The Río Canandé Reserve in Esmeraldas was started in 2000, initiating the fifth reserve of the Foundation. By mid 2011 it comprised about 2000 hectares (4942 acres) of ‘Chocó’ tropical rainforest with an altitudinal range of 100 to 500 meters asl. It is a mixture of primary and secondary forest, with some areas having been previously logged to remove timber trees. The ‘Chocó’ biome extends from the Pacific coastal lowland of northern Ecuador, through Colombia to the Darien of Panama. This region is characterised by very high rainfall, high species diversity, and a high proportion of endemic species. Less than 25% remains intact overall, with perhaps less than 10% remaining in Ecuador. The main threats today are timber extraction, followed by conversion of the land to Oil-palm plantations. Palm oil demand is rising with bio-fuel becoming a current concern. The reserve is situated within a zone where timber extraction is active. To the west and south of the reserve are large areas of Oil-palm plantations. About 10km to the east is the border of the Chachi indigenous territory, and beyond that the Andes rise into the Government protected area of the Cotacahi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve. About two years ago the Government created the El Pambilar Community Forest reserve of about 5000 hectares in what used to be an area used for timber extraction. The staff at Jocotoco’s Canandé reserve have held workshops to assist and train members of the local community there in forest conservation management. The Río Canandé, a tributary of the Río Esmeraldas, borders the southern boundary of the reserve.
Bird Life International has listed 62 endemic bird species in the Chocó bioregion. There are 37 threatened and (Chocó) endemic bird species known from the reserve, of which seven are globally threatened (Endangered or Vulnerable). In addition, the Great Curassow is present; this is not globally threatened but is close to extirpation within Ecuador. Other notable threatened birds include Great-green Macaw, Baudó Guan, Plumbeous Forest-Falcon, Banded Gound-Cuckoo, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, and Yellow-green Bush-Tanager. The enigmatic Sapayoa is regularly seen, together with Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Chocó Poorwill, White-tipped Cotinga, and Great Jacamar. In total over 300 species have been detected.
Footprints and trail cameras have revealed populations of four cat species (Jaguar, Puma, Ocelot and Margay), Collared Peccary and Red Brocket Deer. Three species of monkey are easily seen close to the lodge buildings – (Mantled Howler, Brown-headed Spider, and White-headed Capuchin). A survey of the reptiles and amphibians in the reserve by the Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales (MECN) detected 71 species, 35 of which are national endemics and 3 globally threatened. Colourful Dendrobates frogs are conspicuous around the lodge. These data have been included in a recent book published by MECN on the reptiles and amphibians of the Ecuadorian Chocó. A survey of the butterflies in the reserve has been published as a book (by María Checa) and a new species of butterfly has been named - Euselasia jocotoco. Botanical studies have not surprisingly shown that many unusual and threatened plant species are present. These include a thriving colony of a critically endangered Lily (Eucaris sp.), a rare Geonoma palm, the ubiquitous (in florists worldwide) Anthurium andreanum in its original native habitat, and examples of the only genus of tree endemic to Mainland Ecuador – Ecuadendron. A new species of Liparis orchid has been found by Lou Jost, director of Ecominga and a world expert on Orchids. Some of the recently purchased properties which had been partially deforested to make cow-pasture are now being left to regrow naturally. With high rainfall and temperatures and plentiful vectors for seeds, the rate of regeneration is very rapid.
Population centres in the vicinity of the reserve include Zapallo, (east of Quininde/Rosa Zarata), and the small villages of Puerto Nova (where the ferry crosses the Río Canandé), La Yuca which is adjacent to the reserve, and Hoja Blanca. Visitors to the reserve must make prior arrangements with the FJ Quito office. The ferry needs prior notification of a visit, and it is a complicated drive of about four hours to reach the ferry from Quito. An intermediate stop at Mindo can help break the journey, (and offers the chance of some additional bird-watching at the nearby Milpe reserve). A fairly simple lodge provides four twin bedrooms each with shower/bathroom. A recent addition is a new dining and communal building. A comprehensive system of trails into the forest begins at the Lodge. For reservations and details of the access route (which can be difficult in the wet season) please contact Jocotours at the Quito office.