I’m sure that more than one of you would like to know how we did last year raising money for the Dracula Reserve in Ecuador, what happened to the money, and what our plans are for this year.
First, the fundraising results: In a word,
From all donations and membership renewals you donated $86,221. That is a sum unmatched in our history. Additionally, through profits from our Orchids in the Wild trips, you donated $15,954. Total = $102,175. An historic first! Well done everyone. To that total the OCA board voted to add $9167 from funds on hand, but of course these ultimately came from you also, and sent $111, 342 to Rainforest Trust to be matched dollar for dollar for Fundación Ecominga to purchase land for the Dracula Reserve. Thus, by your generosity, Fundación Ecominga received $222,684 to expand the Dracula Reserve. I hope you all take a lot of pleasure in having made it possible for that sum to go towards preserving the habitat sheltering Dracula orchids.
The maps on the last page show where the Dracula Reserve is and what is happening to develop it. The first map, at lower left, locates the reserve in Ecuador. It is just south of the Colombian border on the west slope of the Andes. The rectangular map at right outlines a 20 mile long valley which has an unparalleled concentration of Dracula species. Exactly why this area is so rich is not clear. Last year Gary Meyer, taxonomist and President of the Pleurothallid Alliance, wrote:
“This area is special for a number of reasons. First and foremost, this is the region with the highest Dracula diversity that we know of – anywhere. At least 19 species have been found here; most of them were originally discovered in this area. Two are natural hybrids that keep recurring, and one very rare species that lives here is not in cultivation at all. There are things that get reported from the area occasionally that have not been identified yet; likely, species are waiting to be described. In fact, I and my Ecuadorian friend Luis Baquero described Dracula trigonopetala just a few years ago after it was found here. In all my travels to study Draculas in situ I have never seen an area with this density of Dracula diversity.
Unfortunately, even though this area is essentially the epicenter of Dracula diversity, it was also completely unprotected until a coalition of conservation groups, including the OCA and EcoMinga [and the University of Basel], bought the first properties to be part of this Dracula reserve. It is not a coincidence that in my travels I find the best and most stable populations of Draculas inside protected lands. I do find them on unprotected lands, but I cannot tell you how often I and other pleurothallid hunters have returned to unprotected sites to find the plants poached or the forests obliterated.”
The rectangular map shows the properties which are now, or will be in the near future, parts of the reserve. The properties colored red are now owned by Fundación Ecominga. With the exception of the little tiny property on the Colombian border where Phragmipedium fisheri grows, these properties were purchased in 2015. We donated $44,000 to that 2015 effort. The fisheri property was purchased in 2017. Properties in orange are in the process of being acquired. Properties in yellow are properties whose purchase price has been negotiated but are waiting for money to be available. The properties in blue are desired for future purchase but have no purchase agreements. Their purchase is probably some years off. Also shown are two green areas; these are protected lands, but poorly monitored. The Dracula Reserve properties are monitored by two guards who live in a nearby town.
This valley was only recently made accessible, and thus made open for exploitation, by the Ecuadoran government’s construction of the road through the valley. This occurred 10 – 15 years ago. Following construction of the road the valley began to be exploited by farmers who cleared the land for ranching, cultivation, and settlement. At that time most of the land was owned by the government. As it once was in the US, individuals could homestead on the land. If they made it productive for some number of years, they could obtain paper title to the land and become the land’s formal owners. When I say above that “Properties in orange are in the process of being acquired” in many cases this means that while the owners have homesteaded rights to the land, they do not yet have paper title and thus cannot yet sell the land. In these cases Fundación Ecominga is helping the owners with the paperwork so that Ecominga can then buy the land.
Many of you whom I have met at an orchid show or at a society meeting have heard me say that OCA does not own the land because we have no idea how to own or manage land in Ecuador. Often I am referring to the complexities of the homesteading process. We have no way of assisting a landowner in Ecuador to obtain paper title to his/her land so that we could buy it. And as foreigners, although we can own land, we do not have the right to set land aside in conservation easements, which protects the land from squatters and mineral development. These are all things that Fundación Ecominga knows how to do and can do.
I hope this summary of what is happening with the Dracula Reserve has been interesting. Let me know if you have questions via firstname.lastname@example.org or the OCA website www.orchidconservationalliance.org.
So, what’s next? Fundación Ecominga’s commitment from Rainforest Trust is that they will match a total of $264,895; this number is based on the prices of the parcels for which Fundación Ecominga has negotiated. The average price of an acre of land in these parcels is just over $350 an acre. We have already donated $111, 342 and others have or will donate $70,000, so there is still just under $84,000 yet to go. With this arithmetic in mind we have decided that $84,000 should be our fundraising goal for 2018.
Only you can decide whether we will make this goal. Since we raised over $100,000 last year it certainly seems possible, but only with the continued help of all our members.
Please, let’s get this done!
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