Abundant Diversity of the Arenillas Ecological Reserve

Ecuador is renowned for its natural wonders and biological diversity. Amongst the country’s protected areas is the Arenillas Ecological Reserve in the El Oro Province. The reserve lies against the Peruvian border and was declared a protected area in 2001. It is not as well known with tourists as some of the other natural sites in Ecuador; however, it is a fascinating area to explore with varied plant and animal life.

Measuring 17 083 hectares, the Arenillas Ecological Reserve encompasses mangroves, dry forest, coastline and some desert-like sections. These desert-type zones contain massive cacti that reach heights of twenty feet (six meters). The reserve’s climate is chiefly hot and dry, with the average temperature at over 24°C.

Arenillas Ecological Reserve provides habitat for 153 bird species. 35% of these species are endemic to these coastal dry forests. This means that the reserve is essential to the continued existence of a large number of bird species. It is also the ideal destination for bird watchers who wish to view many unique species. Amongst the birds present in the reserve are herons, cormorants, pelicans, Pacific royal flycatcher, bronze-winged parrot and masked parakeet.

There are many fascinating mammal species residing in the Arenillas Ecological Reserve. Amongst these is the nocturnal Sechuran fox. This solitary canid is also known as the Sechuran zorro or Peruvian desert fox, and has been listed as the Near Threatened species by the IUCN. Another interesting animal in the reserve is the tayra, a member of the weasel family. Growing to 60 cm in length, these omnivores are excellent climbers and swimmers, and can run with great speed. Visitors may even spot a jaguarondi, a wild cat of medium size. Other mammals living in the reserve include the nine-banded armadillo, Pacific spiny-rat, common vampire bat, Guayaquil squirrel, crab-eating raccoon and Robinson’s mouse opossum.

As the Arenillas Ecological Reserve is under the management of the El Oro Ministry of Defense, permission is required to visit the reserve. Nature lovers will find that it is well worth the effort though. Recommended items to bring along when exploring the reserve are drinking water, insect repellent, sun protection, binoculars for bird watching and good water-proof shoes.