Pioneering Ecuadorian eco-lodge Mashpi, formalized a new partnership with global fragrance giant MANE and The Red List Project (TRLP), a nonprofit organization that aims to rescue botanical species worldwide from extinction.
The partnership benefits all three parties and aims to preserve the Magnolia mashpi species. This tree was described for science for the first time in 2016, and, to date, is known only to grow inside the lodge’s 2,800-hectare private cloud forest reserve to the west of the Ecuadorian capital, Quito.
The story began when TRLP Conservation Director Vanessa Handley visited Mashpi as a guest. She came away fascinated by the riches of its biodiverse forest — part of the Andean Chocó region — and by the lodge’s business model, which finances research into this threatened and highly significant UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The Magnolia mashpi had only recently been discovered — the list of new-to-science species in the reserve has today reached 18 — and was, therefore, a perfect candidate for TRLP’s list of endangered species.
MANE has been supporting The Red List Project since 2022. As part of the agreement between the two companies, MANE performs a one-time-only extraction of the essence from threatened fragrant botanical species. The company then recreates the species’ fragrance quintessence in their laboratories using 100% biodegradable materials. In this way, there is only minimal harvesting of the endangered species.
In the case of the Magnolia mashpi, just a few fragrant flowers of the tree were harvested using the lodge’s Dragonfly cable car which glides across 1.2 miles of the reserve and allows guests a bird’s-eye view of the stunning forest. Using this technique, the precious Magnolia continues to thrive in its natural habitat.
MANE then commits to share with TRLP a percentage of the profits earned from their sales of fragrances containing the Magnolia’s reconstituted essence to their B2B clients, who, in turn, also pay a percentage on their sales. In the near future, the general public could come across a fragrance containing the beautiful scent of Magnolia mashpi in anything from detergents to high-end perfumes.
The income derived from this agreement comes back to the forests of Mashpi directly for more conservation action. The first phase of the agreement involves TRLP funding a project, to be executed by Mashpi’s Research & Biology team, in which Magnolia populations will be identified outside the reserve boundaries, in order to strengthen in situ conservation of this species. Not only that, but ex situ conservation will also be enhanced by creating community nurseries, which will help to educate and create awareness of this species’ importance and fragility among local communities of the region.
Commercializing the fragrance based on the Magnolia mashpi’s essence while not endangering the trees themselves is an innovative method to provide a sustainable, long-term means to conserve the species in the Ecuadorian Chocó.
For now, the only way to savor the Magnolia mashpi’s fragrance and its nuances of pear nectar, peach, gardenia, and jasmine is to visit Mashpi Lodge and its reserve, find a petal on the forest floor a short walk from the lodge, and inhale the essence of the enveloping, life-giving forest.