Project 1: Las Orquideas

Project ID Annual Project Budget for 2017 Executing Group and Partners



ASHO - capítulo Aguilas Arpías, Catacamas

Univ. Nac. de Agricultura, Catacamas – Recursos  Naturales dept.

Honduran Conservation Coalition

Josué Matute, Mark Bonta, and Isidro Zuniga, project coordinators

Las Orquideas Ecological Reserve (endangered Honduran Emerald, Three-wattled Bellbird)
Project Location Principal Protected Area Principal Target Species
El Ocotal & Planes de Babilonia, Gualaco, in the buffer zone of Sierra de Agalta National Park   Sierra de Agalta N.P.
  • Honduran Emerald
  • Green-backed Sparrow (endemic subspecies
  • Arremonops chloronotus twomeyi)
  • Three-wattled Bellbird
  • Golden-cheeked Warbler
Project History
Las Orquídeas is a 20-year-old privately-owned forest reserve and organic farm owned byIsidro Zuniga, a local farmer and parabiologist who has collaborated with numerous biologists in studies and publications on 3-wattled Bellbird, Red-throated Caracara, Baird’s Tapir, etc. Zuniga and family, with extremely limited funds, have completely protected flora and fauna in tropical dry forest and pine/oak forest, allowed forest to regrow, put in nature trails and signs, developed a bathing spot along the Babilonia River, and erected basic infrastructure for camping and field research for the region. Orquideas also includes trail access to the Planes de Babilonia and a privately-owned base camp in the upper buffer zone of the Sierra de Agalta NP.
Project Objectives
  • Improve infrastructure at Las Orquídeas and Planes de Babilonia to allow it to become the primary birding location along the Tegucigalpa-Trujillo road corridor;
  • Promote Las Orquídeas as a prime birding location and as a gateway to the Sierra de Agalta National Park.
Project Justification

This reserve is considered to be one of the best in its class in Honduras, and is well-situated along the paved corridor between Tegucigalpa and Trujillo which will open up the region to bird tourism quite rapidly within the next five years. At present, there are no locations appropriate for bird-oriented tourism, so Las Orquídeas will serve as a model reserve, all the more important because it showcases the benefits of rapid recovery of degraded forest via the complete protection provided by the Zuniga family over the last 20 years, as well as compatibility with organic farming using a range of agroecological techniques. At least 150 bird spp. exist in the reserve, with more than 500 spp. in nearby valley and mountain habitats of the Sierra de Agalta.

Project Description

Collaborating groups will create a master plan for the project, with the goal of providing the minimal infrastructure needed to host bird tours and to promote the location. Funding will be destined for: re-redesign of 3 km of birding trails at the El Ocotal location, with look-outs, benches, and bilingual signs; completion of latrines, at least two 2 cabins, and other basic infrastructure; development of promotional materials and articles for sale to tourists; improvement of trail and primitive high forest camp infrastructure adequate for adventure tours; purchase of additional camping material to supplement the Honduran Conservation Coalition’s existing equipment inventory that is housed here. (At present, a water system from the Babilonia River, as well as electricity via generator, is available.) Also, pricing structures that will allow Orquideas to generate revenue from ecotourism will be designed. If funds are available, support the purchase of land buffering the west side of the reserve, to mitigate the effects of burning practiced by neighbors; supplying solar energy to cabins. Long-term vision: purchase of land corridor up to the nucleus of the Sierra de Agalta NP, and restore it; develop Las Orquideas into a field station and environmental education facility for the entire region. As much as possible, sustainably-harvested local materials will be used for constructions of cabins and other infrastructure.


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