Winner of the Whitley Award donated by Sarah Chenevix-Trench

Generation to generation

Ecuadorian conservationist, Monica grew up in the Andes Mountains, where her grandparents inspired her to appreciate nature. She is now Director of the Foundation for the Conservation of the Tropical Andes (FCAT), driven by a desire to create an environmental legacy for her children and the people of Ecuador.

Monica Gonzalez profile

Rapid fragmentation

FCAT is based in the Mache-Chindul Reserve, and is part of the Chocó biogeographic zone, one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. The humid rainforest here is home to the charismatic long-wattled umbrellabird, a species that plays a critical role in  maintaining healthy forests through seed dispersal. However, deforestation is occurring at an alarming rate in northwest Ecuador, and the umbrellabird is disappearing as the forest becomes fragmented.

umbrellabird

Conservation symbol

Monica works to protect and expand the remaining forest fragments through scientific research, education and development of economic alternatives, focusing on empowering local communities. Over the last decade, Monica’s efforts have successfully established the umbrellabird as a symbol for conservation amongst local people.

Monica with kids

Monica’s project aims to:

  • Identify, protect and expand forest fragments through community-based management and reforestation.
  • Develop sustainable economic alternatives in eco-tourism and small scale agriculture.
  • Improve understanding of the importance of conserving forest fragments among local stakeholders.

Why it matters:

  • 96% of umbrella bird habitat has been lost in northwest Ecuador.
  • Conservation of the long-wattled umbrellabird will also benefit other wildlife such as primates and big cats.
  • The construction of a highway that will bisect the Mache-Chindul Reserve is imminent, making effective conservation management even more vital.

“The long-wattled umbrellabird, or ‘cow of the mountain’, is a source of pride for local residents.”

Project Update

Winning the Whitley Award has drawn attention to Monica’s work and led to her reaching the final stages of the Woman of the Year in Social Action competition in Ecuador and receiving National Geographic’s Buffett Award for Leadership in Latin America in 2015.

With WFN funding Monica has been able to:

  • Identify new populations of umbrella birds and a mating ground (lek) in 3 forest fragments. The mapping activities have shown that umbrella birds prefer larger fragments with dense forest cover that are within close proximity to contiguous forest – so future conservation needs to focus on these areas.
  • Document 3 new populations of the highly endangered Ecuadorian capuchin monkeys, Cebus aequitorialis – highlighting the importance of protecting these forest sites.
  • Share survey results with the local community, Ministry of Environment, University students and the public to elicit more support for the forests.
  • Work with local communities to restore 200 hectares of forest with 15,000 plants and 6 native hardwood tree species.
  • Assist 17 communities to participate in sustainable eco-tourism following training of 35 landowners in hospitality and outreach, whilst 100 people have improved management of their farms to boost production and local income.
  • Provide training to 33 teachers from 18 communities to help them publicize the importance of maintaining and expanding the forest fragments in the Mache-Chindul Reserve. Reach over 1,500 people with awareness raising activities.

Full winners list