It’s estimated seven out of ten Ecuadorians use medicinal plants. Ethnobiologist Omar Vacas has spent 15 years researching local flora used for centuries to cure diseases. He published an article about traditional medicine used by the Kichwa people in the Napo jungle province. He says the Kichwas are often unaware that this info can be useful in developing pharmaceutical drugs. For example, balsa can reduce labor pains. There are 23 conditions including toothache and rheumatism that can be cured by plants used by the Kichwas. These include uña de gato (cat’s claw), ortiga brava, achiote de venda, palo de tortuga, sábila (aloe), ruda, dulcamara, sangre de drago (dragon’s blood), chancapiedra, chaya, valeriana, boldo, condurango and zarzaparrilla.
Monkeys are equally prevalent on either side of Ecuador’s central Andes mountain range, and in next week’s blog we’ll look at species resident in the Pacific coastal region. Below, five inhabitants of the Amazon region are summarised. The following text is adapted from the Ministry of Tourism’s official observation guide, Primates of Ecuador.
Squirrel monkeys [Saimiri sciureus] – Also known as mono payaso (clown monkey) or mono soldado (soldier monkey), these measure from 25-32cm (without tail). It lives in primary and degraded forests, near water bodies. It moves a few feet above the ground where vegetation is dense, branches are thin and lianas (vines) abound. It may descend to the ground to look for invertebrates which represent a large proportion of its diet. It is very active, spending most of the day moving around.
Frog = Sapo in the Spanish language, but tribes which inhabit Ecuador’s Amazon jungle have many other names. Lodges in the rainforest may have a library of books for guests to read, and one of the best is Sapos: Ecuador Sapodiverso (2008, pictured).
There are over 1,000 known frog species in the Amazon basin. They are the most abundant amphibians, often nocturnal, mostly occupying the trees and laying eggs away from water (to avoid predators). In such a humid environment, they have no need for streams, ponds and pools to maintain proper respiration through their skin.