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Herpetofauna in priority conservation areas: the Jocotoco and Ecominga’s reserves system

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Front cover of the book

Series Editor: Manuel Morales Mite
Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales Monograph 6
ISBN 978-9942-9988-1-1

With help from World Land Trust (WLT), overseas conservation organisations are protecting endangered habitats throughout the world. But, as WLT Patron Sir David Attenborough puts it: “If you protect a patch of the natural world, you should know what lives in it.”

Ecuador has the third largest amphibian diversity in the world, but many species remain undiscovered. Recognising that only scientific surveys will reveal the true extent of the country’s biodiversity, WLT’s Ecuadorian partners, Fundación Jocotoco and Fundación Ecominga, are actively researching their reserves. The results of their work have now been published jointly with the Ecuadorian Museum of Natural Science in a publication Herpetofauna in priority conservation areas: the Jocotoco and Ecominga’s reserves system.

The findings were astounding: 339 species have been identified, 80 of which are endangered, 20 are new to Ecuador and at least eight new to science. The results presented in the book prove the importance of protecting these habitats not only for their incredible plant and bird diversity but also for their herpetofauna.

The story begins back in 1997, when Dr Robert Ridgely, ornithologist and author of The Birds of Ecuador (Ridgely and Greenfield, 2006), visited the region of Cerro Tapichalaca, in the Zamora-Chinchipre province of southern Ecuador. The visit led to the discovery of the emblematic Jocotoco Antpitta.

A year later Fundación Jocotoco was created to protect the habitat of the Jocotoco Antpitta. Since then the organisation has gone on to establish another nine reserves in Ecuador. In 2005, Lou Jost, a respected biologist, founded Ecominga, which aims to protect the Andean forest and specialises in rare orchid species.

Due to the efforts of these organisations much is known about plant and bird species within the reserves. However, until recently very little was known about other species, such as reptiles and amphibians. The book addresses this lack of information by building on the research conducted since 2004 by a team of biologists from the Ecuadorian Museum of Natural Science with the help of Ecominga and Jocotoco staff in Ecominga and Jocotoco’s reserves.

The book includes an introduction by Dr Nigel Simpson a trustee of both WLT and Fundación Jocotoco. The first chapter offers an introduction to the reader. It provides a general overview of the network of reserves and explains their role in the conservation of  herpetofauna.

The second chapter contains the results of the extensive herpetofauna surveys conducted on all of the Jocotoco and Ecominga reserves. Each section of the chapter addresses the different regions in Ecuador where the reserves are located (north-western, south-western, north Andes and south Andes) accompanied by beautiful species photos and helpful maps. There are also insightful articles by the experts involved in the research detailing the characteristics of the region and its amphibian and reptile diversity.

The third and last chapter is an inventory of 272 amphibian and reptile species that have been photographed. Each species identified contains the common and scientific species name, as well as its conservation status, distribution, reserve records and body size. As such, it is a very handy identification guide to amphibians and reptiles in the reserves and will be welcomed by academics and amateurs alike.

The book is accessible for English as well as Spanish speakers. However, non-Spanish readers be warned, not all of the texts have an English translation.

This book adds greatly to existing data and provides information crucial for assessing future threats to species. It also demonstrates in no uncertain terms the importance of protecting these habitats.

About the book Sir David Attenborough says: “Its value is immense for it will make it possible to check on the welfare of the creatures it lists as the years pass and the threats to their survival continue to increase… Its publication is truly a cause for celebration and congratulation.”

Letícia Jurema

New publication reveals Ecuador’s extraordinary herpetofauna »

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