Located just ten minutes outside of the town of Macara overlooking Ecuador’s southern border with Peru, Jocotoco’s Jorupe Reserve protects an important and high quality example of Tumbesian dry forest. This area of Ecuador has some of the highest concentrations of endemic and restricted-range species in the world. Many of these species are highly threatened.
In general biological terms, the Tumbesian dry forest region extends from southern Ecuador (Guayaquil) almost as far south as Lima, Peru. The vegetation in this region is extremely diverse with a large number of distinct habitats (depending on the definition there are around 20). These habitats range from arid scrub and desert, deciduous tropical forest, to semi-evergreen pre-montane forest depending on the altitude, humidity, and rainfall.
Fundación Jocotoco chose the site for the Jorupe Reserve as it was one of the largest contiguous, relatively intact areas available with a significant variation in altitude; it harbors a number of endangered and/or restricted range species; it has excellent road access to the population center of Macará, enhancing opportunities for visitation and local environmental education; it is a promising area for ecotourism development; recently abandoned pasture presented good opportunities for reforestation and closing key gaps in important habitats; Jocotoco had developed excellent relations with local communities, including the Mayor of Macará, who wanted to protect an important water supply for future generations.
The first purchases for this reserve were made in early 2004, and with subsequent acquisitions, the reserve now encompass more than 1,500 hectares (3,600 acres) between 480 m and 2440 m in elevation. In total, this comprises approximately 50% of the watershed of the Rio Jorupe. At the top of the watershed is the Cordillera de Jatumpampa, which the Government of Ecuador has declared a Bosque Protector. It is unusual to find a watershed of relatively intact forest in this heavily settled area. While the structure of the forest dominated by the characteristic Ceiba trees is mainly intact (with some clearings and pastures), many of the of the most valuable tree species have been removed over the last 100 years (“high-graded”), particularly at lower elevations. Jocotoco is now in the process of reforesting the pastures and also returning species to areas where they have been extirpated including Gualtaco : Loxopterygium huasango; Aguacatillo: Nectandra sp.; Arrayan: Myrcianthes sp.; Guayacán: Tabebuia chrysantha; Jorupe: Sapindus saponaria; Barbasco: Piscidia carthagenensis; Sota: Maclura tinctoria ; Cedro: Cedrela odorata.
To date nearly 190 species of birds have been found in the Jorupe reserve, including almost all of the dry forest endemics of the Tumbesian region within Ecuador, including Pale-browed Tinamou, Grey-cheeked Parakeet, Slaty Becard, Grey-breasted Flycatcher, Elegant Crescentchest, Blackish-headed Spinetail, Rufous-necked Foliage-gleaner, Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaner, White-tailed Jays, Watkins’ Antpitta, Black-capped Sparrow, and White-edged Oriole. Of these, there are 15 globally threatened and near-threatened species. Jorupe is also a very good place to see King Vulture.
In 2008, Fundación Jocotoco built a new lodge to encourage visitors and education activities in the reserve. Officially opened in August 2009, Urraca Lodge was built in a small clearing at the top of a ridge looking down the Jorupe Valley towards the mountains of Peru in the distance. Nowhere else is it possible to stay overnight in a Tumbesain dry tropical forest. The whole experience was designed to allow you to feel like you might be camping in the forest, but with all of the comforts of home! Almost all of the endemic species of birds in the reserve can be seen daily from the lodge site, including the charismatic White-tailed Jays for which the lodge is named. The lodge has a centrally located dining room surrounded by open porches for viewing wildlife. A trail leads to six private cabins nestled in the forest – each located with a spectacular view of the valley. The reserve has an extensive walking trail system through a number of different habitat types and has ready access by road to several other habitats worth visiting. For more information about visiting Jorupe, please see the section below and/or contact Jocotours.