Chocó forest, Ecuador

Name of Conservation Group 

Fundación Jocotoco

Status of registration of the group at the national level

Nonprofit foundation in Ecuador

Governance and management structure of the group

Fundación Jocotoco was founded in 1998 to protect the most threatened ecosystems and species in Ecuador. Since 2018, Jocotoco has expanded its network of 16 reserves by 4,500 ha to 23,500 ha. We help communities to protect their forests on an additional 12,000 ha. In total, we have planted 1.6 million trees (comprising 130 native species) to restore biodiversity hotspots.

Jocotoco is governed by an independent, international board of 15 people from 6 nationalities. The board — of which 40% are Ecuadorian — includes scientists, people with business or tourism backgrounds, as well as career diplomats. The board generally meets twice a year in person. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic, we adapted to hold monthly, virtual board meetings. Each year, PwC audits Fundación Jocotoco on a pro bono basis.

Fundación Jocotoco owns two subsidiary companies, Jocotours and Jocoambiente, whose profits are used to achieve the mission of Fundación Jocotoco. Jocotours runs five lodges and one café at reserves owned by the foundation. Approximately 6,000 people visit our reserves each year.

Exact location of land to be purchased

0°30’25.28″N, 79°10’30.0″W

Size of purchasable land

Approximately 24,000 ha. This is the last large tract of Chocó lowland forest in Ecuador.

Size of suggested purchased land for this application 

300 ha

Estimated value of a single hectare 

US$500

Short description of the area and land to be purchased

The land is primary Chocó rainforest and selectively logged rainforest, which has remained untouched for at least 10 years. Both forest types harbor many threatened species. Research has shown that, if protected, even abandoned cacao plantations and pastures reach biodiversity levels similar to those of primary forests, as was demonstrated in our Canandé Reserve over 20 years. The rainforest is highly diverse with 320 tree species per ha.

Current ecological integrity

The land is entirely forested. Selective logging occurred on part of the land more than a decade ago. The ecosystem is intact, as evidenced by the viable populations of apex predators, such as jaguars and harpy eagles. Around the focal properties, land is mainly used for palm oil, cacao, and timber plantations, as well as cattle ranching.

This purchase would allow us to connect four protected areas with a total size of more than 3,000 km² along an altitudinal gradient from sea level to 4,900 m. This is the only region in the Western Tropical Andes where the entire range of ecosystems can be protected. This project would build connectivity and allow us to achieve climate resilience as species can shift their distributional ranges uphill with increasing temperatures. It likewise allows us to preserve the natural resources humans depend on.

Main threats

If not protected, the land would be quickly deforested and many species would become extinct. Deforestation in western Ecuador has been so intense that today only 2% of forests remain in the region. Twenty years ago, scientific models predicted that the region would face an extinction cliff with many of the unique (endemic) species becoming extinct — we have almost reached this cliff now.

The official annual deforestation rate is 2.5%. In our region, this rate has accelerated since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The drivers of deforestation are industrial and unplanned logging to convert forests into palm oil and timber plantations. Very little, if any, forests remain south, west and north of the project area; moreover, those that remain are fragmented and devoid of many of the threatened species.

Conservation plan for the purchased land

The purchased land will be actively protected, held in a perpetual trust and managed by Fundación Jocotoco, which has over two decades of experience conserving habitat.

Jocotoco has developed four revenue streams to support the management of the Canandé Reserve in the long term: 1) our Chocó Lodge is the only continuously operating tourism facility in the region; 2) we are building a research station to house a large group of researchers; 3) we are studying the feasibility of issuing carbon credits; 4) we are developing sustainable land uses in the buffer zone around the reserve to improve local livelihoods while reducing the environmental impact. Taken together, these activities will ensure the long-term sustainability of protecting the land.