Wonderful Wildlife of the Gulf of Guayaquil
Located on the Pacific coast of Ecuador and Peru, the Gulf of Guayaquil takes its name from Ecuador’s Guayaquil River which empties into it. The area is characterized by extensive mangrove forests and other vegetation, providing a range of habitats for marine species, birds and other wildlife. Mangroves are uniquely adapted to thrive in water that has varying degrees of salinity as fresh water from rivers mingle with the saline water of the ocean with the ebb and flow of the tides. The mangrove forests also help to protect the coast from inclement weather coming in from the ocean, while filtering pollutants from the waters and providing a fascinating attraction for nature-loving tourists.
The Ecuadorian city of Salinas marks the northern point of the Gulf of Guayaquil, while Punta Pariñas in Peru is the most southern point of the gulf. Other rivers from both Ecuador and Peru that empty into the gulf include the Guayas River, Jubones River, Tumbes River and Zarumilla River.
The mangrove forests of the Gulf of Guayaquil have become established on islands of silt and soil washed into the bay by rivers over countless years. Some of the islands eventually joined up with the mainland, while others have remained separate. A boat trip through the mangroves with an experienced guide reveals a unique ecosystem rich with a variety of flora and fauna. The vegetation of the mangrove area of the Gulf of Guayaquil changes depending on the time of year, and more than fifty species of migratory birds use these wetlands as a winter destination. Birds that may be seen in the gulf include rufescent tiger-heron, horned screamer, and wood stork.
Wildlife found in the mangroves include crocodiles, mantled howler monkeys, crab-eating raccoons, Mexican otters, northern tamandua and pacas. Invertebrates include crabs, mollusks and shrimp, all of which find refuge in the root systems of the mangroves. In order to protect the biodiversity of this fascinating area of Ecuador, and in an attempt to put a stop to the destruction of the mangrove forests to establish shrimp farms, the Churute Mangroves Ecological Reserve has been established encompassing the estuaries of the Taura and Churete Rivers where they flow into Ecuador’s Gulf of Guayaquil.