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by Gustavo Cañas-Valle For birding tours to Ecuador please contact us
History in brief
A foreign perspective on Ecuador's History
"The "Republic of the Equator" was one of three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others are Colombia and Venezuela). Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors. A border war with Peru that flared in 1995 was resolved in 1999. Although Ecuador marked 25 years of civilian governance in 2004, the period has been marred by political instability. Seven presidents have governed Ecuador since 1996."
Location and People
Ecuador is located in the Northwestern coast of South America. It shares borders with Colombia (590 km) and Peru (1,420 km). To the West, Ecuador's coastline on the Pacific Ocean is 2,237 km. Ecuador has jurisdiction over both continental and insular territories, the later being the Galapagos Islands. Its total area including the Galapagos is 283,560 sq km (land: 276,840 sq km, water: 6,720 sq km). Ecuador's continental territory is somewhat larger than Great Britain, roughly the size of New Zealand or the US state of Nevada (256.370 sq km).
It shares South America with other eleven countries and with one French Department: French Guiana. Six of those countries are located astride the Andes and only one of these: Ecuador, is also crossed by the Equator. These two features: being crossed by the Andes and the Equator, have important environmental implications for our country: High diversity of Biomes, Vegetation formations and Fauna. This makes the conditions for Ecuador to be one of the Megadiverse countries in the world and the most diverse per unit area.
Ecuador -a very small country- presents unique environmental conditions which favor the presence of an enormous diversity of habitats, diversity of species and a high rate of endemism. Furthermore, the organisms which evolved in isolation in the Galapagos Islands, and their ecosystems, are so unique that they were declared Natural Heritage for Humanity in 1978 by UNESCO.
UNESCO has honored our country with four locations in its territory declared World Heritage: Quito, the Colonial Downtown of Cuenca, Sangay National Park and the Galapagos Archipelago. It is the Andean country with more locations declared World Heritage per square mile.
It shelters 13,547,510 (July 2006 est.) inhabitants. The native language most of them speak is Spanish, though Amerindian languages, mainly Quechua, are also spoken. Ecuadorian ethnic groups are as follows: mestizo (Amerindian and white mix, 65%), Amerindian (25%), Spanish and others (7%), and black (3%). Ecuadorians are 95% Roman Catholic and 5% from other denominations. About literacy, 92.5% of the total Ecuadorian population age 15 and over can read and write (2003 est.).
Including the Galapagos, the total territory of Ecuador can be divided into four regions. The first three are continental, named from West to East: the Coastal lands (La Costa), the Andean highlands (La Sierra), and the Amazon hillsides and upper watershed (El Oriente).
The fourth is the insular territory: the Galapagos Archipelago.
"La Costa" extends from 400 masl -meters above sea level- (1312 feet) down to the Pacific Ocean, while "El Oriente" goes from 800 masl (2624 feet) to the border with Peru. Botanical data describes changes in floristic composition at both points in the Andes. The external flanks of the Andean ridge, above these limits and to 1300 m, (4265 ft), form the highly diverse and biologically differentiated foothills which belong to each of these two regions, on either side of the cordillera.
"La Sierra" is a succession of single valleys formed between the two main Andean ranges, extending 427.8 miles across the country. The valleys width reaches a maximum of 24.8 miles. They are separated between each other by low altitude ridges that connect both, the Western and the Eastern Ecuadorian Andes. They enclose both moist and dry inter-andean forests.
The altitudinal range of our territory goes from 0 masl (meters above sea level) at the Pacific Ocean -its lowest point, to Volcán Chimborazo 6,267 masl -its highest point.
frequent earthquakes, landslides, volcanic activity; floods; periodic droughts
Environment - current issues:
deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution; pollution from oil production wastes in ecologically sensitive areas of the Amazon Basin and Galapagos Islands
Ecuadorian Birds at a glance (Including Galapagos Islands)
BIRDLIFE CONSERVATION SERIES No. 14,
Note: This information is still being processed.
1661 Species Confirmed
30 Strict Endemic Species
265 Restricted Range Species
135 Worldwide Endangered Species
133 Species of Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)
143 Species of Tanagers (Thraupidae)
78 Species of Ovenbirds (Furnariidae)
94 Species of Typical Antbirds (Thamnophilidae)
213 Species of Tyrant-Flycatchers (Tyrannidae)
46 Species of Parrots and Macaws (Psittacidae)
Quito (Mariscal Sucre International Airport -UIO) Elevation 9,229 feet, 2,813 meters
Guayaquil (Simón Bolivar International Airport –GYE) Elevation: 19 feet, 6 meters
Cuenca (Mariscal Lamar - CUE) Elevation: 8306 feet, 2532 meters
Loja (Camilo Ponce Enriquez "La Toma" Airport – LOH) Elevation: 4056 feet, 1236 meters
Puerto Francisco de Orellana (Francisco de Orellana – OCC) Elevation: 834 feet, 254 meters
Rich indigenous traditions are part of daily life. Ecuador has important nationwide indigenous festivities related to solstices and equinoxes.
One way to know Ecuador's soul and identity is through experiencing our indigenous celebrations. Then, our indigenous brothers and sisters share with us their vision of life through their costumes, dances, rituals and cuisine.
Here is a list of some of the Indigenous Celebrations and the month when they happen; a few have been adapted to the Roman Catholic Festivities:
March – Mushuc Nina (New Fire Celebration) and Pawkar Raymi (Andean New Year – March 20th),
April – First Harvest Celebration (Holly Week),
June – Inti Raymi (Sun Celebration & End of Harvest / Saint John's day)
September – Tarpuy Raymi and Fiesta de la Jora (Maize beer celebration)
November – Wakchacaray (All Saints)
News and Economics
Economics & Currency Exchange
Nowadays we use US Dollars as our legal currency. However, the country's currency was historically the Ecuadorian Sucre until 2000. At the time of its disappearance our currency had suffered a 178% devaluation between January 1999 and December 1999. This change in our economy was caused by the inorganic emission of our currency in order to support our financial system. Our economy was rolling down the hill towards a collapse started by the corruption in our local private banks. However, in January 9th, 2000, our government set the constant exchange value for one dollar in S/. 25,000.00 Sucres, in order to tie our economy to the US economy. This caused the lost of acquisitive power of our richness within an order of 70% during the 18 months prior to the decision.
You can check the exchange rate of one Euro to Dollars at . http://www.xe.com/
Updated Local News
Indigenous communities' news:
Updated Economy News
Major economic magazine:
Power & Electrical Systems
The table below summarizes information on the electrical systems in use in Ecuador.
A & B
This electrical system is similar to the one used in the United States though voltage in the states is 120V. Plugs used are type A (Flat blade attachment plug) and type B (Flat blades with round grounding pin). This electrical system is different than the one in the United Kingdom: voltage ranges from 230V to 240V with a 50 Hz frequency, and plugs are type G (Rectangular blade plug).