Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge, Example of Conservation
Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge is the perfect example of what can be done to preserve natural habitats before they are irreversibly destroyed. Over the years nearly ninety percent of the native forest within the inter-Andean valley of Ecuador has been leveled due to agricultural development. The western face of the Pasochoa volcano was virtually inaccessible and unfavorable for farming due to the precipitous nature of the mountain terrain. It was here that the Fundación Natura established a protected area in 1996, conserving this natural forest for the benefit of the vulnerable flora and fauna of the Sierra. In 1998 BirdLife designated the reserve as an Important Bird Area (IBA) due to the endangered species that inhabited the region.
Lat: 0 26' South Lon: 78 30' W
Pasachoa is an inactive volcano 25 km (15 m) south of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. The park encompasses an area of 500 ha (1250 ac) and ranges in altitude from 2,800 – 4,200 m (9,200 – 14,000 ft.). Although the reserve has recorded more than 125 species of birds within the region, it is not as well known for its avifauna diversity but more as a recreational area for locals. Many mountain climbers will acclimatize themselves on the rock faces of the volcano before tackling the more challenging ascents of Cotopaxi or Chimborazo. However, for the enthusiastic bird watcher, it can reveal many species that are otherwise difficult to encounter in other locations.
Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge is strategically located near other Important Bird Areas including Cotopaxi National Park, volcano Atacasa and the Ilanisas protected area. Many vulnerable and endangered species of avifauna, in addition to other imperiled wildlife, can be observed within these safeguarded regions.
Although there are no lodging or restaurant facilities on the reserve property, the proximity to Quito and other smaller municipalities can provide an abundant source of accommodations. Hotels are more prominent in the capital city but the hostels and hosterias located in the suburbs can afford the adventurous travel a more nostalgic experience. Typical foods in nearby localities such as Amaguaña, which is noted for its parallada (barbequed meats), can bestow a gastronomic blessing upon the hungry wanderer. However, it is recommend to shop with caution to avoid any unwelcome side affects.
Access and Facilities
Although there are two ways of approaching Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge, the more direct route would be recommended for those who are unfamiliar with the area. Travelers should drive south on the Pan-American Highway until arriving at the village of Tambillo. After passing through the town a sign indicating the road to Sangolqui will be observed. Stay to the right and take the interchange that passes under the Pan-American, heading east towards Amaguaña. After traveling about 5 km (3 m) a large green sign will be encountered indicating the turn-off to the right. A mere 50 meters beyond this turn will be a church and a gravel road veering to the right. This is the way to the reserve. The visitor’s center is located about 5 km beyond this point.
There is an entrance fee of $10 for foreigners or $2 for locals. At the ranger station, maps are provided indicating the various paths that circumvent the park. These trails will vary in difficulty and the amount of time to navigate. The more difficult paths will take the hiker to higher altitudes and to the rock faces of the volcanic peak. It is advisable to get information from the park ranger before setting out on a trek, as mudslides are known to make some routes impassable. The density of the forest dictates that visitors remain on the paths to avoid injuries. The heavy forest cover can make photography difficult, but a casual and patient walk can provide many opportunities for capturing those elusive denizens of the wood. Due to the park's location on the western slope of the volcano, direct sunshine is not encountered before 8:00 AM.
There are camping and picnic areas provided within the refuge boundaries. The visitor’s center has a limited number of book titles that describe the various floras and fauna of the refuge. Clean and well-maintained restrooms are available. It is advisable to bring a sufficient supply of bottled water as hiking at these altitudes can result in dehydration at an accelerated rate.
When traveling to Ecuador it is common for enthusiasts to choose the more popular and famous locations for their journeys. However, there are some bird watcher’s paradises hidden within easy access of Quito that should not be overlooked. Taking an extra day or two to discover these secluded kingdoms can provide a memorable and productive experience for the ardent adventurer.
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