Machalilla National Park - Tropical Dry Forests and Spectacular Coral Reefs
Machililla National Park can be found on the western side of Ecuador along the coastline, making the 60,000-hectare coastal park one of three that can be found in Ecuador. Of this 60,000-hectares, 20,000 hectares is made up of ocean and incorporates many islands, like Isla Salango and Los Frailes beach line. These islands are important feeding areas for many bird species, like frigate birds, pelicans, albatrosses and boobies.
The rest of the Machililla Park is made up of tropical dry forest, fog forest, coastal scrub, beaches, islands and islets as well as ocean. The ocean that is contained in the park contains a coral reef. The park protects nearly a third of the coastal fisheries in the country. It is also privileged to have humpback whales breeding inside the allocated park area. Other animal species that you will find include black howler monkeys, collared peccaries and a variety of poison arrow frogs and vipers that can only be found in Ecuador.
The park was established in 1979 and was declared a Ramsar site eleven years later. The park's gaining Ramsar status meant that the park became internationally recognized as a vital wetland that needed to be protected. The Machililla Park is also an important archeological site, representing the Chorrera and Salango cultures. These cultures date back to 1500-500BC and 3000 BC and the ancient settlement sites can be found at Rio Buenavista and Agua Blanca. During the summer months, which fall between December and May, the park's climate is humid and sticky. During the rest of the year it enjoys much cooler weather.
In the park there are many endangered animals - a lot of which fall within the "large mammal" group. Examples include brocket deer and white-tailed deer, which have been hunted extensively over the years. Other threats to the ecology are the deforestation that is occurring at a rapid rate due to commercial charcoal and timber production, erosion and grazing animals. The marine environment is also suffering because of commercial fishing and the destruction of the sea turtle habitat that is used mainly for nesting. On the Isla de la Plata and on the Los Frailes Beach, birds are being threatened by the increasing tourist industry, which is destroying a lot of the bird nesting sites.