Americas
1 Feb 2018

Recognition for protecting Andean forest from unsustainable agriculture

Nature's Hero Rolando Hipo uses his knowledge in agroecology to teach organic and sustainable agricultural techniques to local communities as well as studying one of the rarest and most elusive hummingbird species.

Black-Breasted Puffleg habitat survey
Rolando Hipo (left) carrying out survey work during Black-Breasted Puffleg Habitat Conservation Project © CLP
By Nick Langley

Aves y Conservación (BirdLife in Ecuador) has singled out one of its most active and energetic volunteers as a Nature's Hero. Rolando Hipo has acted as field assistant and ornithological advisor to visiting scientists, and co-authored papers on the birdlife of the IBA that surrounds his home village, which includes one of the rarest and most elusive of hummingbird species. In addition to his skills as an ornithologist, he is a specialist in agroecology, and teaches organic and sustainable agricultural techniques to other communities.

Rolando develops environmental education events with children and young people

The award also recognises the efforts of Rolando Hippo's neighbours in protecting local remnants of high Andean forest from unsustainable agriculture.

Right now he is focusing on families in the area, for the adoption of environmentally friendly farming techniques and promoting ecotourism

Rolando Hipo is part of the Nono community which lives within the boundaries of the Mindo Important Bird and Biodiversity area, on the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano. Just two hours drive from Ecuador's capital, Quito, the IBA holds an astonishing variety of biodiversity, including more than 450 bird species, and rare mammals including the spectacled bear. Up to 10% of all Neotropical trees and plants can be found within the IBA, including Polylepsis and cloud forest at higher altitudes.

The Critically Endangered Black-breasted Puffleg has benefited from the work of rolando Hipo and colleagues (© Murray Cooper; worldsrarestbirds.com)

 

A small patch of montane forest in the IBA is home to the larger of the two known populations of the Black-breasted Puffleg. Formerly more widespread, this hummingbird now numbers in the low hundreds, and is classified as Critically Endangered. Rolando Hipo was a member of the 2014-2015 project, Black-Breasted Puffleg Habitat Conservation in Ecuador: Promoting Local Participation, funded by the Conservation Leadership Programme. As one of the authors of the paper Plant and habitat use by Black-breasted Pufflegs, published in the Journal of Field Ornithology in 2017, Rolando has helped guide the conservation and restoration of the habitat the puffleg needs.

Through his work with his community, and as a member of the governing council of Nono parish as responsible of the tourism and conservation , he has limited the encroachment of agriculture into areas where threatened species are found, and helped maintain patches of pristine forest with the highest bird diversity; in addition Rolando has been involved in restoration initiatives planting 9500 native plants. His advocacy led to the Municipality of Quito considering the declaration of this territory as an Area of Conservation and Sustainable Use.

 

“Rolando develops environmental education events with children and young people in the area, and promotes and actively participates in global bird watching events with local people, such as the Neotropical Waterbird Census Program, Global Big Day and the Christmas Count of Birds”, said Eugenia Endara, Director of Aves y Conservación. “Right now he is focusing on families in the area, for the adoption of environmentally friendly farming techniques and promoting ecotourism. He has earned the respect of all the inhabitants of his community for his humility and commitment, and his pragmatic example of how to carry out the conservation of birds and their habitat, with people and for people.”