The reserve covers 150 acres and is about a third the size of New York’s Central Park. It consists mainly of carob forests, which are used by the birds for sleeping, and complements the areas protected by the community. These rest areas will be used by Lilacine Amazons for as long as community members can remember – over 50 years. The number of birds recorded during the regular number of resting places carried out by the Fundación Jocotoco is truly exceptional: in fact, the maximum number of 2,570 individual Lilacine Amazons exceeds the total world population of the species previously estimated.
“We knew the numbers were significant,” says Dr. Martin Schaefer, CEO of the Fundación Jocotoco. “But we were overwhelmed when our censuses showed us how important they are. We thank the Municipality of Las Balsas for the opportunity to protect these key areas and manage them for the long-term protection of the lilacs. “
Great Green Macaw, Copyright Andy Adcock, from the Surfbirds Galleries
“And the benefits go beyond Lilacine Amazons,” noted Dr. Michael Moens, Jocotocos Conservation Director. “Our partnership with the community means we are able to work with them to protect the Great Green Macaw on the 25,000 hectares of community-owned land.” Las Balsas is home to the only known population of the critically endangered Guayaquilensis subspecies. Fifteen wild macaws were complemented by six captive-bred individuals released by the Fundación Jocotoco, and Jocotoco has confirmed that four pairs are nesting in Las Balsas.
The next steps for the young Las Balsas Reserve and Las Balsas community will focus on the land management, surveillance, and research needed to prevent threats to the Lilac Amazon and the Amazon Great Green Macaw and to inform about ongoing maintenance measures. Fundación Jocotoco is installing signs to mark the boundaries of the new reserve and fences to restrict access and keep livestock out of the most vulnerable areas. The organization is also exploring sustainable ways the community can make more products from the area’s carob trees.
Some of the most exciting developments will be using technology to learn more about Amazon and the macaw, and improve reserves protection. The Fundación Jocotoco plans to use radio telemetry to study the movements of the Lilacine Amazon in the greater Las Balsas area. While the rest areas are known where the lilacs don’t nest. Telemetry data will illuminate key nesting areas and expand understanding of the species’ habitat uses and needs.
The Fundación Jocotoco works with Rainforest Connection (https://www.rfcx.org/) Improve population monitoring and protection of the areas reserved for protection by the municipality of Las Balsas. Rainforest Connection pioneered the use of used cell phones that are refurbished and combined with arrays of small solar panels. When mounted high in trees, these phones are known as listening stations that detect the sounds of chainsaws or gunfire and send real-time warnings to forest rangers.
Jocotoco and Rainforest Connection will also deploy 70 Rainforest Connection Edge devices. These are small passive recording devices that can be used to continuously monitor forest sounds, including sounds from lilacs and macaws and other high priority species such as the endangered Ecuadorian capuchin monkey. Sound recordings can be downloaded at regular intervals and then checked for the vocalizations of the target species. For example, changes in the type, distribution, and frequency of sounds made by Lilacine Amazons provide information about the number of Amazons and where and when they occur throughout the year and over time.
“We warmly congratulate the Fundación Jocotoco,” says Dr. George Wallace, ABC’s director of international programs and partnerships. “We are very proud to be part of this effort, which combines classic land protection approaches with the latest technology in order to make our joint protection efforts even more effective.”