Reserva Río Ayampe, Jocotoco's newest reserve was established to protect the critically endangered Esmeraldas Woodstar (Chaetocercus berlepschi) which is found only in a small area on the west coast of
Bert and Mery found that the Woodstars appear to be seasonal migrants. They arrive in Ayampe at the end of the dry season, and after the breeding season the birds disappear. Where they go is uncertain, but scattered sightings suggest they migrate up into the coastal mountains of
All the visitors coming to study the Woodstar quickly caught the attention of the locals, who were fascinated by the attention we were giving to their “Estrellita” (little star). Much of the land where the Woodstar breeds is owned by the local community of Las Tunas. Jocotoco's Conservation Director Francisco Sornoza introduced himself and Jocotoco to the community and after some initial conversations, invited members of the community to visit other Jocotoco Reserves. Being interested in both conservation and tourism, (Ayampe is an area replete with some wonderful beachfront along the Pacific), the community expressed a strong interest in working with Jocotoco to protect the Woodstar and other natural features along the coastline. At the end of 2011, a formal agreement between the Community of Las Tunas and Fundación Jocotoco was signed to work together to protect the Woodstar.
This agreement between Jocotoco and Las Tunas is an exciting and novel way forward for conservation. By acquiring property rights there in early 2012 (right of usufruct), the foundation will soon become a member of the community and a long-term partner in future community sponsored conservation projects. Most of the day to day conservation activity is being directed and performed by local members of the Community, with support from Fundación Jocotoco. Small scale habitat restoration is taking place with species that will benefit the Esmeraldas Woodstar and other wildlife. Children from the community play an active role in the propagation and planting of these species, as with an ambitious project to collect and recycle plastic bottles throughout the area. Community awareness about the importance of protecting the nest sites of the Woodstar will be promoted throughout the whole Community of Las Tunas – about 4500 hectares.
This area is home to several other globally threatened birds from the Choco and Tumbesian bioregions. These include Grey-backed Hawk, Grey-cheeked Parakeet, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Little Woodstar, Slaty Becard, Ochraceous Attila, and Henna-hooded Foliage-Gleaner. Another interesting animal present near the reserve is the Ghost Bat. A rapid assessment of the reptiles and amphibians of the Río Ayampe valley is currently being carried out. Surveys of butterflies in the area are also being undertaken, as the west coastal mountain ranges are known for high rates of endemism.
In 2010, Francisco Sornoza prepared a birding guide to