On December 14th, 2023, the local government of Sucúa, Ecuador held a vote to establish the Sucúa Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area. In a victory for the region, the motion passed unanimously. The new conservation area covers 43,840 acres (17,741 hectares) of diverse yet threatened Amazonian ecosystems in the province of Morona Santiago, particularly montane forests along the eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes. A priority of Sucúa is to preserve water sources for the over 30,000 people living within and near the new conservation area.
Safeguarding Threatened Species and Ecosystems
Sucúa’s lowland, foothill, and montane forests are teeming with life. The conservation area is home to birds like the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruvianus) and the White-Throated Toucan (Ramphastos tucanus), and rodents such as the Lowland Paca (Cuniculus paca), which help the Amazon regenerate its vegetation by dispersing seeds. Larger fauna found in the conservation area like the Jaguar (Panthera onca), help manage animal populations and stabilize food chains. Humboldt’s Wooly Monkey (Lagothrix lagothricha) also calls Sucúa’s forests home but is currently vulnerable due to the destruction of its habitat and illegal hunting.
In addition to safeguarding a critical wildlife habitat, the Sucúa Municipal Conservation Area serves as a buffer zone for Sangay National Park, Ecuador’s third-largest protected area.
Community Involvement and Watershed Protection
Several Shuar Indigenous communities live within the new conservation area, including the villages of Km 20, San Marcos, and Uwe. Each of these villages is engaged with local governments and NGOs in the long-term protection of their lands. From the beginning of the process of establishing a conservation area, these communities and other local people expressed a desire to protect their watersheds and produce a solid conservation management plan. Lizbeth Abarca of the NGO Nature and Culture International commented:
“In the initial phase, the [local and Indigenous] communities mentioned that it is important to establish conservation efforts. They have witnessed a decrease in the flow of rivers and streams that they know. Therefore, among the main characteristics of the [Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area], the protection of water sources stands out, as well as the quality of the water that reaches the homes of the Sucúa municipality.”
The watersheds protected within the Sucúa Municipal Conservation Area face several threats, including deforestation, the expansion of the agricultural frontier, and overfishing. Creating a conservation area is an excellent first step towards safeguarding these resources, but reports from NCI stress the need for increased monitoring of species and threats to ensure long-term protection.
This achievement was made possible thanks to the Autonomous Decentralized Government of the Municipality of Sucúa, with significant involvement from local and Indigenous communities in and around the conservation area. Technical support was provided by AAF partner Nature and Culture International. Andes Amazon Fund’s financial support for this project was generously provided by the Wyss Foundation and by Art into Acres in partnership with Re:wild.