Coffee and Ecotourism Allow an Important Bird Area to Remain Just That

The giant oak and fern trees on Georges and Lili Duriaux-Chavarría’s 260-acre (120-hectare) property in northern Jinotega, Nicaragua, date back to Jurassic times. The trees shelter rare and declining bird species such as the three-wattled bellbird and the golden-winged warbler, a migratory songbird that spends northern winter months in Central and South America. The couple bought the land from Lili Chavarría’s brother 18 years ago with the intention of protecting its rich biodiversity. Today, the El Jaguar Private Wildlife Reserve produces Rainforest Alliance Certified™ coffee, hosts ecotourists and serves as an international center for wildlife research.

El Jaguar is a private wildlife reserve, a recognized bird sanctuary, and sustainable coffee farm in the department of Jinotega in northern Nicaragua. The reserve is home to a critical cloud forest ecosystem; of its 297 acres (120 hectares), 222 (90 hectares) are forested and the other 75 (30 hectares) are a sustainable coffee farm certified by the Rainforest Alliance. The farm has become a model of sustainable production thanks to its work in environmental protection, social responsibility, and sponsorship of scientific research.

“We realized that in order to conserve our land, we needed to earn income from it.”

Georges Duriaux
Georges and Lili Duriaux-Chavarría of El Jaguar Reserve

Georges and Lili, ready for a birding expedition

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Understanding that cloud forests are extremely fragile habitats, Georges and Lili decided to protect its biodiversity as a way to contribute to conservation in Nicaragua. Since 2002, El Jaguar has sponsored scientific research, mainly in the field of ornithology—hundreds of birds have been inventoried in the reserve; there are seven endangered bird species, three endemic species, and 17 species that are restricted to the biome. Most scientific research in Nicaragua has been conducted in the Pacific coastal zone and in rainforest areas such as Indio-Maíz and the San Juan River. El Jaguar is a very interesting place for researchers because it houses Pacific and Caribbean species, with a predominant influence of birds and mammals from the northern highlands of Central America.

“We realized that in order to conserve our land, we needed to earn income from it,” explains Duriaux. “I had experience with organic coffee production, so we decided to start an organic farm at El Jaguar. My wife is fascinated by ornithology and has always been a nature lover. So everything fell into place—we grew coffee and were lucky to have a lot of birds on the reserve.” The farm, which is designated an “Important Bird Area” by BirdLife International, provides habitat for 285 bird species, including seven endangered species, three endemic species and 17 species with reduced populations.

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