A family of rare crested eagles has settled in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, a lush, species-rich swath of the Amazon and Ecuador’s second largest protected area. Due to hunting and habitat loss, the crested eagle is a rare sight in Ecuador—in fact, the newly identified nest is one of only three nests known to exist in the entire country.
Acting quickly to protect this threatened species, the Rainforest Alliance facilitated a discussion between the Ministry of the Environment, scientific experts and local tourism businesses to design a protocol for visiting the nest area so that the eagles may remain undisturbed. Among other restrictions, only one canoe carrying up to 12 passengers is allowed to approach the nest area at a time, and visitors must remain a minimum of 130 feet from the nest tree. Visitors are prohibited from striking the nest tree, throwing objects, shouting, or otherwise disturbing the eagles.
The crested eagle (Morphnus guianensis) is a large raptor native to Latin America that lives in mature tropical and subtropical forests. It is closely related to the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), the largest eagle in the Americas and is easily identified by the dark color around its eyes, which gives the impression of a stylish mask. It typically feeds on arboreal animals such as small monkeys, large birds and snakes. Hatchlings take more than two months to develop and start flying; the male parent is in charge of providing food during this phase while the female parent cares for the developing juveniles in the nest.
Park officials are thrilled that this family of crested eagles chose the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve for their nesting site. Cuyabeno is a place where monkeys and birds abound in the treetops, jaguars and ocelots prowl the forest floor and manatees, giant otters and Amazon river dolphins thrive in its rivers. With the arrival of the crested eagle family, Cuyabeno can boast of another rare and beautiful species.
The Rainforest Alliance is working with 12 tourism businesses in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve to make them more sustainable by protecting the environment around them and ensuring the well-being of local communities as they prepare to receive visitors from all over the world.