Send critical funds to communities fighting wildfire in Ecuador

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Wildfires in Southern Ecuador are destroying habitat for numerous species including the rare Ecuadorian Vizcacha.

We urgently need your support to help the communities and wildlife that call this area home. In the mountainous forests between the regions of Espíndola and Quilanga, in the province of Loja, Ecuador the fires continue to spread. Local volunteers like Diana Granda, Group Coordinator of “Sembrando Vida” are working to stop the blaze. While on the frontlines she regrets, “it is consuming a lot, a lot of hectares of wildlife and flora.”

Nature and Culture works closely with the local community and has facilitated the declaration of three protected areas in the region. The Quilanga Municipal Conservation Area, the Espíndola Municipal Conservation Area, and the Catamayo Municipal Conservation Area which cover a little over 120,000 acres. It is in this region that the critically endangered vizcacha (Lagidium ahuacaense) was first described in 2016. This unique mammal is endemic to southern Ecuador and our team works together with the Techincal University of Loja and local researchers in the Ecuadorian Vizcacha Conservation Project to protect the vizcacha’s threatened habitat and help existing populations recover.

The Vizcacha is a critically endangered mammal endemic to the canton of Quilanga.

Our team in Ecuador is supplying volunteer firefighters with food and medicine, but we need your support. There is so much at stake. Additionally, these Municipal Conservation Areas secure areas of hydric importance and critical water sources for local communities.

Over 2,000 acres were reported to be affected by the wildfires as of September 21, 2023.

Welcome to Nature and Culture’s latest conservation update, a direct glimpse into our ongoing efforts across Latin America.

We’re excited to share updates on our latest initiatives and projects, including a 360 view of one of our very first protected areas, the Cazaderos Reserve, a brand new protected area in Bolivia, and amazing avian biodiversity in Peru.

Our commitment to safeguarding the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage of this remarkable region remains unwavering, and it is thanks to supporters like you that our projects continue to thrive. Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Real Stories. Real Impact.

More than 450 bird species identified over 8 years!

Since 2015, research and fieldwork carried out by our technical team has led to the registering of more than 450 species of birds in one of the areas we’re working to protect in the northern tropical Andes. According to our research, 24% of all the bird species in Peru can be found in this region! More than 30 of these species are endemic, or found no where else in the world.

A Brief History of the Region’s Conservation Efforts

Following the creation of the Carpish Montane Forest Regional Conservation Area and the Unchog Private Conservation Area, Nature and Culture, with the support of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, conducted a Rapid Biological Study to determine the distribution of endemic species of the Carpish Montane Forest. This study served as a baseline for the development of monitoring and evaluation plans that help to track the health of the ecosystems in these areas.

The study also helped to prioritize other areas nearby in need of protection. Nature and Culture, together with the Huánuco Regional Government and funding from Andes Amazon Fund, began negotiations for the creation of two new Regional Conservation Areas in the department of Huánuco, Peru: Regional Conservation Area Yanajanca, and Regional Conservation Area San Pedro de Chonta. 

In 2021, the American Bird Conservancy joined the effort. They generated information on the behavior of birds and determined the conservation status of the forests that provide them with food and shelter.

At the end of 2021, Rainforest Trust joined Nature and Culture’s initiative with the Huánuco Regional Government, to conserve the work towards conserving proposed San Pedro de Chonta and Yanajanca Regional Conservation Areas. 

Tricolored brushfinch (Atlapetes tricolor)
House wren (Troglodytes aedon)
Plumbeous sierra finch (Geospizopsis unicolor)
Andean Guan (Penelope montagnii)

Our work in the Carpish-Río Abiseo Mosaic 

The Carpish-Río Abiseo Mosaic is 3,763,481.26 acres of very fragile ecosystems of biological and environmental importance located between the departments of Huánuco and San Martín. It also provides valuable ecosystem services to local populations.

The 3.7 million acres are divided into National Areas (Tingo María National Park and Río Abiseo National Park), Sub National Areas (Regional Conservation Areas Shunté and Mishollo, Regional Conservation Area Montane Forest of Carpish and Private Conservation Area Unchog), and Areas in the process of creation (Proposal of Regional Conservation Area Yanajanca and Proposal of Regional Conservation Area San Pedro de Chonta). 

Connecting and protecting these areas, and all of the key ecosystems and endemic spieces that live within the region is at the heart of what Nature and Culture International does.

Want to read more about Nature and Culture’s Carpish-Río Abiseo Mosaic in the News?

Great news for conservation in Colombia! The Integrated Management Regional District, Cuchilla del San Juan extends its protection zone, now totaling 73,273.91 acres. 

  • Integrated Management Regional District, (DRMI) is a category of protected area that gives communities who live in the area the right to sustainable development activities.
  • Cuchilla del San Juan supplies water to 33 community aqueducts, 1,919 direct users, and 68 villages with around 8,000 residents.
  • Approximately 92.3% of the land cover of the protected area is Andean and sub-Andean forest in a good state of conservation.

The initiative to conserve Cuchilla del San Juan began in the early 1990s. In 2000, the area was officially declared an Integrated Management Regional District (DRMI) protected area. This declaration included an expansion of 27,277.96 acres. The DRMI category of protected areas in Colombia includes an action plan and regulates the use and management of renewable natural resources and economic activities that take place within them. Cuchilla del San Juan is home to communities whose main economic activity is agriculture; mainly sugarcane, plantain, cocoa, livestock, and fish farming.

In February 2020, Nature and Culture began the process of another expansion in coordination with the Humboldt Institute, Wildlife Conservation Society, and communities that live within the protected area and its surroundings. Today 45,993.72 acres have been added to the area, totaling 73,273.91 acres of protected Andean and sub-Andean forests.

Panoramic of Cuchilla del San Juan | Photo: Humboldt Institute

A key area for conserving water and biodiversity 

Located in west-central Colombia, Cuchilla del San Juan supplies potable water to 33 community aqueducts, 1,919 direct users, and 68 villages with around 8,000 inhabitants. 

The most abundant river (96,091 ft3/sec) that empties into the Pacific Ocean in America is born in Cuchilla del San Juan: the San Juan River. This river is very important for the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities of the Chocó since they live on its banks and use it for fishing and navigation. 

Because it is located at the confluence of the Andean Chocó and the Tropical Andes, Cuchilla del San Juan is key to Colombia’s ecosystem connectivity and a hotspot for biodiversity. Findings from biological expeditions carried out in the expanded area recorded 1,636 species of both plants and animals; among them, the Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus), the puma (Puma concolor) and birds of interest for ecological tourism such as the aurinegra tanager (Bangsia melanochlamys) and the Tatamá bangsia (Bangsia aureocincta). 

Puma descansando en un árbol
Puma (Puma concolor) Photo: Humboldt Institute

Of the identified species, 116 are endemic. Among plants, it is estimated that there are 47 endemic species; of which, 14 are threatened, including the Magnolia jardinensis (endemic and Critically Endangered) and Magnolia urraoensis (endemic and Endangered) trees. 

Of the species registered, 307 are declining in population. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN), 53 are Threatened, 8 are Critically Endangered, 13 are Endangered, and 27 are Vulnerable.

“We were blind to the wealth we have because we see it every day. We were unaware of its potential, not only for our environment but globally. It is a corridor that covers us from the south of Antioquia to Tatamá. We have a pantry rich in fauna and flora”. 

  – Luis Elías Grajales, Community Resident

Thanks to the expansion of the protected area of Cuchilla del San Juan, species in the area grow in status as Conservation Object Values (COV), demanding a management plan to maintain and increase the number of existing individuals and prevent their decline. 

Long-term protection of the area and local challenges

The abundance of life and richness within the protected area of Cuchilla del San Juan may increase its potential for threats.

Pressures on the health of the area include negative interactions between people and wildlife, such as cats and eagles, unplanned agricultural activities, and monoculture systems. It will also be a challenge to regulate local communities’ use of natural resources in the area and for the local environmental authority to minimize negative effects on the protected area through surveillance and control strategies.

With the declaration of this expansion, the management plan of the area will be updated, identifying opportunities for local benefit that contribute to the conservation, such as activities to strengthen governance, sustainable production systems, sustainable tourism, ecological restoration, and biodiversity monitoring. 

A collaborative effort 

Photo: Humboldt Institute

The expansion process of the DRMI Cuchilla del San Juan was made possible thanks to the active participation and commitment of the communities of the municipalities of Pueblo Rico and Mistrató, the articulated work of the Humboldt Institute, WCS, Carder, the environmental authority, Fecomar and the support of Nature and Culture International and Andes Amazon Fund. 

“Social dialogue is key to being able to consolidate a protected area project. Partnering with local social and environmental organizations is strategic to build capacities around conservation and thus give it sustainability over time. The communities that inhabit this area will also benefit through support for projects to promote sustainable ecological tourism and the strengthening of their capacities.” 

-Luis Santiago Castillo, Researcher at the Humboldt Institute and Nature and Culture partner 


New study describes three new species of rain frogs found in the cloud forests of Southern Ecuador.

CloudForest Numbala
Cloud forests are hotspots of biodiversity

The Tropical Andes encompass some of the most important areas on Earth when it comes to biodiversity conservation. These majestic mountain ranges host an astounding array of species across various groups of vertebrates, making them a global hotspot for biodiversity.

Within the Andes, the cloud forests of Southern Ecuador, situated in the provinces of Loja and Zamora Chinchipe, stand out as particularly remarkable in terms of their ecological richness. These unique habitats are characterized by a persistent mist or cloud cover that blankets the forest, creating a cool and moist environment conducive to the growth of a diverse array of plant and animal life.

Scientists Paúl Székely, Diana Székely, Diego Armijos-Ojeda, Santiago Hualpa-Vega, and Judit Vörös, discovered three new species of rain frogs in these high elevation Andean ecosystems. Their research was recently published in the journal, Herpetological Monographs, under the name of Molecular and Morphological Assessment of Rain Frogs in the Pristimantis orestes Species Group with the Description of Three New Cryptic Species from Southern Ecuador.

The study took place within the Podocarpus National Park and its surroundings, in Southern Ecuador. The park comprises an area of 358,285.51 acres and has a very irregular topography covering altitudes from 1,000 to 3,800 meters (3,280 to 12,467 feet), with large areas of diverse natural habitats. These high-altitude Andes are known for the endemism and speciation of anuran fauna (frogs).

These three new-to-science species of rain frogs have very compelling stories that inspire the scientific community to continue working toward research, species monitoring, and conservation.

Prismantis sagedunneae Photo: Museo de Zoología, UTPL

Sage Dunne’s Rain Frog (Pristimantis sagedunneae)

Pristimantis sagedunneae is one of 12 species recently discovered in Abra de Zamora, currently being described. It was found at 2,800 and 3,000 meters in sub-paramo ecosystems and it is believed to be a rare species.

The specific name sagedunneae honors Anne Dunne, in recognition of her passion for Andean wildlife and her family’s invaluable support of conservation work in Ecuador. Of particular importance is their contribution to the amphibian conservation in the Sangay-Podocarpus connectivity corridor, Ecuador’s first ecological corridor, which protects 1,401,253.074 acres of high-elevation paramo grasslands and cloud forest ecosystems, as well as chains of lakes and wetlands, with unique biological diversity and endemism.

Pristimantis paladines Photo: Museo de Zoología, UTPL

Paladines Rain Frog (Pristimantis paladines) 

Pristimantis paladines was recorded in Cerro Toledo within the Podocarpus National Park and surroundings at an altitudinal range between 2,800 and 3,100 m in sub-paramo ecosystems. The species is common and abundant in this region.

The specific name paladines honors the Paladines family from the city of Loja in Ecuador, in particular Felix Humberto Paladines Paladines for his valuable contribution to academic and cultural endeavors and for safeguarding the history and identity of Southern Ecuadorian people. In addition, this naming recognizes the remarkable work carried out by his children, Renzo, Bruno, Pedro, and Maria Gabriela, who created the nongovernmental organization Nature and Culture International (NCI).

Pristimantis numbala Photo: Museo de Zoología, UTPL

Numbala Rain Frog (Pristimantis numbala)

Pristimantis numbala has only been found in the Numbala Natural Reserve. The reserve, which gives the species its name, is an important private protected area managed by Nature and Culture International. It protects 4,448 acres of sub-paramo and montane cloud forest and is home to an important diversity of birds, amphibians, mammals, and plants. It is located between the two isolated extensions of the southern part of the Podocarpus National Park, guaranteeing the connectivity needed for the preservation of the biological diversity of the national park and its area of influence.

As described, all three species were found within or in the immediate vicinity of protected areas, hence, the study considers that these protected areas act as refuges for the permanence of this very special lineage of frogs. The study also reveals that at least 57% of amphibian species are under threat due to habitat loss, the expansion of the agricultural/cattle-raising frontier, and climate change. In this context, it is especially important to increase the research efforts toward the description of new species, to correctly evaluate extinction risks and implement adequate conservation actions.

Supporting research for conservation

For the past 6 years, we have coordinated efforts between Nature and Culture International (NCI) and the Private Technical University of Loja (UTPL) to study the biodiversity of the southern region of Ecuador and combat threats to tropical ecosystems in this area.

Thanks to the support of the Rainforest Trust, an organization dedicated to promoting the conservation of threatened wildlife and the protection of habitats, we conducted a biodiversity study in the Numbala Natural Reserve (managed by NCI). The study aimed to explore priority sites and collect samples of faunal and floral species. During this study, we collected specimens of the species now known as Pristimantis numbala for the first time.

Similarly, with the support of the Rainforest Trust, we have been implementing a project to protect endemic amphibian species since April 2022. The project focuses on safeguarding the natural ecosystems of Abra de Zamora, located in the buffer zone of the Podocarpus National Park.

Also, thanks to the support of the Andes Amazon Fund, we launched a book on the biological wealth of Río Negro-Sopladora that opened the possibility for new research and the creation of protected areas in the region.

In 2019, the conservation and management measures established between the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and NCI led to the establishment of the Sangay-Podocarpus Connectivity Corridor (CCSP), the first ecological corridor in Ecuador. The corridor spans an area of 567,097 hectares and is distributed among the provinces of Morona Santiago, Azuay, Loja, and Zamora Chinchipe.

With the support of the Wild Wisdom Foundation, we have promoted research on new amphibian species within the corridor and its surroundings. This research aims to increase the conservation profile of these species through the Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) program. The KBAs program enables identification, mapping, monitoring, and conservation efforts to safeguard species and their habitats.

Real Stories. Real Impact.

New protected areas, beekeeping for conservation, and gender equity in reforestation are a few of the stories you’ll explore in our 2023 Spring Newsletter!

Make a donation today to continue supporting projects like these!

As a supporter of Nature and Culture, take a moment to review our impact in 2022! 

Our 2022 Annual Impact Report is a testament to our commitment to community-based conservation. As trailblazers in this field, the well-being of local communities is as important as protecting and conserving natural resources. For us, those go hand in hand.  

Our work is organized into 5 key strategy areas: wild places, climate, water, people, and species. As you read through this report, you’ll see how our team approaches our projects through these lenses, ensuring the long term overall health of the areas we protect. 

Please remember that none of this would be possible without the generous support we’ve received from so many of you!

  • There are two new conservation areas located in Cajamarca and Amazonas, Peru which protect 19239.74 acres of dry forest, pajonal, and montane forests.
  • The conservation areas will protect these ecosystems, the habitat of important species, and strengthen community organization.

The Ministry of Environment of Peru recognized two areas of private conservation (ACP) this week. The ACP UTCO in Cajamarca and the ACP Yasgolca-Santa Lucia, Montevideo in Amazonas. Both natural spaces have a unique natural wealth.


The UTCO conservation area protects 7562.31 acres of the dry forest, known for being an epicenter of biodiversity, thanks to the important endemism of flora and wildlife.

9 species of endemic birds, 9 species of endemic reptiles, and an endemic amphibian can only be found in the UTCO conservation area. In addition, “it is a natural research center, where 20 species of endemic flora have been reported in critical danger, such as Parkinsonia Peruviana, Cedrela Kuelapensis, Caesalpinia Celendiniana, and Piptadenia Weberbaueri,” said Elvis Allauja, Nature and Culture International.

The Yasgolca-Santa Lucia Private Conservation Area, Montevideo protects 11677.43 acres of pajonal and montane forest. The area is an important natural source of water, providing this vital resource to communities in Amazonas. Also, it is home to 140 species of birds, 9 species of amphibians, and 14 species of mammals.

Aegialomys xanthaeolus

The area protects threatened species, such as Polylepis Racosa and Cedrela. This area is also home to species such as Johnson’s spatulilla (Poecilotriccus luluae), spectacled bear (tremarctos ornatus), and night monkey (Aotus miconax).

Life and the forest

The officially declared areas connect with other conservation areas, allowing wildlife to have more habitable space, according to Lleydy Alvarado, of Nature and Culture International.

Montevideo’s main ecosystem services are carbon capture and water regulation, which is why Alvarado points out that it is not enough to establish areas, they need to be connected so that their environmental services are more effective.

Long-term protection

For years, it was believed that ecosystems possessed inexhaustible ecosystem goods and services, which has led to the overexploitation of forests. Due to this, the communities of Utco and Montevideo decided to return to the forest and work to achieve the official recognition of their conservation areas.

Photo by Michell León

The process to establish both private conservation areas was made possible thanks to the effort and perseverance of both communities, with the technical support of Nature and Culture International and the support of Re:wild, and Andes Amazon Fund in Utco; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Montevideo.

Five new drop-dead-gorgeous tree-dwelling snake species were discovered in the jungles of Ecuador, Colombia, and Panama. Conservationists Leonardo DiCaprio, Brian Sheth, and Nature and Culture International chose the names for three of them in honor of loved ones while raising awareness about the issue of rainforest destruction at the hands of open-pit mining operations. The research was conducted by Ecuadorian biologist Alejandro Arteaga, an Explorers Club Discovery Expedition Grantee, and Panamanian biologist Abel Batista.

Sibon irmelindicaprioae, named after Leonardo DiCaprio’s mother, is the rarest of the lot. It occurs in the Chocó-Darién jungles of eastern Panama and western Colombia. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga of Khamai Foundation.

The mountainous areas of the upper-Amazon rainforest and the Chocó-Darién jungles are world-renowned for the wealth of new species discovered in this region. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that they also house some of the largest gold and copper deposits in the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the proliferation of illegal open-pit gold and copper mining operations in the jungles of Ecuador, Colombia, and Panama has particularly affected a group of five new species of tree-dwelling snakes: the snail-eaters.

Illegal gold mining operation along the shores of the Nangaritza River, southeastern Ecuador, habitat of at least five species of snail-eating snakes, including the newly described Welborn’s Snail-eating Snake (Dipsas welborni) named by Nature and Culture International. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

In a period of four months, miners took control of a 70-hectare area along the Jatunyacu River, destroying important riparian rainforest habitat and polluting one of the most important tributaries of the Amazon River. Photo by Ivan Castaneira.

Neotropical snail-eating snakes (genera Sibon and Dipsas), have a unique lifestyle that makes them particularly prone to the effects of gold and copper mining. First, they are arboreal, so they cannot survive in areas devoid of vegetation, such as in open-pit mines. Second, they feed exclusively on slugs and snails, a soft-bodied type of prey that occurs mostly along streams and rivers and is presumably declining because of the pollution of water bodies.

Sibon marleyae, named after conservationist Brian Sheth’s daughter was discovered in the most humid and pristine Chocó rainforests of Ecuador and Colombia. Photo by Jose Vieira.

“When I first explored the rainforests of Nangaritza River in 2014, I remember thinking the place was an undiscovered and unspoiled paradise,” says Alejandro Arteaga, author of the research study on these snakes, which was published in the journal ZooKeys. “In fact, the place is called Nuevo Paraíso in Spanish, but it is a paradise no more. Hundreds of illegal gold miners using backhoe loaders have now taken possession of the river margins, which are now destroyed and turned into rubble.”

The presence of a conservation area may not be enough to keep the snail-eating snakes safe. In southeastern Ecuador, illegal miners are closing in on Maycu Reserve, ignoring landowner rights and even making violent threats to anyone opposed to the extraction of gold. Even rangers and their families are tempted to quit their jobs to work in illegal mining, as it is much more lucrative. A local park ranger reports that by extracting gold from the Nangaritza River, local people can earn what would otherwise be a year’s salary in just a few weeks. “Sure, it is illegal and out of control, but the authorities are too afraid to intervene,” says the park ranger. “Miners are just too violent and unpredictable.”

Dipsas welborni is named after David Welborn, former member of the board of foundation Nature and Culture International. This NGO manages Maycu Reserve, a private conservation area where this snake and many other new species inhabit. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

Ecuadorian biologist Amanda Queza during the discovery of the new species Dipsas welborni in Maycu Reserve, southeastern Ecuador. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

In Panama, large-scale copper mining is affecting the habitat of two of the new species: Sibon irmelindicaprioae and S. canopy. Unlike the illegal gold miners in Ecuador and Colombia, the extraction in this case is legal and at the hands of a single corporation: Minera Panamá S.A., a subsidiary of the Canadian-based mining and metals company First Quantum Minerals Ltd. Although the forest destruction at the Panamanian mines is larger in extent and can easily be seen from space, its borders are clearly defined and the company is under the purview of local environmental authorities.

Illegal mining activity in the upper Ecuadorian Amazon doubled between 2021 and 2022. Photo by Jorge Anhalzer.

“Both legal and illegal open-pit mines are uninhabitable for the snail-eating snakes,” says Arteaga, “but the legal mines may be the lesser of two evils. At the very least they respect the limit of nearby protected areas, answer to a higher authority, and are presumably unlikely to enact violence on park rangers, researchers, and conservationists.”

Sibon canopy is named in honor of the Canopy Family system of reserves, particularly its Canopy Lodge in Valle de Antón, Coclé province, Panama. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

Sibon canopy, one of the newly described species, appears to have fairly stable populations inside protected areas of Panama, although elsewhere nearly 40% of its habitat has been destroyed. At Parque Nacional Omar Torrijos, where it is found, there has been a reduction in the number of park rangers (already very few for such a large protected area). This makes it easier for loggers and poachers to reach previously unspoiled habitats that are essential for the survival of the snakes.

In the Ecuadorian Amazon, gold miners hide in the jungle during military controls and resume activities days later. Photo by Jorge Anhalzer.

An Ecuadorian miner shows the gold she has collected and that she will use to pay for any family emergency. Photo by Ivan Castaneira.

Lack of employment and the high price of gold aggravate the situation. No legal activity can compete against the “gold bonanza.” More and more often, farmers, park rangers, and indigenous people are turning to illegal activities to provide for their families, particularly during crisis situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, when NGO funding was at its lowest.

Sibon ayerbeorum, a species previously known only from Colombia, was now also found in Ecuador. Photo by Jose Vieira.

“These new species of snake are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of new species discoveries in this region, but if illegal mining continues at this rate, there may not be an opportunity to make any future discoveries,” concludes Alejandro Arteaga.

Fortunately, three NGOs in Ecuador and Panama (NCI, Khamai, and Adopta Bosque) have already made it their mission to save the snake’s habitat from the emerging gold mining frenzy. Supporting these organizations is vital, because their quest for immediate land protection is the only way to save the snakes from extinction.

Support NCI:

Support Fundación Adopta Bosque:

Support Khamai Foundation:

The official launch of the Andwa Language Dictionary, Kupukwano, was held at the emblematic Amazon State University, in the province of Pastaza, with the participation of representatives, leaders, and young people of the Andwa Nationality. 

The event was organized by the President of the Andwa Nationality, Daniel Dagua. It began with a conversation, attended by Felipe Serrano, Director of Nature and Culture International Ecuador, who moderated the space, together with the panelists Jorge Gómez Rendón, researcher and academic; Efrén Nango, leader of Education, Science and Research at the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE); and Trotsky Riera-Vite, Nature and Culture technician. 

Felipe Serrano, Director of Nature and Culture International Ecuador moderated a conversation with the panelists, including Efrén Nango from the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE). Photo by Lanceros Digitales

The conversation started by emphasizing the importance of strengthening ancestral languages.

The moderator mentioned that “the knowledge of the ancestors is transmitted through language”, focusing on the relationship between nature and culture: “nature cannot be separated from culture, even more in the Amazon, where the jungle depends on the people and the people depend on the jungle,” Felipe Serrano stressed. 

With this introduction, Serrano began the dialogue with Trotsky Riera-Vite, to learn about the research that the latter carried out in the book Nunkán Náari. Shuar place names of Zamora Chinchipe. Riera-Vite, based his presentation on the case of Zamora Chinchipe, where many names of mountains, rivers, towns, animals, and plants come from or originate from Shuar-Chicham. “By rescuing traditional names, identity is reconstructed, and linguistic and territorial rights are claimed”, all of this, Riera-Vite pointed out, is part of recovering language. 

Then, Efrén Nango, began his speech clarifying that although the languages of the eleven nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon are being threatened, he has witnessed a reaction from the nationalities to recover, revitalize and reintroduce their language. For him, there is a meaning behind each letter, and it is related not only to cultural identity, but also to cosmogony, worldview, rights of nature and defense of the territory. 

A view of an interior page of the Andwa Language Dictionary. Photo by Lanceros Digitales

But what will happen to the ancestral Amazonian languages in the future? 

Jorge Gómez Rendón, researcher and academic at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, answered the question and described that from a linguistic point of view, a discouraging panorama is observed. The loss of language and linguistic displacement is faster and faster, “languages are lost from one generation to the next,” said Gómez Rendón. 

However, faced with this reality, he is optimistic, because he considers that the vitality of languages is not exclusively linguistic, but rather has other aspects. “I declare myself an optimist because the nationalities are beginning to give the political value that language has, as an element not only of their identity but of their power,” said Jorge Gómez Rendón. 

“I declare myself an optimist because the nationalities are beginning to understand the political value that language has, as an element not only of their identity but of their power.”

Jorge Gómez Rendón.

The Andwa Dictionary is part of a process of reintroduction, not revitalization, since there are no longer native speakers of the language, and has only been possible thanks to the political will of the leadership of the Andwa Nationality. For Gómez Rendón, this is the only possible way that ancestral languages can survive. 

In a speech emphasizing his love for his Katsakati-Andwa language, Daniel Dagua, President of the Andwa Nationality, officially introduced Kupukwano, the Andwa Language Dictionary.

He explained that the dictionary initiative had a consultation process within the Governing Council, that responded to an investigation that began in 2018 with the support of Nature and Culture International. 

Daniel Dagua, President of the Andwa Nationality

“We are young people who have started to rescue our language which is in danger of extinction. We are going to continue empowering it,” mentioned Dagua. 

The event ended with a sample of dance and music of the Andwa Nationality. In addition, the participants shared a variety of pineapple, sweet potato, yucca and chonta chichas. 

The Andwa Language Dictionary, Kupukwano, is available on our website: 

Indigenous Nationalities and Provincial Government Agree to Protect Over 3 Million Acres in the Ecuadorian Amazon



Macas, 01 February 2023

Tarímiat Pujutaí Nuṉka Reserve declaration

Tarímiat Pujutaí Nuṉka Reserve declaration. Photo: Nature and Culture International

On Wednesday, February 1, 2023, The Provincial Government of Morona Santiago, Ecuador, and four Indigenous nationalities agreed to the creation of the Territorio de Vida y Uso Ancestral “Tarímiat Pujutaí Nunka.”

Located in the Morona Santiago province, in the southern Ecuadorian Amazon, the Tarímiat Pujutaí Nunka Reserve is 3,057,670 acres and includes the communities of Taisha, Morona, Sucúa, Logroño, Méndez, Tiwintza, Limón Indanza, San Juan Bosco and Gualaquiza.

The Tarímiat Pujutaí Nunka Reserve was created through an inclusive process, facilitated by Nature and Culture International, that began on November 9, 2021, with the signing of an agreement between the Provincial Government, and the four Indigenous nationalities that live within the Tarímiat Pujutaí Nunka Reserve: The Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centers (FICSH), the Shuar Nation of Ecuador (NASHE), the Achuar Nationality of Ecuador (NAE) and the Shuar Arutam People (PSHA).

Rio Yaupi Photo: Nature and Culture International

For the creation of this protected territory, an unprecedented Pre-Legislative Consultation process was carried out through 21 gatherings with different actors from the four Indigenous organizations of the province, with an overall participation of 893 people, collecting the various Indigenous nationalities’ visions and contributions, ensuring the protection of this area aligns with their specific Planes de Vida, or “Life Plans.”

The main purpose of the Tarímiat Pujutaí Nunka Reserve is to ensure the preservation, and ancestral and sustainable use of natural and cultural resources, seeking productive alternatives to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants of the area.

In addition, respect for the rights of nature and collective rights, climate and fragile ecosystems regulation, and the protection of biodiversity and ancestral cultures, environmental principles, and the water sources that originate from the Kutukú and Cóndor Mountain Ranges will be guaranteed within the Tarímiat Pujutaí Nunka Reserve.

The president of NASHE, Felipe Mashiant, mentioned that the approval of the Tarímiat Pujutaí Nunka ordinance will allow the centers and associations of his organization to continue protecting the forests in an adequate manner.

For his part, Waakiach Kuja, leader of the NAE, explained that after the Pre-Legislative Consultation in Morona Santiago, it is believed that the establishment of the Tarímiat Pujutaí Nunka Reserve will benefit the entire province.

Josefina Tunki, president of the PSHA, pointed out that after many years, and thanks to the participatory work of many, the construction of the Tarímiat Pujutaí Nunka Reserve is a reality. “We, the organizations, had the opportunity to work together, for the first time, thanks to the current administration of Morona Santiago.”

Josefina Tunki. Photo: Nature and Culture International

In the same way, the representative of the FICSH commented that after the Pre-Legislative Consultation that was carried out in his territory, they decided to approve the creation of the Tarímiat Pujutaí Nunka Reserve.

Finally, the Governor of Morona Santiago, Rafael Antuni, commented: “This is an initiative that will not only allow us to preserve, but also enjoy our forests and climate, to offer the world a healthy environment.”

Thanks to the political will of Governor Rafael Antuni, the participation of leaders and other representatives of the Shuar and Achuar Nationalities of Morona Santiago, and the support of Nature and Culture International, the approval of the ordinance for the creation of the Tarímiat Pujutaí Nunka Ancestral Life and Use Territory marks a historical milestone in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

This entire process of collective building was developed thanks to the support of Andes Amazon Fund; Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI); The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD); and Re:wild.


Nature and Culture International is a 501(c)(3) that works to ensure the conservation of biologically and culturally diverse landscapes in Latin America. Its conservation goals are born within local communities, from the protection of natural habitats to the sustainable use of natural resources, and the preservation of native cultures. Nature and Culture works together with Indigenous groups, local communities, as well as national and subnational governments to protect critical ecosystems. This methodology has been highly successful since the organization’s establishment in 1996. Since our founding, we’ve protected over 22 million acres and not a single area has had its protected status reversed. This success is partly attributed to Nature and Culture’s devotion to the long-term management and technical support of a protected area after establishing its protected status. Nature and Culture International has a committed team of local conservationists, environmental lawyers, and mapping experts, working to save critical ecosystems in Latin America. To learn more, visit


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The Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area of Portovelo was established by its Municipal Government on September 30, 2022. This area is part of the Fierro Urco Water Protection Area and is located at the head of the Puyango River Basin. The area was approved through the Protection and Restoration of Water Sources, Fragile Ecosystems, Biodiversity, and Environmental Services of Portovelo ordinance. It promotes the management of municipal conservation areas and sustainable use that protect 29,305 acres of territory.

Fierro Urco
Fierro Urco Water Conservation Area

The Portovelo Municipal Protected Area conserves páramo grasslands where important rivers such as the Guayabal, Santiago, Tenta, Ambocas, and San Luis are born. The area, therefore, protects and conserves the water sources for the consumption of approximately 13 thousand inhabitants, distributed in three rural parishes: Morales, Curtincapac, and Salatí; and Portovelo, an urban parish.

A major objective in the creation of this area is to initiate strategic work to minimize threats in the reserve and the region, such as deforestation by livestock, agriculture, vegetation burns, and mining concessions. Luís López, Nature and Culture International Project Technician, says that there is a feeling of urgency in the Municipal Government of Portovelo. The hope is to protect and manage the conservation area so that the mining concessions in the area can be faced. These concessions put the water sources of this biodiverse area at risk.

The establishment of this new area in Portovelo together with the Zaruma, Atahualpa, and Piñas protected areas form an ecosystem and biodiverse connectivity corridor in the Puyango river basin. These areas combined cover 154,517 acres of forests, páramos, water sources, and endemic species, including the endangered blue-throated hillstar hummingbird (Oreotrochilus cyanolaemus).

Portovelo Municipal Protected Area
The Portovelo Municipal Protected Area protects and conserves the water sources for the consumption of approximately 13 thousand inhabitants

This declaration is an inter-institutional achievement that began in 2019, after directing permanent coordination between the Municipal Government of Portovelo and the support and advice of Nature and Culture International. As a result of this joint work, the area of conservation, construction of the ordinance, and socialization with the Municipal Council, was delineated for subsequent approval.

In this process, the work led by the Municipal Government of Portovelo, its councilors, and its technical team, with the support of Nature and Culture International, and Andes Amazon Fund, has been fundamental.

Climate change adaptation, species discovery, and newly declared protected areas in Nature and Culture’s latest round-up of news from 2022.

Our strength as an organization lies within the passion of people around the globe who share our same dream. As part of the Nature and Culture community, you help us achieve so much — diverse vibrant cultures; wild places alive with plants and animals, and clean water and other ecosystem services for communities throughout Latin America. Thank you!


On August 31st, 2022 the Santa Elena Provincial Protected Area was approved. The process to establish this area was led by the Provincial Government of Santa Elena and the Sustainable Landscapes Foundation, with support from Nature and Culture and Andes Amazon Fund.


The Shuar nationality will be in charge of the management of Ecuador’s newest protected area, “Tiwi Nunka”.

In a ceremony, which took place on July 20th at the Shuar Kiim Center, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition (MAATE) officially announced that Tiwi Nunka will be the first protected area managed by an Indigenous nationality to enter the National System of Protected Areas (SNAP).


A Message from Nature and Culture International on the Current Situation and Recent Events in Ecuador

After 18 days of national protest and strike in Ecuador, the government, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), the Council of Indigenous Evangelical Peoples and Organizations of Ecuador (FEINE), and the National Confederation of Campesinos, Indigenous and Ecuadorian African Organizations (FENOCIN) reached an agreement on June 30 of this year to end the national strike and begin discussions. In response, Nature and Culture International is releasing the following manifesto: 

  1. We express our condolences to the families of the deceased and our solidarity with the victims of violence during the mobilizations. We deeply regret the loss of human life.   
  2. We also express our gratitude to those who did everything possible to stop the escalation of violence, in a social conflict that arose from a plea for justice and equity from Indigenous territories.  
  3. We recognize the willingness of those parties that wished to resolve differences through dialogue and to establish agreements to examine and review social, economic, and environmental policies in favor of all Ecuadorians.  
  4. We believe that the legal framework, the technical and scientific criteria, the consultation processes, and the social agreement are the fundamental elements on which territorial planning, the use of natural resources, and the administration of territories should be based, with a longview of achieving the sustainable use of natural resources, the conservation of megabiodiversity and the proper administration of territories.  
  5. Compliance with agreements and the efficient management of strategic ecosystems, protected areas, ancestral territories, areas declared as intangible, archaeological zones, and water-protected areas, require today more than ever the support of academic institutions, civil society organizations, and the State as a whole. We call for urgent collective action. 
  6. Regarding the conflict between mining and hydrocarbon activities with the use of hydrologic resources, the identification and protection of Areas of Hydrologic Importance and strategic ecosystems for the provision of this ecosystem service for the country is urgent. According to our approximations, more than 17 million acres have priority as “Areas of very high hydrological importance”. Likewise, more than 70 Decentralized Autonomous Governments have already identified and established special management frameworks in their respective Areas of Hydrologic Importance. The National Environmental Authority has so far established 16 Water Protection Areas. This knowledge and experience can be very useful in the framework of the development and fulfillment of the agreements signed on June 30. 
  7. The health of cities, the sustainability of industries, and the development of the country, in general, will be possible only through the adequate protection of nature and its ecosystem services, valuing the wisdom and the determining role of Indigenous communities, peoples, and nationalities, and providing facilities for adequate food production. 
  8. We send a message of hope to Ecuadorians for the future of their people and their extraordinary natural landscapes. May the agreements they have reached, and those that will be built by the parties, be an opportunity to renew trust, to put institutions and organizations at the service of the public. May this be the time to jointly develop peaceful solutions to the crisis that the country is experiencing, within the framework of the recognition of plurinationality and true inclusion, in a society free of prejudices and stigmatizations. 
  9. We commit ourselves as Nature and Culture International to continue to collaborate with communities, peoples and nationalities, NGOs, universities, and local and central government, with the aim of building a more equitable, productive, supportive, and sustainable nation.  
Nature and Culture has earned a coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is shortlisted as a highly-rated environmental non-profit under the category of environmental protection and natural resource conservation.


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The Municipality of Loja announced the expansion of its Conservation and Sustainable Use Areas, protecting 72 fundamental water sources for local populations 

Protected Area Landscape
On Saturday, June 18, 2022, with the support of Nature and Culture International, the Municipality of Loja announced the expansion of its Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Areas. This expansion adds an additional 109,279 acres to the 73,700 previously protected acres. 


New protected areas, bioeconomy projects, environmental education, and some of our largest conservation efforts to date in Nature and Culture’s first round of highlights from 2022.

Nature and Culture International’s strength is in people who share the same dreams: of diverse vibrant cultures; of forests and savannas alive with plants and animals; of clean water and air and a livable climate. 


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On Friday, May 6, 2022, the declaration for the establishment of the Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area of Quilanga was approved. This measure will protect 26,250 acres of native forest and páramos in the province of Loja, Ecuador. This area is of great importance in ensuring the protection of local water sources of the canton and unique species of flora and fauna.

Quilanga Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area Water Source
Quilanga Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area Water Source

This area is habitat for mammals such as the Andean bear, the tigrillo and the mountain tapir. In addition, Quilanga is the area of greatest distribution of the vizcacha. It is the site where most documentation of the species has been done.

This small rodent is endemic to the province of Loja. In fact, this is the only place on the planet where it can be found. “The location maps of the vizcacha populations were used to delineate the borders of this conservation areas,” says Rodrigo Cisneros, a researcher at the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja (UTPL).

The Vizcacha is a critically endangered mammal endemic to the canton of Quilanga.

The declaration will help protect the home of this rodent, which is critically endangered, according to the Red List of Mammals of Ecuador 2021.

José Romero, Mosaic Coordinator at Nature and Culture International Ecuador, explains that, with this measure, the last remnants of forest and paramo of the canton will also be preserved, as well as important archaeological sites for the country.

Quilanga Municipal Conservation Area

Romero says that this Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area will protect areas of water interest for the largest number of urban and rural population of Quilanga.

Anthropic events, such as fires, are some of the most relevant threats in this area. In 2019, 17,000 acres of forest were burned. Other factors that endanger these ecosystems include the indiscriminate extraction of wood, the change of land use and the expansion of the agricultural frontier.

The creation of the Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area is a step towards protecting the territory from these threats. Nature and Culture has worked with the Municipality of Quilanga since 2020 towards the establishment of this zone through the baseline study and in the delineation of the habitat of the vizcacha and the municipality’s water sources.

The Quilanga Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area also protects bird species such as the sparrowhawk, quillico, hornero or chilalo and tanagers. In addition, there is a wide diversity of flora including the higerón, arupo, guayacán, arabisco and arrayán.

This area joins other conservation areas that exist in the canton such as the Colambo Yacurí Protective Forest that together, contribute to protecting the region’s abundant natural wealth.


Quilanga Establece Una Nueva Área Para Conservar Sus Fuentes De Agua Y Su Biodiversidad

Este viernes 6 de mayo de 2022 se aprobó la declaratoria para el establecimiento del Área de Conservación Municipal y Uso Sostenible de Quilanga. Con esta medida se protegerán 10 623,22 hectáreas de bosque nativo y páramos de la provincia de Loja. Esta zona es de gran importancia para asegurar el cuidado de las fuentes de agua del cantón y de especies de flora y fauna únicas en el mundo.

En esta área se pueden encontrar mamíferos como el oso andino, el tigrillo y el tapir. Además, Quilanga es la zona de mayor distribución de la vizcacha o el sitio donde se han obtenido más registros de esta especie.

Este pequeño roedor es endémico de la provincia de Loja. Es decir, este es el único sitio en el planeta donde se lo puede encontrar. “Justamente para la delimitación de las zonas de conservación se utilizaron los mapas de ubicación de las poblaciones de vizcacha”, cuenta Rodrigo Cisneros, investigador de la Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja (UTPL).

La declaratoria ayudará a proteger el hogar de este roedor, que se encuentra en peligro crítico de extinción, según la Lista Roja de los Mamíferos del Ecuador 2021.

José Romero, coordinador de Mosaico de Naturaleza y Cultura Internacional (NCI) Ecuador, explica que, con esta medida, también se conservará los últimos remanentes de bosque y páramos del cantón, al igual que sitios arqueológicos importantes para el país.

Romero cuenta que esta ACMUS protegerá áreas de interés hídrico para la mayor cantidad de población urbana y rural de Quilanga.

Los eventos antrópicos, como los incendios, son algunas de las amenazas más relevantes en esta zona. En 2019, se quemaron 7 000 hectáreas de bosque. A esto se suman otros factores que ponen en peligro a estos ecosistemas como la extracción indiscriminada de madera, el cambio de uso de suelo y la expansión de la frontera agrícola.

La creación de las Áreas de Conservación Municipal y Uso Sostenible busca proteger el territorio de sus amenazas. Para el establecimiento de esta zona, desde el 2020 NCI trabaja con el Municipio de Quilanga en el estudio de línea base y en la delimitación del hábitat de la vizcacha y de sus fuentes de agua.

El Área de Conservación Municipal y Uso Sostenible Quilanga también protege a especies de aves como el gavilán, quillico, hornero o chilalo y tangaras. Además, existe una amplia diversidad de flora que incluye al higerón, arupo, guayacán, arabisco y arrayán.

Esta ACMUS se suma a otras zonas de conservación que existen en el cantón como el Bosque Protector Colambo Yacurí que contribuyen a proteger su abundante riqueza natural.