Saving the critically endangered brown-headed spider monkey



Purchase of first 50 hectares of forest to expand the Itapoa Reserve (May 2014)

Thanks to support from the Scott Rasmussen Family Fund we are joining with conservation partners to purchase 50 hectares for forest to expand the Itapoa Reserve. This year we are lucky enough to have the support of Pamela Ferro (environmental lawyer) funded by the Holly Hill Trust to tackle the paperwork to establish this as a protected forest - please support us with establishing this protected area that is a biological hotspot inside the Chocó Biodiversity hotspot forests.

Workshop in Tesoro Escondido with cocoa expert Samuel von Rutte (November 2013)

Following on from the 1st participatory workshop, the University of Sussex and Proyecto Washu organized a visit of internationally renowned cocoa expert Samuel von Rutte* to Tesoro Escondido. The purpose of his visit was to assess the feasibility of improving the existing plantations and to develop a technical work plan to implement a Cocoa Improvement Programme in Tesoro.  According to the expert, the first step would be to improve pre- and post-production processes in order to get samples to show them to potential clients and investors.

Cacao workshop

*Samuel von Rutte’s Limón Hacienda-Cotopaxi has been recently awarded by the ‘Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative’ in New York City for the quality and flavor of the cacao beans produced in his farm. (  Samuel also provides beans to Pump Street Bakery in Suffolk, UK, which has recently been awarded with the 2014 Wallpaper Design Awards (

Development of a Legal Tool-Kit (October, 2013)


With support of the Holly Hill Trust, a legal tool-kit was prepared by Pamela Ferro from Client Earth. The report analyses the feasibility of several alternatives proposed for the project from a legal perspective.  Particularly, it focused on the following: i) land tenure and land titling (registration); ii) starting a local fair trade/organic/chocolate project; iii) creating/establishing a “community protected area”, owned or managed by the community or a local NGO; iii) carbon management/compensation for ecosystem services (SocioBosque Programme, REDD+/CCB+ VCS) and Certification (fair-trade, organic, forestry). 

 You can access the document here 

 1st Participatory Worskshop (August, 2013)

On August 15 2013, we organized the first participatory workshop with the local community of Tesoro Escondido with the purpose of explaining the purpose of the project and identifying with them the most suitable alternatives for a sustainable management of the forest. Independent cocoa consultant Susana Cárdenas and environmental lawyer Pamela Ferro joined the team to assess the quality of the cocoa growing in Tesoro and to explore and discuss strategies to link cocoa with conservation activities. 

Participatory workshop

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH 2013/2014 - Following the workshop three local community parabiologists were employed to work with researchers to monitor the brown-headed spider monkey and identify important tree species vital for their survival and investigate the role the spider monkey plays in seed dispersal of tree species sought after for their timber. 

 Results from Bayrons thesis

The graphs show results from the Masters project by Bayron Calle - in areas without the brown-headed spider monkey few seedlings of tree species sought after by loggers even regenerate. This highlights that fact that without this species valuable hardwood tree species fail to reproduce - the spider monkey is effectively a keystone species and vital to support sustainable logging initiatives in the long-term.

 Parabiologists working with Denise  Parabiologists working 

Denise Spaan and Andrea Tapia working on their masters and undergraduate theses (MSc Primate Conservation Oxford-Brookes University/Universidad San Francisco de Quito) supported by parabiologists. Denise investigated habitat use by the brown-headed spider monkey and showed that the species uses the mosaic habitats throughout Tesoro Escondido. Andrea studied feeding preferences of Ateles fusciceps and discovered that tree species that are the target of legal and illegal logging form a vital part of the diet of the spider monkey.

PARABIOLOGIST TRAINING COURSE February 2013 - the first parabiologist training course took place, led by Citlalli Morelos (PhD at University of Sussex) and supported by Felipe Alfonso, Nathalia Fuentes, Bayron Calle and Mick van Reem from the Washu Project. Subjects covered included primate survey techniques, use of GPS and compass, primate identification and the importance of their role in the ecosystem (Supported by Scott Rasmussen Family Fund).

Parabiologist workshop