Third Millennium Alliance established the Jama-Coaque Reserve (JCR) in 2007 through the purchase of 100 acres (40 hectares) at the peak of the Pacific Equatorial Mountains. After nine subsequent land purchases, JCR has expanded to a size of 1,012 acres (409 hectares). Eight of the ten purchases were from absentee landowners who no longer provided any management of their land. The remaining two purchases were from landowners in nearby communities who approached TMA with the offer to purchase their land. TMA is known as el Grupo Ecológico Jama-Coaque in Ecuador, and is registered with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment.
History of the Reserve
In 2008 we built the “Bamboo House” Research Station and have slowly but surely improved the facilities over time. We currently have the lodging capacity for 20 people, in what we consider to be an innovative and sublimely beautiful work-site that is off-the-grid and has been built entirely by hand. Surrounding the Research Station was a small plot of previously-cleared land, which we have since developed into a sustainable agroforestry/permaculture demonstration site, with 52 different species of food-producing perennials.
The first formal biological research project in JCR was conducted by herpetologist Paul S. Hamilton from The Biodiversity Group in February of 2009. Since then, Dr. Hamilton and his team have returned multiple times every year, and in the process have discovered 40 new species of frog, one new species of snake, and one new species of salamander in JCR and nearby forest fragments.
After its first humble beginnings in 2008, our volunteer program now exists as five two-month internship sessions per year. Since 2010, we’ve received over 70 interns from 12 countries. The majority of our interns have come from English-speaking countries, and our current priority is to attract interns from South America, Asia, Europe, and Africa.
We acquired our first infrared camera traps in 2011, which have proven to be one of our most important research tools. Before that time, the existence of wild felines in JCR was only a rumor, but within weeks of installation, the camera traps registered our first photo of an ocelot (Leopardus pardalis). Since then the cameras have photographed other wild felines, such as jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi) and margay (Leopardus weidii), in addition to frequent ocelot photographs. Our next step is to study population density and home range sizes of these elusive cats. The camera traps have registered a total of 20 different species of mammals.
Resident biologist Mike Ellis conducted a year-long bird survey in 2012, and in JCR alone he found 227 species of birds, including 16 “A1” species (three endangered, six vulnerable, and five near-threatened), and 21 “A2” species (i.e., restricted to Endemic Bird Areas). Mr. Ellis found one more “A1” species in the land surrounding the Reserve, which totals 17 “A1” species for the entire area, designated by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Out of the 107 IBAs in Ecuador, the Reserve’s IBA has the third highest density of A1 species. The only two IBAs in the country with more globally-threatened species are 14 times and 63 times larger, respectively. This data suggests that the Jama-Coaque Reserve and surrounding area together contain one of the highest harbors of globally threatened birds in Ecuador, a country that is considered to have the greatest avian diversity on earth.
The Bamboo House Research Station is an active and experimental Agroforestry site. Along with the dozens of young fruit trees on their way to becoming a food forest, the site manages various sustainable systems. To continually amend and improve the quality of soils, it maintains hot compost, vermiculture, humanure, and biol systems. It practices greywater recycling, and utilizes slow sand filtration with the goal of conserving water as a precious resource. To complete the holistic and low impact nature of the station, the potential for solar and hydro power are a dynamic goal as is the continued input of creative minds. The house itself is constructed primarily from native bamboo and tagua palm roofing, both of which were sustainably harvested on-site. To protect against heat, the house was designed to capture up-valley air flows, thus utilizing passive wind energy as a cooling source.
We began offering a full Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) course this year in the reserve. Students from all over the world came to learn and practice permaculture design in the reserve and then returned home to apply their newly gained skills and knowledge to their own personal food production zones. The PDC remains a steady aspect of our sustainable agriculture internship and we look forward to certifying many more students in the coming years!
On the science front we successfully produced our first full color field guide of the reptiles and amphibians of the reserve with help from partner The Biodiversity Group. We hope to continue producing useful and free field guides for all types of wildlife found in the reserve over the coming years, so stay tuned for updates!
2014 also represented an important step in the evolution of the reserve because we successful received our second IUCN NL SPN grant for the purchase of a 76 property on the North side of the reserve. With this purchase the Jama-Coaque Reserve will expand our protection of threatened coastal forest to approximately 530 hectares (1300 acres) in size!
We continue to grow and increase our impact in the Jama-Coaque Reserve with new and exciting projects and land purchases. After receiving our second IUCN NL Small Purchase for Nature grant last year we increased the size of the Reserve to 530 hectares. After successfully purchasing the 76 hectare Ochoa property we received more good news from our partners IUCN NL and SavingSpecies. Both organizations selected our organization as one of their long-term funded projects. Both organizations committed to multiple years of funding, much of which is centered on the development of the Jama-Coaque Conservation Corridor between the Jama-Coaque Reserve and neighboring Reserve Bosque Seco Lalo Loor. Once complete we will have expanded the size of the protected area to more than 1,000 hectares!
In addition to the funding support provided by our partner SavingSpecies, they also put us in touch with Academy Award winning Director Louis Psihoyos (of The Cove fame). Louie and his team produced another award winning documentary entitled Racing Extinction in 2015, and they elected to offset the entire carbon footprint of the film by donating to Third Millennium Alliance. Over the coming years we will be using Louie’s support to reforest 15 hectares of pasture land on JCR property.
Towards the end of 2015 we initiated a brand new Agroecology program in the Jama-Coaque Reserve. The new Agroecology program is led by Nick Slobodian, who spent the entire year of 2015 in the Reserve growing our permaculture farm. The new Agroecology program will focus on broadscale landscape management projects such as reforestation, sustainable food production (coffee, cacao, plantain, etc), and an exciting Community Agroforestry Initiative with members of the local community of Camarones. These new programs are being used to produce food, income, jobs, and restore the degraded landscape surrounding the Reserve all at the same time.