Protecting Los Cedros Reserve

Friends of Mother Earth,

The Los Cedros Rainforest is one of the most biologically diverse and endemic habitats on Planet Earth.

Watch the 20-min Los Cedros film here!

Los Cedros Biological Reserve consists of 17,000 acres of premontane wet tropical and cloud forest in Northwestern Ecuador.  Of this, 2,650 acres is formerly colonized (now reforested) land, while the remainder is primary forest. The reserve is a southern buffer zone for the 450,000 acre Cotocachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve and both are part of the Choco Phytogeographical Zone.

Researchers are still finding new and undescribed species yearly in Los Cedros – most recently a new species of frog discovered in the reserve named Pristimantis mutabilis which is the first reptile which can change the texture of its skin back and forth from all warts to slippery smooth in minutes. A new phenomenon to science.

A dedicated group of forest activists, lead by reserve creator Jose DeCoux, has managed and protected the Los Cedros Biological Reserve for the last 29 years and counting.  

This biodiversity gem would have long ago succumbed to deforestation, pastures, cows and corn if it weren't for the continued presence of this team. The constant search for new arable land for subsistence agriculture and illegal logging would have turned this rich and magical forest ecosystem to a simple pasture.

23 International scientists who have studied and worked at Los Cedros have signed a letter to attest that “the value of the Los Cedros Eco System is far greater than any possible mineral wealth that lies beneath it. This area should not have been placed in a mining concession and should remain a protected area.”

Permaculture consultant, Geoff Lawton, recently published a YouTube video that explains the urgency to save Los Cedros from destruction. Watch it here!



It is known that there are over 297 species of birds in the reserve. 

Tanagers, Hawks, Eagles, Parrots, Owls, and Toucans to name but a few. Over a dozen species of hummingbirds whizz around throughout the forest, some only an inch long. The stunning Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, the Toucan Barbett, and the colourful Golden Headed Quetzal make their home here.

Encompassing thousands of species, the invertebrates dominate the faunal biomass. In Los Cedros there are over 900 species of nocturnal moths most with amazing wing patterns and colours. There are also thousands of species of butterflies, ants, beetles, spiders, and bees. Often seen is the Pepsis Wasp (Hercules Wasp), and it may be dragging a tarantula home to serve as a living nest for its young. The largest cockroach in the world lives here, along with the first aquatic cockroach found in South America . The reserve is also home to several species each of snakes, lizards and frogs which are often seen but have been little researched.


Evidence in the form of scat, tracks, cameras and the occasional sighting provide the assurance that five species of felines roam their territories here in the reserve. Common names are the Jaguarundi, Margay, Oncilla, Puma, and Ocelot. In the morning, along with the chorus of birds, you are likely to be woken by the Mantled Howler Monkey. He is the loudest, so can often be heard, and sometimes seen, in the canopy. The two other primates are the White-Throated Capuchins and the rare Brown-Headed Spider Monkey. The only species of South American bear, the Spectacled Bear, inhabits the higher elevations of the reserve and is seen on occasion. Other mammals include the Opossum, Nine-Banded Armadillo, Kinkajou, Tayra, Neotropical Otter, Collared Peccary, Red Brocket Deer, Paca, Agouti, Spiny Pocket Mouse, Quichua Porcupine, Western Dwarf Squirrel, and Red-Tailed Squirrel.


Abundant tree species include Copal, Madrono, Avocatillo, Strangler Fig and the Cedars that give the reserve its name. One hundred and eight tree species  have been identified, but this represents only a small fraction of the diversity present in the area; it has been estimated that there are 299 tree species per hectare at Los Cedros. The dense forest floor and understory is a thick web of buttress roots, lianas, vines, prop roots, drop roots, and decomposing plant material. Characteristic of a cloud forest, the trees on the ridge lines are more stunted in size and laden with masses of luxuriant ephiphytes, with a more open canopy allowing a thicker and richer understory. 

Also strong through the upper story are climbing philodendrons, bromeliads, heliconia, and cyclanthaceae. The area is especially rich in Orchidaceae, with 156 species identified, with a predicted (by Cal Dodson) 250 yet to be discovered.



The Ecuadorian government has stepped in with an ill-conceived and poorly executed update to the management plan for the reserve. Since the reserve’s inception, the staff has worked hard to build trust and communication with the local community through workshops and education and jobs in the reserve.  Our boundaries have been carefully managed with dedicated neighbors of the reserve creating allies in the protection and management of this biodiversity hotspot. 

Now illegal hunting, mining and forest conversion have picked up around the reserve and we fear for what could happen, for the magic we could lose, the forest that we love, the project we have built for the last quarter of a century.

In recent events, the Ecuadorian Government has secretly signed a mining agreement with Canadian company 'Cornerstone Capital Resources'. This agreement will allow for mining in the Choco region, which includes Cascabel, the Los Cedros Forest, the Cotocachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve and other sacred protected forests. The Ecuadorian Government and Cornerstone are both completelt disregarding protections on the area. If we let Cornerstone in, they will destroy the most biologically diverse habitat on Planet Earth.



We currently have a Save Ecuador Rainforests From Mining Campaign running on our Crowdfunding Website: Fund My Planet.

We need to raise $50,000 immediately to be able to re-survey the boundaries of the Los Cedros reserve. We also need to maintain all that we have built to house volunteers, researchers and tourists that are the backbone of the monthly support for the reserve’s management.

The Ecuadorian forest activists are in financial struggle and funds are sorely needed for legal assistance against Cornerstone. These are the kinds of expenses that are incredibly hard to raise for a small, grassroots NGO. This campaign can make a huge difference in the future of neotropical biodiversity conservation.

The Rainforest Information Centre will start the ball rolling with $1,000 donation to this campaign. 

All donations are tax-deductible for Aussies!

Sign the petition to save Ecuador rainforests from mining.




Photography: Murray Cooper

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