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National Park Podocarpus, Loja, Ecuador


  1. Geology

  2. Hydrology

  3. Conservation status

  4. Thinks to do

  5. Vegetation

  6. Mammals

  7. Birds

  8. Other critters

  9. How to get there on your own

  10. Best tour



The National Park is named after a tree characteristic of the evergreen montane low forest of this area, which is the only native conifer in the country, locally known as romerillo, sinsín or guabisay.


PODOCARPUS NATIONAL PARK, LOJA, ECUADOR: Podocarpus Oleifolius Tree Ecuador

In several places, Podocarpus has been planted for restoration.

In smaller levels are several Podocarpus forests.


PODOCARPUS NATIONAL PARK, LOJA, ECUADOR: Podocarpus oleifolius twigs, EcuadorPODOCARPUS NATIONAL PARK, LOJA, ECUADOR: Podocarpus Oleifolius leaves Ecuador

Podocarpus needle leaves.


Subsequently, Podocarpus has been discovered in other protected areas of Ecuador as well. The interest in declaring Podocarpus as a National Park and adopting this scientific name was born from the studies carried out by FAO (Download: United Nations / FAO Study) in 1975.

The Podocarpus National Park can be categorized as an area of ​​mega-diversity and a high degree of endemism, since it is in contact and transition between different ecological zones: the Andes of the north and the Andes of the south and the Amazon. The very humid zone of the Central Mountain Range and the semiarid zone of Tumbes, also contribute to this high diversity. It is estimated that there are 606 species of vertebrates in the Podocarpus National Park. The most representative group in terms of abundance are birds with 560 species, followed by mammals with 46.

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The PNP is one of the southernmost protected areas of Ecuador after Parque El Cóndor. The altitudinal range varies between 900 and 3,600 meters above sea level. The area, in general, is characterized by a topography dominated by valleys and steep slopes and a very irregular relief formed by mountains and hills. Climate: The temperature varies between 6-22 ° C and the precipitation varies between 1 500-3 000 mm.

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In the high parts of the páramos there are lagoons of glacial origin from which four important river basins are born, which coincide politically with the four cantons that share the Park: Catamayo-Chira (Canton Loja), Chinchipe (Canton Palanda), Zamora (Cantones Loja) and Zamora) and Nangaritza (Canton Nangaritza), known as the hydrological heart of the southern region for feeding the productive systems of the valleys that extend to the north of Peru, as well as to the city of Loja and Zamora Chinchipe.



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Conservation status

Creation: December 15, 1982 ministerial agreement N ° 398 OFFICIAL REGISTER January 5, 1983 R.o. N ° 404 SURFACE 144 993 ha. VEGETABLE FORMATIONS evergreen piedmont forest, evergreen low montane forest, montane haze forest, high montane evergreen forest, scrubland
There is a management plan for 1997.

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Things to do



Lagunas de el Compadre: Over the Sabanillas junction, this lacustrine system of incredible scenic value is located, which is the result of ancient glaciers that have left their mark on the land6S. In this sector sport fishing for trout is famous, which is accessed after a walk of 14 km from the Administrative Center of Cajanuma. It is possible to camp on its banks and explore the surroundings; With a bit of luck you can find the mountain tapir, relatively common in this sector. ROmERILLOS y BOmBUSCARO: These are small picturesque hamlets that are the anteroom for access to the Park. In Bombuscaro there is a multipurpose room, regularly used for environmental education activities, and two self-guided trails that run through the forest among species of flora and fauna typical of this ecosystem. In Romerillos there is a control post that monitors access to the park through this sector.

Mirador de Cerro Toledo: At the southern end of the park there is a natural viewpoint from where you can see the forest and the typical topography of the Andes mountain range. Although there is no infrastructure for tourists, it is worth visiting, especially for the birds that can be observed.


Vilcabamba Valley: It is a quiet valley, away from the big cities, located 40 km from Loja. The high average life of its inhabitants (which in some cases exceeds one hundred years) is related to the climate and water quality of the Chamba and Uchima rivers, which supposedly has medicinal properties.

Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Swan: Place of eminent religious attraction. The sanctuary is a small town whose inhabitants are dedicated to agriculture. Its existence is due, fundamentally, to the traditional religious veneration of the Virgin of the Swan, whose origins go back to the year 1560. In 1935 the construction of its sumptuous basilica began, of Gothic architecture; In the sanctuary there is also a museum that has the Virgin as its central theme. In September of each year, the festivities are held in honor of the Virgen del Cisne with fairs, typical dances, costumes, cockfights and popular songs.

Valleys of Yangana and Quinara: They are two valleys that are practically united, located to the south of the province of Loja. Here is also the phenomenon of longevity, since the climatic characteristics are identical to those of Vilcabamba. In Quinara, there are some natural openings of medium depth, where, according to legend, some of the treasures of the Tahuantinsuyo that the Incas brought to Cuzco for the rescue of Atahualpa were hidden.

Tapichalaca Reserve: It borders the Park in the Quebrada de los Muertos and Quebrada Honda sectors. It is located in the Cordillera de Sabanillas on the south-eastern slope of the Andes mountain range. It is a private area, created and managed by the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation. It protects about 170 species of birds, important populations of spectacled bears and mountain tapirs. However, the main attraction of the area is the jocotoco, Grallaria ridgelyi, a bird recently discovered and endemic to mainland Ecuador.

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The Podocarpus is located in a strip of no more than 100 km on the eastern base of the eastern Cordillera of the Andes. and its greatest concentration is in the Podocarpus National Park. The wood of the tree has a very high value, reason for having been eliminated in large parts of the park. However, there are still several sites with larger trees. In other places, the tree has been re-introduced.




Fotos del árbol Podocarpus.



The bark of the Podocarpus tree.

A floristically interesting site is Cajanuma, for presenting a combination of cloud forest species and moors, as well as transition zones with unique squat vegetation. In the montane forests of Cajanuma 70 species of trees have been registered and in their páramos 135 vascular plants. Additionally, it is considered a site of concentration of endemic species, with 40 species of flora exclusive to this area.

It has been shown that the highest endemism is concentrated in tall montane forests or high Andean forests north of the Park, with 28 identified species; while the short woods, scrubland and sub-ridges of El Tiro, San Francisco-Sabanillas and Bombuscaro Alto have more than 10 exclusive endemic species. In this Park grows the husk tree, Cinchona officinalis, important in the control of malaria, since it has a complex of alkaloids, including quinine, from which the active compound for the manufacture of medicine is extracted. Another important group of these forests are the orchids, reporting 63 species, 25 of which are under some category of threat. Another site with diversity of orchids is Bombuscaro, where there are up to 8 species in a trunk of a tree 6 m high.

Podocarpus has the largest number of protected ecosystems in the southern region, a fact that is related to its location at the junction of the Cordillera Real de los Andes and the Cordillera Oriental in the Nudo de Sabanilla. The area has five vegetation formations:

Evergreen Piedmont Forest (600-1 300 meters above sea level): This plant formation includes Amazonian and Andean species. The trees of the upper canopy reach 30 m in height, and the sub-canopy and understory are very dense.

Low Montane Evergreen Forest (1 300-1 800 masl): The forests of this formation are dominated by trees of the genus Podocarpus (P. ingensis), which can reach heights of 30 m (Sierra 1999). The characteristic families are: Myristicaceae, Lecythidaceae and Vochysiaceae.

Montane Forest (1 800-2 800 masl): This type of vegetation is composed of trees laden with abundant moss. The epiphytes (orchids, ferns and bromeliads) are very numerous and probably the place where the highest diversity is concentrated (Sierra 1999). The characteristic families are: Rosaceae, Ericaceae, Melastomataceae, Rubiaceae and Asteraceae.


PODOCARPUS NATIONAL PARK, LOJA, ECUADOR: Flancos de la reserva con bosques andinos.PODOCARPUS NATIONAL PARK, LOJA, ECUADOR: bosque de neblina de los Andes.

El bosque montando


High Montane Forest (2 800-3 100 masl): This forest is similar to the montane forest in the amount of mosses and epiphytic plants; however, it differs by having a forest floor covered with a dense layer of moss and gnarled trees.

Páramo shrubland (above 3 100 masl): These páramos are composed of herbs, rosette plants and cushion plants. You can find trees of the genera Polylepis and Escallonia. In Podocarpus these páramos are better conserved and contain high endemism, identifying 50 endemic species of this area.



Semi-forested wasteland.

Farther to the east, the terrain drops sharply with valleys that are difficult to access.


PODOCARPUS NATIONAL PARK, LOJA, ECUADOR: Charcos y musgos absorben el agua como una esponja.PODOCARPUS NATIONAL PARK, LOJA, ECUADOR: Almohadillas de plantas contienen grandes cantidades de agua.

Puddles and mosses absorb water like a sponge.

Cushion plants contain large amounts of water.


In addition, 14 types of páramos and 8 subpáramos have been identified that are not mentioned in the classification of Sierra (1999) but that, unlike the páramos of the rest of the country, are distinguished by low elevations, strong winds, high humidity, the absence of volcanic ash and the abundant bamboo species of the generi Neurolepis and Chusquea. It is estimated that of the 40,000 ha of páramos in the country, 25% (11,000 ha) are protected in the Podocarpus Park. The table below proposes a reclassification of the zonal and azonal vegetation of the Podocarpus Microregion, as a result of which there is no recognition of the southern páramos and subpáramos and their biogeographic location.

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Of the 40 registered species of mammals, many live in the páramos of Cerro Toledo, with species such as: spectacled bear, Tremarctos ornatus, Andean tapir (Tapirus pinchaque), common marsupial mouse, Caenolestes fuliginosus, Bilistada Skunk, Conepatus semistriatus, dwarf deer, Pudu mephistophiles, among others.



 The Podocarpus National Park still maintains a population of Jaguars.

Cougars are distributed throughout the Andean region.


PODOCARPUS NATIONAL PARK, LOJA, ECUADOR: el Venado de Cola Blanca, Odocoileus virginianus, se encuentra en casi todas las áreas protegidas del país. PODOCARPUS NATIONAL PARK, LOJA, ECUADOR: La Mofeta Bilistada, Conepatus semistriatus también es bastante común.

Distributed throughout the Americas, the White-tailed Deer, Odocoileus virginianus, is found in almost all protected areas of the country.

The Bilistada Skunk, Conepatus semistriatus is also quite common, but because it is nocturnal, it is not often seen.

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With 560 recorded species, the park stands out as one of the most diverse and important bird areas in the world, while, it is estimated that as many as 800 species may be present, given the variety of ecosystems in the Park. Additionally, it is a key site for migratory species from North America, such as the orange-breasted warbler, Dendroica fusca and swainson's thrush, Catharus ustulatus. Ccharacteristic birds are: chungui chico, Cinclodes fuscus, bearded turkey, Penelope barbata, cachetidorado parrot, Leptosittaca branickii, Coeligena iris and Metallura odomae. Some birds of the La Esmeralda-Numbala Alto sector are: Thamnophilus unicolor, Nothocercus julius, black jaguar toucan, Ramphastos ambiguus, Aratinga leucophthalmus and Negrosta eagle, Oroaetus isidori. Colorful birds: Tanager chilensis, umbrella bird, Cephalopterus ornatus, mountain momoto, Momotus aequatorialis, Pharomachrus auriceps and Myiotriccus ornatus.


PODOCARPUS NATIONAL PARK, LOJA, ECUADOR: Tero Serrano, Vanellus resplendens, es una ave común del páramoPODOCARPUS NATIONAL PARK, LOJA, ECUADOR: Guaro o Carancho Norteño, Caracara cheriway, frecuenta los páramos.

The Tero Serrano, Vanellus resplendens, is a common bird in the páramo.

The Guaro or Carancho Norteño, Caracara cheriway, frequents the moors.

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Other critters

In 2000, 19 species of amphibians and 11 reptiles were recorded. Most common are of the genus Eleutherodactylus, for example: E. bromeliaceus, E. condor, E. cornutus, E. nigrogriseus, E. versicolor and E. wskatoptioides. The Park  also protects a variety of threatened species, such as: Atelopus nepiozomus, Colostethus anthracinus, Eleutherodactylus cryophilius, E. cryptomelas, E. proserpens; Phrynopus flavomaculatus, Gastrotheca psychrophila, Telmatobius cirrhacelis and the spur tree frog, Hypsiboas calcaratus, and Cochranella cochranae. Additionally, a new species was discovered: Centrolene mariaelenae.



The ichthyofauna includes several resident species as well as exotic species.

PODOCARPUS NATIONAL PARK, LOJA, ECUADOR: "preñador", AstroblepusOriginally, the high Andes streams were inhabited only by species of the genus of the "preñador", Astroblepus, but in the course of the last century several species of trout have been introduced throughout the Andean region, forcing the preñadores to places of difficult access to the trout.

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How to get there on your own

The main access roads are along the Loja-Valladolid road, the same that leads to the Administrative Center at Cajanuma. From the town of Yambala, much further south, there is another road that goes to the sector of Numbala Alto and, later, to the Cerro Toledo overlook. To the north, a branch of the Loja-Zamora road continues to Romerillos, a sector that leads to the Bombuscaro forest. It is advisable to plan the visit to the Podocarpus National Park between September and December, for the best weather conditions. Cajanuma is a small town with a modest visitor center. It is also the trail head to the Lagunas del Compadre.

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Best tour

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