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October 25, 2011


In conservation circles development is a cuss word. Make it tourism development and people start throwing things. Nonetheless, we´ve spent the last 3 months ´developing´ecotourisim at Reserva Las Tangaras, Mindo, Ecuador.

Through simple things like putting up posters in hostels and talking to locals about the reserve and conservation i have learnt a lot. I have met locals passionate about conservation, about Mindo, cloud forest and their towns spot as a premier birding location.

But as time went on i met more and more locals disenfranchised with what they´ve created. Their little paradise has been found –  tourist developers and big tourist dollars mean a constant fight against development. I met people tired of battling new developments and tired of lack of help from local authorities. I caught the end of a public meeting discussing the management plan for the Mindo Nambillo Bosque Protector, the cloud forest reserve that surrounds this little town. The meeting was a free for all of impassioned pleas, excellent points, irrelevant points, personal gains and extended rants while the ministry for the environment guy tried to get a word in edgewise. The guy caught me chuckling at the back of the meeting and gave me a knowing smile.

For me, these frustrations are not a sign of conservation ground to a halt or a loosing battle to big business. They are in fact signs of how good a job locals are doing with conservation. The fact these conversations, meetings and discussions are taking place is  a great thing – despite their frustration. I wish i could show these people a public meeting on conservation in New Zealand (undoubtably a world leader in conservation). They are largely a free for all of impassioned pleas, excellent points, irrelevant points, personal gains and extended rants while the ministry for the environment guy tried to get a word in edgewise.

El Rio Nambillo, Reserva Las Tangaras

Through a truly remarkable community effort Mindo has saved large tracts of primary forest and replanted surrounding pasturelands. They have turned their town into a birding hotspot -and it has been recognised  by Birdlife International as an IBA (important bird area) the first in South America. Tourists now flock to mindo  for the nature and wildlife and locals are confronted with the other side of conservation – one im sure many lifenet member know well. The fighting development, the planning authorities, the action plans and public meetings. My sincere hope is that locals can put the same strength into these things, protecting what they have created as they have in planting trees. With fantastic organizations such as Lifenet and research data from Reserva Las Tangaras and other sites to add power to their punch in the fight to keep mindo so fantastic.

Meanwhile there are still FANTASTIC efforts going on locally in a variety of areas, and our own small efforts in tourism hope to achieve 3 things;

  1. Reserva Las Tangaras gets a small income (ecotourists pay a donation to visit or stay at the reserve)
  2. The local community makes money out of a 100% sustainable ´development´. Through this locals value (with heart and back pocket) local conservation projects.
  3. Visitors, both gringo and Ecuadorian have a great understanding of the importance, fragility and awesomeness of these habitats.

So a message for Mindo, (and for us all?) – dont let the bad overshadow the good . Keep up the good fight as what you have is worth saving.

Reserva Las Tangaras aims to attract a light level of visitation by ecological minded people. Ecotourists can visit the reserve for the day or stay overnight in the research cabin. For more info see the blog ´visit las tangaras´.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2011 10:45 pm

    Spelling and punctuation needs work, but topics and messaging have been great!


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