Machalilla National Park: Isla de la Plata (Ecuador)

Machalilla National Park: Isla de la Plata (Ecuador)

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 16:52
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Machalilla National Park rests along Ecuador's Pacific coast. It incorporates beaches, fog forest, dry forest, small islands and two larger islands: Isla Salango and Isla de la Plata. Many of the large mammals in Machalilla National Park are regionally and locally endangered.

Machalilla National Park

Machalilla National Park rests along Ecuador's Pacific coast. Established in 1979, it incorporates beaches, fog forest, dry forest, small islands and two larger islands: Isla Salango and Isla de la Plata.

The National Park is located in the Manabí Province near Puerto López and the rural parish of Machalilla, a small fishing village in the vicinity of the park. The area is diverse and consists of three different areas: the north sector, the south sector, and the Isla de la Plata.

Wildlife includes armadillos, two species of monkeys and birds of more than 270 species. Many of the large mammals in in the park are regionally and locally endangered.

Machalilla National Park is the only habitat outside of the Galapagos Islands of waved albatross. The only known records of the Belted Kingfisher in Ecuador also come from the coastland of Ecuador. The ocean regions of the park also provide a breeding ground for humpback whales.

The surrounding forest on the highest altitudes include areas of rain forest drizzle, similar to the Andean cloud forest. The forest in the lower slopes becomes semi-deciduous forest and deciduous forest. Marine habitats include cliffs, sandy beaches, rocky shores and low, rugged continental islands.

The forest toward the coast becomes dry scrub where vegetation is scrubby and stunted. Species of flora includes cactus, such as candelabra cactus, and the most representative trees belong to the families: Mimosaceae and Capparidaceae. In the riparian forest are clusters of bamboo and cane as well as large trees (Ficus spp.)

There are some human populations inside the park which have areas of subsistence farming and livestock. The inhabitants are mainly engaged in fishing. However, in many cases tourism holds great importance for the local economy.

The remnants around the park are embedded in a matrix of disturbed areas, dominated by maize, banana, sugarcane and cattle pastures. Machalilla National Park has been threatened by a number of factors, including deforestation, commercial fishing, poaching and the ecological impact of the tourist industry.

In 1991, The Nature Conservancy, the United States Agency for International Development and a group of partner organizations across Latin America and the Caribbean began contributing funds for conservation as part of the Parks in Peril (PiP) program.

Isla de la Plata

Isla de la Plata ("Silver Island") is a small island of approximately 5.9 sq km (2.3 sq mi) in size, lying just south of the equator, 37 km (23 mi) off Puerto Lopez, Ecuador. It is part of Machalilla National Park.

Some say the uninhabited island derives its name from the legend that a centuries-old treasure was buried here by Sir Francis Drake, which has never been found. Others say that "silver" refers to the large deposits of guano that stain its dark cliffs.

The island is sometimes referred to as "The Poor Man's Galápagos" because, much like the Galápagos Islands, Isla de la Plata hosts a large diversity of animal species.

A few of the species found here include frigate birds, pelicans, albatrosses and red-billed tropicbirds. Other birds found here include the blue-footed booby, the red-footed booby and the Nazca booby. A large population of green sea turtles is found around the island, in addition to many lizards, iguanas and crabs.

Isla de la Plata is a breeding ground for humpback whales. It is also a critical migration area for Oceanic Mantas as well as shark, three types of rays and other diverse marine life. Also found here is the South American sea lion and the Galápagos sea lion.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the island was an important offertory and religious center during the pre-Columbian era. There is a shrine and burial site located on the island.