Ecuador’s Mashpi Lodge Discovers 10th Species for Science in 10 Years

Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador has announced the discovery of a new plant species, making it the 10th species discovery at the eco-lodge in 10 years. Since opening in 2012, the eco-lodge has spent the past decade committed to protecting the 2,882-hectare Mashpi Reserve, home to over 400 bird species and 500 plant species, besides monkeys, peccaries and even puma.

The 24-room, glass-fronted lodge places sustainable tourism at the forefront. This month, Mashpi’s full-time team of scientists, working in conjunction with Ecuadorian researchers, have announced a new botanical species, Columnea fluidifolia, previously unknown to science. The endemic status of this plant reiterates Mashpi’s contribution to conservation, and with only 40 of the species identified, this plant is considered critically endangered. It joins the nine other species confirmed as new for science that have been discovered by biologists and botanists in the Mashpi Reserve in the past 10 years. Other discoveries have included species of orchids and magnolia and, more recently, the Mashpi Glass Frog. Announced last month, this elusive species, which is just 2cm in size, was identified following five years of extensive research.

The reserve is monitored and protected by 10 “Forest Guardians”—eco-acoustic monitoring devices—placed across its hilly terrain, in collaboration with the tech organization Rainforest Connection. Initially implemented to listen for sounds of destructive and illegal activity, such as gunshots and chainsaws, the Forest Guardians have subsequently created a trove of eco-data and offer a closer look at what lies within this ecosystem. Guests can learn more about this partnership and its role in rainforest conservation with an interactive session at the on-site Science Laboratory. They can learn more about how the monitoring devices work, how animal calls are identified by artificial intelligence software, and even listen to the devices in real-time via the Rainforest Connection app.

At Mashpi Lodge, guests are encouraged to arrive as tourists, and leave as conservationists. Guests can visit the Science Laboratory to understand more about conservation initiatives or take a stroll to The Life Center to marvel at 21 species, including the Giant Owl Butterfly, whose wings mimic the eyes of an owl to keep avian predators at bay, and observe the different stages of a butterfly’s life cycle. Guests can go on guided hikes daily. They can also soar through the treetops on Mashpi’s gondola, the Dragonfly, or pedal across a 656-foot gorge on the reserve’s Sky Bike. Guests can also head to the Hummingbird Garden and watch over 35 species of dancing hummingbirds, while the eight-story Observation Tower offers panoramic vistas over the reserve.

Rates at Mashpi Lodge include shared transfers from hotels in Quito, all meals, all guided activities and excursions within the reserve.

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