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The Maquipucuna Story

The story began in the summer of 1985, with two young visionaries, Rodrigo and Rebeca, a day trip to the country about 30 miles west of Quito and a bold vision.This trip marked their lives after seeing the distant forest glittering with clouds, the abundance of orchids, and the plethora of animals, many of which remain undescribed to science. Seeing this pristine ecosystem adjacent to the devastation and destruction of the neighboring deforested areas inspired these young dreamers to do something.


They promised to set aside 100 hectares with the idea that if every Ecuadorian did the same, the forests would be protected. But they did much more than that.

Fate intervened, while Rebeca went back to study genetics at UCDavis, Rodrigo was working at a bank that had approximately 3,500 hectares as collateral from a bankrupt Spanish logging company.  Rodrigo came with the idea of creating a foundation, Rebeca saw the need of scientific research and community development.  Rodrigo also gave the foundation a name, Maquipucuna, the namesake of the property, meaning “tender hand.” Rodrigo gave up a secure and well-paying job as an insurance executive in Quito to join Rebeca, in the United States. Their families thought they were crazy.  But they developed a shared obsession.  “Save the rain forest” became their rallying cry. 

They began working diligently to raise the funds needed and visited a variety of conservation organizations in Washington, DC.  They were to find out over the next several months, that planning, financing, and creating the Maquipucuna Reserve would take a huge effort.  Fortunately, they found themselves at a University that offered not only encouragement from other students interested in ecology and rainforests, but a sophisticated and credible scientific network.  That year UCDavis hosted the AABS meeting. They sat for hours with people like Tom Lovejoy, Gordon Frankie, Paul Erlich, Dan Janzen, and Grady Webster to talk about experiences of setting up land for conservation in other parts of the tropics.  Rebeca graduated from UCDavis and took a job at Calgene, a plant biotech company, and Rodrigo made trips back to Ecuador to continue setting up the foundation, delineating land boundaries, applying for various permits from the Ministry of Agriculture, and generally taking care of the Ecuadorian side of business such as contacting people to sit on their board of directors.  Up to that point, they were living on their savings and Rebeca's paycheck.

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The Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology in Los Angeles became an early supporter of start-up costs and preparing the first bird survey of the area. Months later, a visit to the Nature Conservancy led to a gift from the Butler family than enabled them to purchase the first piece of land for Maquipucuna.


Fundación Maquipucuna became the first NGO in Ecuador to purchase land for conservation and since, in collaboration with hundreds of national and international partners, has pioneered conservation and sustainable development initiatives on two of the earth’s main biodiversity hotspots: the tropical rainforests of Northwest and Southeast Ecuador.

Looking ahead...

We are in the midst of expanding our ecotourism and coffee operations and supporting the management of the newly designated Chocó Andino UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In the medium term we aim for a more progressive and holistic project in and around the Maquipucuna Reserve. The new development will integrate the principles of a circular economy and regenerative ecology in harmony with nature. If you are interested to invest, help or learn about our project, please write to us.

OUR VISION is to enable the people of the Chocó - Andean Corridor, one of the earth’s top five high-biodiversity regions, to be able to thrive in harmony with nature.

We have embarked on a journey to create a sustainable institution based on sound business and ecological principles.  We are creating a two-part-structure hybrid organization that consists of a for-profit (or as we prefer “for-purpose”) and a traditional non-profit that function as one use of ecological conservation and sustainability:


  1. how to demonstrate the economic value of biodiversity conservation activities in a precise and persuasive manner and

  2. how to achieve a degree of competitive advantage in the pursuit of our triple bottom-line: profit, nature and people.

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