Ecominga’s Reserva Dracula is in a valley near the town of Chical in northern Ecuador on the border with Colombia.
Previous land acquisitions in this region established mid- and high-elevation holdings that serve as a center of diversity for the orchid genus Dracula. The current reserve includes the only known Ecuadorian populations of several Dracula species. Additionally, many new species of orchids and other flora (trees) including Pleurothallis chicalensis, Lepanthes kayii, Pleurothallis ecomingae, Scaphosepalum zieglerae, Platystele pamelae, Dracula trigonopetala, Dracula psyche, Platystele finleyae and Lepantes tulcanensis and fauna such as Carapaz’s Forest Mouse (Chilomys carapazi) and Anolis dracula have been discovered in the reserve.
The area is also rich in large mammals, including the Andean Bear (Tremarctos ornatus, VU), Dwarf Red Brocket (Mazama rufina, VU), Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi, LC), and Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis, LC). Other endemic and threatened species that can be found here include: Fischer’s Phragmipedium (Phragmipedium fischeri CR), Carchi Andes Toad (Rhaebo colomai; EN), Hammond’s Rice Rat (Mindomys hammondi, EN), Rio Faisanes Stubfoot Toad (Atelopus coynei, CR), and the Cloudforest Pygmy-owl (Glaucidium nubicola, VU).
The funding for this reserve was provided by the combined efforts of the OCA, the University of Basel, the Verein Botanischer Garten beim Spalentor (a garden club in Basel, Switzerland), Reserva – Youth Land Trust and the Rainforest Trust. This area is threatened by road development, conversion to agriculture, mining and plant collection, and habitat protection is very important to preserve the rich biodiversity.
Since the initial funding in 2015, additional properties have been purchased, and today the reserve covers 4813.6 acres (1948 ha) at a range of elevations from 2600-7800 ft (~ 800-2400 m) above sea level (asl).
Most parts of the reserve are primary forests that have never been cut, but recent road building and agricultural expansion have done great damage to the areas along the road. The density of animal and plant species (number of species per area) found on the western slope of the Andes is approximately five times higher than in most temperate regions around the world (e.g., Central Europe). Because of a wide elevation range and a high diversity of habitats, the Dracula Reserve contains great potential for biological field research, which is currently being carried out by people from several Ecuadorian and foreign institutions. EcoMinga is continuing to identify new properties at different elevations in nearby locations to extend the reserve area and expand the diversity of species protected.