Named for an elegant species of tall palm, the Narupa Reserve is located in Napo province of eastern Ecuador along the road from Narupa to Loreto and on to Coca in the Amazonian lowlands. This road is often referred to as the Loreto road. The reserve was established in 2006 to protect a large block of eastern Andean foothill forest, one of the largest in this part of Ecuador. These forests are globally threatened and have been the focus of much deforestation as the elevation is optimal for development and agriculture (not too hot, not too cool), and they are relatively healthful (not too many mosquitoes). Globally they are under-represented in protected area systems in all the Andean countries.
Narupa Reserve currently contains 512 ha (1265 acres) and has an elevational range from 1000 to 1580 m, on the north side of the Loreto road. The reserve lies in the buffer zone of Sumaco National Park and serves to protect part of what ultimately will be a protected ecological corridor between that park and neighboring Napo-Galeras National Park, facilitating animal movement in an increasingly fragmented landscape. Jocotoco Foundation intends, as funding permits, to continue to expand the size of the reserve to better maintain an elevational gradient and to prevent forest clearing from posing a significant barrier to dispersal. Paving of the Loreto Road took place recently, and thus the economic factors that drive deforestation have increased. Foremost amongst these in the immediate area is the cultivation of Naranjilla (Solanum quitoense), a plant that exhausts forest soils within a few years, thus leading to that plot’s abandonment and more forest being cleared.
Narupa has a growing list of birds that currently includes over 300 species. As the reserve is fairly new, with much of it still only poorly explored, the final list is expected to grow to nearly 400 species. Five globally threatened species have been recorded, including its flagship species, the Cerulean Warbler, a long-distance migrant that breeds in eastern North America and spends the boreal winter in northwestern South America. During the winter of 2010-11, surveys revealed this species to be present at higher densities than is normally the case for this typically scarce bird. Other wintering birds include the Canada Warbler and Swainson’s Thrush. Other globally threatened bird species that have been recorded include Black Tinamou, Military Macaw, Coppery-chested Jacamar and Foothill Elaenia. The variety of tanagers, tyrant flycatchers, and hummingbirds found on the reserve is especially impressive. A notable rarity is the Orange-breasted Falcon, a pair of which has bred for some years on a cliff immediately adjacent to the reserve; this represents the only currently known nesting nest for this rare falcon, itself globally threatened, in Ecuador.
Through camera trapping and analysis of tracks, several large mammals of note have been detected including Puma (Puma concolor), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), and Brazilian Tapir (Tapirus terrestris).
Management activities are supervised by the Reserve Administrator, Gerardo Vasquez. Gerardo grew up near the reserve. After accepting his position as administrator of the reserve, Gerardo developed a keen interest in birds to such an extent that he was able to participate in the Latin American Training Program operated by the Long Point Bird Observatory in Canada, where he acquired a variety of avian research skills as well as a little English.
Being situated in the Amazonian foothills, Narupa has a very pleasant climate – though it must be remembered that it does rain a lot! A network of trails is gradually being expanded, and a new footbridge over the Río Hollín now provides access to primary forest at higher elevations in the reserve. A few feeders are now being established. The river itself, complete with an area for swimming, provides a welcome retreat from the forest and offers a unique experience among Jocotoco reserves.
For the present, visitor amenities are limited. People wishing to visit the reserve are advised to contact Jocotours. For accommodation, we recommend either Wildsumaco Lodge or Cabanas San Isidro. Both are excellent birding lodges (you will probably want to visit both) and are owned and managed by good friends of Jocotoco.