A week or so after returning from visiting our China campaign managers in Kunming, I was back in the air again, this time heading west to Ecuador, a country of geological and geographic contrasts. From the offshore islands of the Galapagos (where Rare has a campaign) to the Amazon rainforests; from the Pacific to the towering Andes. It is also a country made up of great human and biological diversity. This nation is not only one of 17 mega-diverse in the world according to Conservation International, but has more biodiversity per square kilometer than any other nation on the planet.
After an overnight in the capital of Quito, I headed south to Loja close to the Peruvian border where I met up with Rare’s Pride Program Manager, Alan Hesse. Alan has been with Rare a little over a year and is responsible for over-seeing the campaign that I was to visit. However, I first met Alan years earlier at a Parrot Conference in the Canary Islands and our paths crossed again when he kindly helped produce a suite of cartoons for our Pride curriculum. From Loja we drove further south to Espíndola, site of a Pride campaign being run by Maritza Azanza and the Ecology Foundation, “Arcoiris.” Maritza is a member of Rare’s first thematic cohort, a group of dedicated campaign managers all working in the Andes on watershed threats, with the solution being so-called “reciprocal agreements”.
Agreements based on the principle that users and beneficiaries of a natural resource should compensate those who safeguard the resource. Lowland farmers, who depend on stewardship of highland watershed habitats, contribute to a conservation fund. [This] fund provides “payments” to the highland landowners as an incentive to maintain healthy forests. Pride campaigns accelerate and deepen community support for this approach (1/2).
Another shared attribute of the “Guad 8” cohort – so called this because the campaign mangers that comprise this group are the 8th cohort to train at our Mexican university node in Guadalajara, Mexico – is that they are all working to conserve habitat for “AZE species”.
The Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) is a global initiative of biodiversity conservation organizations, that aims to prevent extinctions by identifying and safeguarding key sites where species are in imminent danger of disappearing (3).
Maritza’s campaign has its flagship species the Andean Spectacled Bear which she is using to draw attention to the upper watersheds of her site, a habitat also frequented by a little known and likely endangered frog with the nearly unpronounceable name of Eleutherodactylus balionotus. Helpfully it is also known as Pristimantis balionotus! Without a common or local name and known only from the type locality, 13.5km east of Loja, at the crest of the Cordillera (Abra de Zamora) between Loja Province and Zamora-Chinchipe Province, it is (like many other AZE species) something of an enigma (4).
Maritza was born in the Ecuadorian city of Loja, on December 27, 1984, and studied Environmental Engineering at the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja. Her thesis focused on environmental education and as a result of it she gained experience in working with local authorities, children, teachers and community leaders. After graduating and before joining Fundación Ecológica Arcoiris, Maritza coordinated the construction of several self-guided trails including one in the forests of Colambo Yacuri. She joined Arcoiris, as the technician responsible Environmental Education.
I spent the week working with Maritza and Alan reviewing the progress she was making with the campaign, meeting key stakeholders, visiting the areas where reciprocal agreements were planned, and helping with Pride collateral development.
You can read more about Maritza’s Pride campaign here.