, and you would like to support our scholarship fund, please make a donation to Ceiba.

Spectacled Bear and Cub Seen at El Pahuma!

A Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) adult and one cub were recently seen in the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve!  A tourist visitor to the reserve in July 2001 observed a large bear and a cub near the base of the reserve's largest waterfall, Chunguyaku.  Bears have been recorded in the reserve since late 1999, when an adult was observed feasting on bromeliads along the Sendero de los Yumbos by Ceiba's orchid inventory intern, Philip Myers.  In 2000, a reserve staff member reported sighting a female bear and two cubs crossing the Rio Pichan on the reserve's northern boundary, and several visitors have seen the bear in 2000 and 2001 near the upper elevation research cabin in the reserve (fittingly named the Bear's Den).  The occurrence of the Spectacled Bear (also called Andean Bear, Oso Andino and Oso de Anteojos), an endangered species (CITES "VU-A2bc" 1999), lends new urgency to the long-term protection of the forest at El Pahuma and the surrounding region.  Ceiba is currently campaigning for public support to fund a full-time guard for the reserve, since illegal hunting severely threatens the bear's survival.

2001 Tropical Ecology Course Sights Tapir

Ceiba's 2001 field course in tropical ecology concluded in Quito on August 2, and the students enjoyed themselves tremendously.  We all had an excellent course during which we visited and studied cloud forest, dry forest, paramo and lowland rain forest in the upper Amazon basin. This year we saw 9 species of monkeys at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, 3 species of macaws, a swimming anteater, and even sighted a tapir foraging on the banks of the Tiputini River!  We had a great group of students, including representatives from Holland, Ecuador and Canada.  Two Ecuadorian students were offered full scholarships to attend the course, supported by Ceiba donors.  In 2002, we again are supporting two Ecuadorian students on full scholarships.  For more details on last year's course, you can read the full 2001 Course Report.

Orchid Displays Bloom in Botanical Garden

Three years of hard work are paying off as the orchid blooms begin to fill the Botanical Garden at the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve!  The garden was planned by Monica de Navarro, an expert garden designer and previous president of the Quito Orchid Society.  Employees of El Pahuma, Ceiba volunteers, local student groups, and a Ceiba intern from Quail Botanical Gardens have all helped shape the garden, which this year looks better than ever.  All trails and major displays have been completed, and now the task at hand is finding enough space for all the orchids we want to install!  Although creation of the garden will be a continual process, the garden display will officially open to the public in January 2003, in concert with the grand opening of the visitor information center (see above).  Ceiba currently is recruiting volunteers with orchid care and general gardening experience to help with tending plants, garden maintenance, placing signs on all plants, further plant installations, etc. 

Ceiba Creates South America's Second-ever Conservation Easement at El Pahuma

Conservation Easements have long been a legal mechanism with built-in tax incentives for conserving private lands in the United States.  Only recently has this mechanism been applied in Latin America, though not without some creative modifications.  The first Conservation Easement in Latin America was established by CEDARENA in Costa Rica in 1998 with the assistance of The Nature Conservancy.  In July 1999, the first-ever conservation easement in South America was formed for two properties owned by two separate non-profit organizations.  Soon, Ceiba will sign a conservation easement with the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, the second ever in South America and the first to involve an individual  landowner.  This easement represents the first success in Ceiba's recently planned Private Lands Conservation Initiative, focusing initially in Ecuador.  This agreement will help to ensure the long-term protection of the cloud forest ecosystem at El Pahuma by creating a set of guidelines prohibiting deforestation, hunting and other destructive activities.  In exchange for agreeing to these legally binding limitations, the landowner will receive technical and financial assistance in managing the reserve from Ceiba.  In addition, Ceiba will monitor activities in the reserve on an annual basis to ensure that the forests are adequately protected.  Ceiba wishes to acknowledge the legal assistance of the Centro Ecuatoriano de Derechos Ambientales (CEDA) and the generous financial support of the San Diego County Orchid Society in making this conservation easement possible.

Computer Grants Awarded to Ecuadorian Environmental Law Center (CEDA)

The Centro Ecuatoriano de Derecho Ambiental (CEDA - Ecuadorian Center of Environmental Rights) became the first recipient of an award from Ceiba's computer equipment grants program.  CEDA received a Gateway computer system in January, that will be used to manage the library catalog for their public environmental law library.

Ceiba Representatives Participate in National Land Trust Rally and the Congreso Interamericano de Conservación Privada 

Catherine Woodward, Vice-President of Ceiba, and Alejandro Trillo, former coordinator of the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve project, presented the work of Ceiba in establishing the first private Conservation Easement in Ecuador at the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve.  The Land Trust Rally, sponsored by the Land Trust Alliance, is an annual event that recently has begun to put more emphasis on initiatives for conserving private lands outside U.S. borders.  This year the conference, held in Snowmass, Colorado, was attended by more than 2000 people from over 150 organizations.  The Congreso Interamericano de Conservación Privada, organized by CEDARENA focused on Latin American land conservation initiatives and represented the second annual forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences. Over 50 representatives from 14 Latin American countries and the U.S. came to Costa Rica, to participate.


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