EcoMinga Foundation

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Conserving Ecuador's Biodiversity

An as-yet-unnamed Teagueia orchid, one of many discovered in the Upper Pastaza Watershed by the botanists who are board members of EcoMinga, and their student volunteers. This one is endemic to our Cerro Candelaria Reserve.


 Please download our 2008-2009 Annual Report and our 2009-2010 Annual Report!

Ecuador is home to more than 4600 unique plant species found nowhere else in the world; many of these are threatened by the rapid deforestation taking place here. In July 2005 a group of concerned Ecuadorian and international scientists and conservationists started a foundation to do something to save these plants and the other threatened organisms of Ecuador's forests. The botanists on this board have personally discovered or scientifically described many of Ecuador's endemic plants, and all members of the board have an emotional tie to the beautiful forests we have studied or visited here. We are working hard to save them while we still can.

EcoMinga is efficiently preserve biodiversity by a mixture of innovative and traditional approaches to protect strategic centers of endemism in Ecuador. We work with local communities and international tourists to raise awareness about the value of Ecuador's biodiversity.

Our first goal is to preserve the rich flora and fauna of the Upper Pastaza Watershed, home of many endemic plants, especially orchids. This area was declared a "Gift to the Earth" by World Wildlife Fund and contains over 190 species of plants not found anywhere else in the world.  It also contains Spectacled Bears, Mountain Tapirs, and an enormous bird diversity. It is currently being cut down, especially in the flatter eastern portion. We have projects on both the east and west slopes of the Cordillera Abitagua, the last foothills of the Andes along the Rio Pastaza, on the edge of the Amazon basin. This area was first explored by the great Scottish botanist Richard Spruce in 1857, and is still an endless source of new discoveries. In our Rio Zuñac Project, on the western slopes of the Cordillera Abitagua, we are working with local people to protect a very rich cloud forest with many endemic orchids. Our Rio Anzu Reserve (in partnership with the CEIBA Foundation) near the town of Mera on the eastern slopes of the Cordillera Abitagua protects an unusual Amazonian forest on limestone outcrops.

Lepanthes lophius, endemic to a small area in eastern Ecuador, including our Cerro Candelaria reserve.

Farther upstream in the Upper Pastaza Watershed, we have created a very large Cerro Candelaria Reserve (2600 hectares, elevation range 1800m to 3800m), in partnership with the World Land Trust, with major support coming from PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Puro Coffee (UK). This reserve protects a vast virgin cloud forest ecosystem spanning many vegetation types. Endangered species include the Spectacled Bear, Mountain Tapir, and 16 orchid species new to science in the genus Teagueia. It helps to bridge the gap between two large national parks, Sangay and Los Llanganates.

This reserve will hopefully generate some ecotourism income for the neighboring village of El Placer and the nearby town of Baños. The local people seem very supportive of this reserve, and we look forward to a fruitful collaboration with these communities.

For more biological information on the orchids of these forests, see


Our curent projects are located on the eastern edge of the Amazon basin in Ecuador


This map shows our reserve sites on a map of rainfall in Ecuador. The project area includes one of the wettest cloud forests in Ecuador (and the world) and a sharp precipitation gradient from east to west; for this reason it is especially diverse in plants.


In this map it is easy to see the strategic importance of the area we are trying to protect. It is the corridor between two large national parks, connecting the northern and southern ranges of the eastern Andes in Ecuador. Our reserves are the first steps toward protecting that corridor.



The canyon of the Rio Anzu is a spectacular place with a unique set of plant species, including a new species of orchid found nowhere else in the world. EcoMinga and our conservationist neighbor, Sr. Cajamarca, are protecting this canyon.

For photos of our Rio Anzu Reserve, click here.

The photo below shows the completely deforested mountain outside of Baños, a major tourist town in the Upper Pastaza Watershed, with  a still-forested mountain in the background. If you look closely, you can see that the base of the still-forested mountain is already being cut down. This will be the fate of the whole Upper Pastaza Watershed if nothing is done.


The advancing deforestation in the Upper Pastaza Watershed has completely destroyed the mountain in the foreground, and is beginning to destroy the virgin forest of the background mountain.

The directors of EcoMinga are: Calaway Dodson, curator emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden and renowned expert on Ecuadorian orchids, recently decorated by the President of Ecuador for his half-century of investigation here; Nigel Simpson, a founder of the Jocotoco Foundation and enthusiastic conservationist, decorated last year by the Queen of England for his conservation work; Juan Manuel Carrion, well-known Ecuadorian ornithologist, conservationist and television personality; Simon Espinosa Cordero, universally respected member of the Comisión Anti-corrupción del Municipio de Quito; Homero Vargas, former director of the National Herbarium of Ecuador; Lori and Juan Miguel Espinoza, educators of international students in Ecuador; Johanna Mew, cofounder of a successful conservation foundation in NW Ecuador; Mike McColm, cofounder of the Jatun Sacha Foundation; Ray Swanson, graphics artist and environmentalist; Francesca Rota, well-known Ecuadorian artist; Ron Kaufmann, biologist and orchid conservationist; Howard Teich, New Yorker active in progressive causes; Ximena de Salvador, biology educator in Ecuador, and Lou Jost, mathematical ecologist and botanist resident in Ecuador for 13 years.

Help us! Make a tax-deductible donation to EcoMinga via one of our US or UK partners!


We need you to help us develop reasonable alternatives to this senseless destruction. Around each of our reserves we urgently need to buy forests while they are still available, and develop some infrastructure so that local people and tourists can use the reserves. Donations for these purposes are urgently needed.

Our partners in the US and UK are the Orchid Conservation Alliance (US), the World Land Trust -US, and especially the World Land Trust (UK). All are registered charities in their respective countries and donations made to them for EcoMinga are tax-deductible. We are also now participants in the Orchid Conservation Coalition's "1% for Conservation" program. Write these foundations directly to make donations, and write me for more information:

See the website,, for biological information about the Upper Pastaza Watershed which we are trying to protect, and please watch this page for news as we get going.

EcoMinga would like to thank the following organizations and people who have contributed to EcoMinga's land purchases or have supported scientific work related to EcoMinga:
PriceWaterhouse Cooper
Puro Coffee (Andy Orchard)
John and the late Ruth Moore
Dr. Malli and Vera Lee Rao
Dr. Steve Beckendorf and Cindy Hill
Dr. Nigel Simpson, O.B.E
South East Pennsylvania Orchid Society (SEPOS)
Jardin Botanique de Montréal
Orchid societies of the Bay Area, California
CEIBA Foundation
Wild Waters Foundation
Henri Botter and Ardy van Ooij
Orchid Growers Guild (Madison, WI)
Hilo Orchid Society, Hawaii
Pauline Brault
Atlanta Orchid Society
Marisol Villagomez
Dr. Anne Chao
John Little
Dr. Mary Gerritesen
Angela Mirro
Bryon K. Rinke
Sam Crothers
Canterbury School, Florida
Edward Keith
Barry Barker
Orchid Conservation Coalition
Centro de Estudios, Quito
Fundación Oscar Efrén Reyes (FOER)
Proyecto Conservación del Tapir Andino (Finding Species, Centro Ecológico Shanca Arajuno, Tapir Specialist Group-IUCN)
Mark Wilson
Peter Kratochvil