The  Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve was established in august 1968 ; it will soon be fifty years old.

It extends over the Provinces of Esmeraldas (Cantons: San Lorenzo, Eloy Alfaro and Río Verde ) and Imbabura (Cantons:  Cotacachi, Urcuquí and Ibarra), but its buffer zone includes the North West of Pichincha Province, and stretches out to a small area in the Carchì Province.

It is the largest protected area West of the Andes with 243 000 hectares.

The altitudinal range – practically from sea level to five thousand meters (volcan Cotacachi 4939 m) – provides for many biological zones, from rolling páramos spread with swamps and dozens of lakes, down to the coastal rain forest, through various cloud and rain forests.

The Reserve itself has a beautiful  vegetation cover, but it is not the case of the buffer zone; above 1000 m grazing land is the rule, and, from sea level up to 500 meters, it is oil palm monoculture everywhere.

The  Cotacachi Cayapas Reserve is exceedingly important being the only large Ecuadorian Reserve in the Choco, an area with a high degree of endemism, extremely different from the Oriente.

The Reserve is clearly threatened by human activities, and it is just as clear that its protection is of paramount importance.

It should be noted that there are no roads, and almost no path in the Reserve; access is a real problem.

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