Bilsa Biological Station

Bilsa Biological Station

Founded in 1994 by the Jatun Sacha Foundation in memory of conservation biologists Al Gentry and Ted Parker.



Protects one of the last remnants of tropical rainforest along the northwestern coast of Ecuador. Situated in the Latitude 0º20,816’ N, Longitude 79º42,659’ W; within the Choco bioregion, the third most important hotspot in the world, Bilsa is rich in biodiversity and has the highest level of endemism of flora & fauna species of all the reserves, with many new species yet to be discovered.

Starting with only 760 herctare now has more than 3,000-hectare Bilsa Biological Station is a nature preserve and a center for field research and environmental education in northwestern coastal Ecuador. Founded in 1994 by the Jatun Sacha Foundation in memory of conservation biologists Al Gentry and Ted Parker, Bilsa Biological conserves a critical remnant of Ecuador’s coastal premontane wet forest, of which less than one percent remains.

Bilsa is part of a larger conservation area, the Mache Chindul Ecological Reserve REMACH (120.000 hectares), which is part of the National System of Protected Areas of Ecuador (SNAP) . Logging companies, oil pipelines and extensive colonization of the whole area have caused great destruction of the forest in the past 50 years and the remaining 2-3% of the original tropical forest is highly fragmented. With such significant habitat loss, several species of flora & fauna have become extinct and many more are in danger of extinction. Bilsa’s unique habitats allow many of these endangered species to remain abundant within our reserve. The Bilsa Biological Station rainforest also protects three major coastal river watersheds:  Aguacatal, Dógola, and  Cube Rivers. These are important freshwater sources for the people of Esmeraldas and Manabi Provinces.

Rising steeply from sea level to an elevation of near 800 meters, the Mache-Chindul Mountains capture moisture from sea winds, making the forests extremely wet. With a temperrue from 18 C to 22 C  and with the additional moisture received from abundant fog drip, the area receives more than 3000mm of precipitation a year. Altitude-related variations in moisture levels in the Mache-Chindul Mountains and specifically in Bilsa create microhabitats that encourage speciation and local endemism. Considering that the foothills reach over 700 meters in height, isolated and endemic populations of species is highly likely (Parker and Carr 1992).

Bilsa belongs to the Chocó Darien- Tumbesino region, one of the 25 hot spots in the world for its high biodiversity and high endemism of flora and fauna. Also is part of the world Conservation Sanctuaries.  In addition belongs to the World  Important Bird Areas (IBAS).  Bilsa protects the headwaters of several rivers: From de province of Manabí: Coaque, Cojimies and Cheve rivers.  From de Province of Esmeraldas: Muisne, Atacames and Tiaone rivers.  Besides Dógola, Aguacatal and Cube basins.  The Cube Lagoon near Bilsa Reserve is one of the Ramsar sites

How to get there?

To reach the Bilsa Reserve, take the Esmeraldas Quinindé road, at the Km 80  enter by a third-order road to  Ye de la Laguna town.  From there, take the left road to the Yecita. From Yecita  take the right road to Dógola. Bilsa is located at 500 meters from La Yecita.

What type of forest protects?

Tropical moist forest and Pre-Montane Wet Forest 

What do we find in the Bilsa Forest?

More than  350 species of birds
More than 100 species of amphibians & reptiles
More than 25 species of mammals
1,434 plant species identified (624 genera and 149 families)

In Bilsa inventories and studies of plants and animals have been conducted but the population dynamics of most species is unknown. More studies are needed to determine the importance of these species in pollination, seed dispersal and its role in the dynamics and maintenance of these forests.

The green world (plants) is perhaps the best studied group regarding inventories of biota, but the ecology and population dynamics of most species is unknown.

Bilsa is in a very hilly area with deep ravines, this feature linked to the type of clay soil that characterizes the region, cause at the start of each winter, that the dry soil swells due to the rain and expels the tree roots causing his downfall.

This phenomenon causes a particular dynamics in these forests with the formation of clear and permanent succession processes that have not been studied.

The world of invertebrates is perhaps the least known of all groups of animals in these forests. There are no comprehensive studies of any group, nor the most obvious such as butterflies and beetles. This is still a hidden world where we can ensure that any study done will discover more than one new species to science. 

Where will we stay?

Bilsa has infrastructure for researchers, volunteers and interns for short and long periods. It has enough space for courses and workshops groups. There are rooms, cabins, dining room, showers and latrines. In addition we have running water and recently electricity.

We can count also with fruit trees and gardens, orchids and gesnerias gardens, a network of trails  in the forest and a self guided trail.
Around the facilities are seeded and maintained gardens where species rescued from the forest are placed. A sample of fruits and exotic important species have been planted around. 
Bilsa orchid – gesneriario garden has a well-structured trails and many species with scientific identification tags. 
What studies have been carried out in Bilsa?
We have had the presence of many researchers including:

John Clark: floristic inventories within the Biological Station Bilsa

Karl Berg: inventory of birds

David Neill founding partner of Jatun Sacha has established permanent plots in Bilsa and has made botanical collections for plant biodiversity of the Reserve. Along with John Clark published a study on the vegetation of the area

Jordan Karubian: Studies on the umbrella bird and Chapiles

Greg Vigle: who made the first inventory of the herpetofauna

Nils Koster: conducted research on epiphytes



  • 1,000 meters of plastic to build a nursery.
  • A good quality bike scythe.
  • Tumble Dryer.
  • Washing machine
  • A blender Oster
  • A Fridge
  • A Freezer
  • A laptop
  • Rapelling stuff: 8 Hooks and eights, 4 harnesses, 4 sets of rope climbing, 10 pairs of water shoes between sizes (37-44).
  • 10 mattresses Chaide & Chaide 1 and half square
  • 5 mattresses Chaide & Chaide 2 square.
  • A Motorcycle.



Bilsa School.

  • English classes for children of the community.

Bilsa Biological Station.

  • Reforestation of fruit trees to self-supply the station.
  • Conservation of areas and restocking of endemic trees, fallen or abused.
  • Organization of organic gardens with medicinal plants.
  • Jobs signaling pathways.

Bilsa Biological Station                Bilsa Biological Station

Download Information Bilsa Biological Station