- The Intag Valley in the tropical Andes region of Ecuador is among the world’s most biodiverse places, with more than half of its species found nowhere else.
- This rich cloud forest has also been targeted by mining companies seeking its vast mineral resources, like copper.
- Local communities have been organizing to protect the region from such threats for decades, in what has become the longest-continuing resistance to mining in Latin America.
- Mongabay’s associate digital editor Romi Castagnino joins the podcast this week to discuss her recent reporting trip to the valley with staff writer Liz Kimbrough, detailing the immense biodiversity, community resistance, and efforts to challenge the planned mine they witnessed.
Since the 1990s, communities of the Intag Valley of Ecuador have been leading a conservation campaign to protect the remaining cloud forests in this highly biodiverse region of the planet, the tropical Andes.
Recently, Mongabay staff writer Liz Kimbrough visited the region with associate digital editor Romi Castagnino to speak with local leaders about their grassroots organizing and fundraising efforts, as part of Mongabay’s new Conservation Potential article series. Castagnino joins the Mongabay Newscast to speak about what she saw and heard there, and how Intag Valley communities are challenging a planned copper mine that threatens it.
“We could see more than 50 (moth) species just in one night,” she says, after conservationist Carlos Zorrilla illuminated a white sheet to attract them, taking the group’s breath away with their numbers. Equally impressive was the diversity of their sizes, ranging from as little as a fingernail to almost as big as a human hand.
And that was just the moths: according to the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, the region contains 1 in 6 of all plant species in the world and ranks first in bird, mammal, and amphibian diversity, among 36 top biodiverse hotspots surveyed. But the the world’s largest producer of copper threatens the region with a new mine proposal, and local leaders like Zorilla are now responding with a fundraising campaign and a legal challenge under the “rights of nature” article added to Ecuador’s constitution in 2020.
Led by local people like Zorilla, Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag (DECOIN) was founded in 1995 to defend the area’s natural riches, and the community has helped protect 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) of forest in 38 reserves so far. Fundraising is a big part of this success, and this podcast episode provides an update on the status of these efforts, including how the Mongabay team’s findings sparked a social media post by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, which reportedly gave the conservation project a fundraising bump of about $10,000.
- Mongabay’s Conservation Potential series asks: Where do we need to protect biodiversity?
- In Ecuador, communities protecting a ‘terrestrial coral reef’ face a mining giant
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Mike DiGirolamo is Mongabay’s audience engagement associate. Find him on Twitter @MikeDiGirolamo, Instagram or TikTok and Mastodon.
See related podcast episode from Ecuador:
Podcast: How the Indigenous Shuar regained their ancestral forest