Fundación para la Conservación de los Andes Tropicales (FCAT) is a grassroots Ecuadorian NGO dedicated to empowering local communities to restore vanishing forests and conserve endangered species.
The Chocó rainforests of northwestern Ecuador are incredibly biodiverse, but less than 5% remain due to deforestation. The long-wattled umbrellabird, a local flagship species, is endangered due to habitat loss. Male umbrellabirds gather in display sites called leks, attracting naturalists from across the world. FCAT manages a 550 ha reserve that serves as a unique hub for local communities, outdoor enthusiasts, researchers, and students to engage with the exceptional nature it protects. FCAT recently purchased 42 ha of land that had an active umbrellabird lek until it was deforested 2-3 years ago. Umbrellabirds remain in the area but have not yet reunited to form a viable lek. The project aims to restore this area to native rainforest, benefitting umbrellabirds and other endangered species. 5,000 seedlings will be planted using an innovative restoration technique known as ‘applied nucleation’ (planting interspersed islands of trees), and local biologists will scientifically monitor effectiveness. FCAT will host workshops to build capacity among local residents as natural history guides to host visitors at the reserve.