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Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve



Location: Sucumbios Province   Map

Area: 6,033.8 km2 (2,329.7 mi2)




Description of Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is a protected area located in Sucumbios Province in Ecuador. Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve covers an area of 6,033.8 km2 (2,329.7 mi2). It is a place with great biodiversity, home to one of the largest concentrations of wildlife, both in flora and fauna. A complex system of rain formations, 14 lagoons, rivers and a tropical forest that make the 603,000 hectares a record in terms of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world.

The Cuyabeno has more than 550 different species of birds: 60 species of orchids; more than 350 species of fish; a large variety of reptiles such as anacondas, alligators and river turtles. The plant species found within the reserve are estimated at 12,000. And many species of mammals, including the amazing Tapir (Tapirus terrestris).

The Reserve is also home to rare species, such as the mythical pink river dolphin, the Hoatzin or eagle of the region, with its eight-foot wing opening.

Since the Cuyabeno Reserve belongs to the National System of Protected Areas, very few Tourism Operators are qualified to work in this area. This is one reason why many tourists are not visiting the area, so you can enjoy nature and its magnificent sounds.

In its western part, the reserve begins at the foot of the Andes, but quickly entering the Amazon plains. Thus, to the west of the main entrance of the part, the terrain is still rugged with hills, but quickly the terrain becomes flatter. There are two very flat floodplains, where interconnected lagoon systems are found: the first where the Cuyabeno Lagoon (or Grande) is located, the other on the border with Peru. Originally, the reserve only incorporates the entire Cuyabeno River basin, but with its extension, includes parts of the Aguarico and Putumayo Rivers. The land outside the plains consists of solid ground in generally very low hills.

The latter areas have a different flora and fauna than the forests in the highest lands between these wetlands and in the upper basin. While flooded forests are relatively poor in species, the highest areas have some of the largest number of trees per hectare on earth. In one place in the neighboring Yasuni National Park, 307 species of trees / hectare were counted, and they are many more than in all of Europe.

There are five main ecosystems in Cuyabeno: (1) seasonally flooded forests or swamps traveled by the sewage rivers with vegetation dominated by Mauritia flexuosa, (2) forests flooded by rivers rich in sediments, or “coffee with milk” várzea (Pires and Prance, 1985), (example: Río Aguirico), (3) forests flooded by rivers of sewage or igapó (Pires and Prance, 1985); (4) Permanent lakes that rarely go dry, such as Zancudo Car along the Aguarico River, well-drained forest is found in small hills and in the upper basin, particularly upstream of the park entrance at "Cuayabeno Bridge "; dark sediment of the poor rivers, (5) "Coffee-with = milk" rivers of rich in, the largest, being the Aguarico River; (6) Semi-permanent lakes - the largest in Cuyabeno Lagoon - that most of the years fall dry and is dominated by the famous Macrolobium trees that are home to countless epiphytes, herons, blue and yellow macaws and Huatzins.

All the great Amazonian mammals are present: the lowland tapir, two species of deer, all the Amazon cats, including jaguars and pumas, pecaris, two species of dolphins, manatees, the giant otter, the monkeys are represented by 10 species , while rodents and bats are represented by dozens of species.

The current number of registered bird species is debated, some claim 530 species, while others suggest that more than 580 species have been seen, but nobody knows for sure because there is no official record.

During the peak of the rainy season, thousands of hectares of forests are flooded, forming an El Dorado for an estimated 350 species of fish, two species of alligators, boas and anacondas, and countless frogs and toads sing their concerts Endless Dolphins have been seen swimming in flooded forests, as they follow the fish.





It is a tropical forest, with rainfall between 3,000 and 4,000 mm3 per year, and humidity between 85 and 95%. From December to March it has a marked dry season; The rainy season runs from April to July, and from August to November the rain is moderate. The annual temperature ranges around 25 ° C. Also with its humid climate

Many ethnic communities live on the banks of two very important rivers, the Aguarico River and the Cuyabeno River, in particular, the Cofanes and the Siona-Secoya, both legendary in this area. The Siona community inhabits the northern part of the Cuyabeno Reserve, in Puerto Bolívar and the Tarapuy River.

The healers Siona, Secoya and Cofán (Shamanes) are respected and admired by other communities in the jungle for their immense wisdom. Thousands of years of history are well kept by these healers. They learned from their predecessors and will transmit it to new generations.

Ecotourism in the reserve was unleashed in 1986 with a first group of 16 visitors from the Netherlands. Before that, in the 1970s, Etnotours had been organizing visits focused on the visit of indigenous peoples, but there are no records of this era. When the new oil road was built in the early 1980s and oil activities in the area increased, settlers were increasingly established in the highlands of the reserve, initiating uncontrolled deforestation. The director of the reserve had requested and received an advisor from the government of the Netherlands, who advised to expand the area of ​​around 150,000 hectares to the east, to which the government of Ecuador decided to expand the park until it reached the border with Peru, increasing its size to 603,380 ha. He also advised the government to promote ecotourism in the area in order to create alternative income and demonstrate the importance of the reservation for the tourism sector over the national level of Ecuador. Given the isolation of the reserve, the visitors were going to need a facility to spend the night in order to visit the lagoon area. Neotropic Turis was especially incorporated as a social responsibility company to promote conservation through Cuyabeno ecotourism, in an effort to help rescue the reserve by promoting ecotourism. Originally visitors spent the night at the biological station of the Catholic University and in tents, until Turis Neotrópico received a license to operate a lodge in 1989 and built the Cuyabeno Lodge, the first ecological hostel in the reserve.

From the beginning, Neotropic Turis involved indigenous peoples, both in the construction of the country house and in the operation. He also organized the first training course for guides, as well as for indigenous peoples. The company remains the only operator with an operating license from the Ministry of Environment. Since the mid-1990s, other lodges were built, such as Tapir Lodge and other ecological lodges such as the Macaw Ecolodge, some around the Cuyabeno Lagoon, but most downstream of the Cuyabeno Lagoon.

The original idea of ​​promoting ecotourism to rescue the reserve had been a model of success: The current director of the reserve recently cited that the current level of visits is approximately 12 thousand visitors per year, while most families of The Siona tribe benefit from economic activities related to ecotourism. On the other hand, Cuyabeno has become an ecotourism destination with national importance for the entire Ecuadorian tourism sector, since its reputation has begun to grow considerably in the last five years.

The activities offered by ecotourism companies must deal with social and environmental issues of the territory in particular by working with local indigenous communities.The visiting area is restricted to only one of the 14 lagoons of the reserve (7 in the plain surrounding the Cuyabeno Lagoon, Zancuda Cocha next to the Aguaricos River and 6 on the border with Peru) is open to the public.





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