Napo and Orellana Provinces, Amazonian Ecuador
Rainforest conservation and regional sustainable development initiative,
Fundación OSA aspires to seek out higher protection status for the area called Wairachina Sacha, “Rainforest of the Purifying Winds,” among the last stands (10,000-acres) of vital and vanishing Tropical Wet Forest on the eastern side of Napo-Galeras National Park. WE feel that enhanced protection to this area is vital for conservation as well as to allow the area to become a pole for local sustainable rural development based on a growing ecotourism industry Ecuador is experiencing. This initiative stems from the original work we laid out between 1990-1994 that led to the inclusion of Napo-Galeras into the Sumaco/Napo-Galeras National Park in 1993. The area since 2000 has been declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
The Tropical Wet Forest, considered by botanist as the pinnacle of terrestrial biological diversity, it is and unique under-represented ecosystem within Ecuador conservation system, the S.N.A.P. (Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Protección), as Ecuador’s National Parks are above 800 meters and below 250 meters above sea level. For the most part the Tropical Wert Forest ecosystem has been destroyed due to its proximity to the always expanding colonization frontier. In costal Ecuador it has been completely destroyed. The Tropical Wet Forest is found only between 400-600 meters above sea level and is considered to be the origin place of the Cacao tree, many endemic species are found here. This region also carries sacred ancestral attributions as Galeras mountain is held in high esteem among three regional tribes, the Kichwa, the Waorani and the Secoya, though few elders remain that know these stories. Apocalyptic myths are associated with this mountain, where it is believed a giant jaguar is waiting inside to emerge and devour an offending humanity.
The area called Wairachina Sacha – “Rainforest of the Purifying winds” is one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth, with an elevation that includes an overlap of lowland rainforest and highland cloud-forest. This forest type has 26 species of endemic trees as well as hundreds of additional species of tree. A Fundación OSA botanical expedition in March 2010 discovered six new species of plant including one new species of palm tree. The same month a second expedition was accomplished with Dr. Carlos Cerón one of Ecuador’s most distinguished botanist and it was determined that the region is the distribution center for the Sterculeaceae family, the family of the chocolate tree (Theobroma cacao) and its relatives.
This same month of March 2010, we discovered an illegal road being built into the area. Most impressively the Ecuadorian government via the Ministry of the Environment in Orellana province responded to our report and stopped the road with a court injunction saving this priceless rainforest region, home of one of the highest concentrations of large-canopy trees in the Amazon. Recently the road permit was extended again, but it seems as though that has again fallen through this time to mismanagement of funds. Our hopes is the Ministry of the Environment will commence a program to settle the complex land disputes in the area so as to offer, the constitutional guarantees to the long term protection of this vital ecosystem, and assist the local people in the shift towards sustainable regional development. The initiative aims at local socialization of the importance of conservation in the area as well as requesting the MAE for further presence in the area towards clarifying boundary lines and increasing protection category to Wairachina Sacha Tropical Wet Forest.