Deep in the dark, cool forests of Ecuador live strange and mysterious organisms. Some inhabit the trees and others stay to the ground, and many are threatened by human encroachment. Because of this threat, Rainforest Trust has launched a Halloween fundraising drive to help pay for the creation of the Dracula Reserve–named for its dramatic inhabitant, the Dracula orchid.
The Dracula Reserve would be located in Ecuadors’s portion of the Chocó Biogeographical Region, a strip of coastal rainforest extending from northwestern Ecuador up through Colombia. The region is regarded by scientists as one of the most biodiverse places in the world, with many unique species that evolved in isolation after the uprising of the Andes separated the region from the Amazon Basin millions of years ago.
Named for their fang-like petals and the blood-red hue of some species, Dracula orchids are a genus spanning Mexico to Peru and comprising 118 known species. Ninety percent of Dracula orchids are endemic, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world, and are particularly threatened by habitat loss. Scientists believe 14 have already been wiped out by deforestation. Overall, Colombia and Ecuador contain 25 percent–7,000–of the world’s known orchid species.
Dracula orchid species that inhabit Ecuador’s Chocó are particularly at risk. The region is experiencing one of the highest rates of deforestation in all of South America, with forests cleared for timber and to make room for cropland and settlements. Scientists estimate less than 10 percent remains intact.
According to data from Global Forest Watch, the region encompassing Ecuador’s Chocó lost more than 100,000 hectares of forest cover from 2001 through 2012. The portion near the Colombian border and close to where the Dracula Reserve would be established was particularly hard hit, losing more than 12 percent of its forest cover over the same time period.
Conservation groups are quickly trying to buy up land in the Chocó before it’s too late. Earlier this month, Ecuador’s Río Canandé Reserve was expanded by 500 hectares–just in time. Planned bridge and road development may soon open up the region to loggers and developers.
Now the Rainforest Trust has announced a fundraising drive to raise $28,000 towards the purchase of a 652-acre (264-hectare) parcel of threatened Chocó. While the star of the drive is the Dracula orchid, the reserve would also conserve valuable habitat for many other species.
“The real fear for me this Halloween is the possibility of losing the last remnants of the Chocó rainforest and the rare and endemic species it supports,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “The Dracula Reserve will be an incredible repository of this rainforest’s rich biodiversity and provide habitat for scores of endemic plants, frogs, birds and mammals, including the spectacled bear.”
To learn more about the drive, visit Rainforest Trust’s campaign page.
This article was originally written and published by Morgan Erickson-Davis, a contributing writer for news.mongabay.com. For the original story and more information, please click HERE.