The Maquipucuna Story continues...
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.
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.