All posts by Nicholas Locke

Stingless Bees arrive at REGUA

Bees are divided into four principal families; the Bumblebee (Bombus), Honey bee (Apis), Stingless bees (Meliponinae) and the ultra-cool looking Orchid bees (Euglossine), which are coated in metallic armour.

For millions of years, the South American continent was free of the Apis family, but early South American colonists brought the European Apis bees in the early 1500’s, leading to production of honey and a thriving business that today sees both Argentina and Brazil as the largest global producers.

Left to Right: Denilson, Rita and Jesimar at REGUA with the three first hives (© Raquel Locke)

In the 1970’s, an African honey queen bee escaped captivity and bred with the European species forming a hardier and aggressive sub-species that is found throughout the continent.    Habitat loss has led to much damage to the native stingless bee populations which represent the pollinators of the majority of the 20 thousand Atlantic Rainforest plant species.    There are thought to be close to 400 stingless bee species in existence within this biome, but with the habitat loss their populations have collapsed.

REGUA is keen to reinstate their importance to local community and farmers and when UERJ University students, Denilson da Silva and his partner Rita de Cássia made contact, we quickly jumped to the opportunity of placing a couple of hives here at REGUA.

Jesimar Medici, vice president of the non-profit Civic Association of Meliponicultors “AME-Rio” approved the project and three hives arrived in December.

We now wait and see what will happen and if successful, encourage the farming community to get involved and hopefully place further hives around the watershed.   This could have an amazing outcome for this remarkable bee!

Soil Erosion Research

It’s always great to receive our friends and University Professors from Germany, Udo and Dietmar who have always expressed their appreciation and been supportive of REGUA’s work.

The University of Leipzig and Cologne, supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, have been working in the State of Rio de Janeiro for many years. The partnership started in 2005 studying Atlantic Forest fragmentation, landscape ecology and the many biological processes that contribute to soil erosion.   They are investigating how to conserve soil and to rehabilitate degraded lands in adverse agricultural systems.

(© REGUA)

Founder Professor Wilfried Morawetz is no longer with us, but his work helped Jens and Dietmar strive forward to understand the fragile Brazilian Atlantic Forest ecological systems.    If not looked after this can have a terrible outcome, such as the dreadful landslides in areas surrounding REGUA in 2011, with much human loss.

Udo continued with the Brazilian Soil Research Bureau EMBRAPA and brought students to study with fellow Brazilian students to ensure that scientists were aware of the effect of soil degradation on a landscape, and that this can have devastating consequences on the long term.

We were pleased that both Udo and Dietmar, both staunch believers in careful soil management and forest restoration who still regularly encourage students to study, could come to see how REGUA has developed and can meet Simone and Antonio Soares Rio de Janeiro State University Professors to discuss tactics, theories and methods.

Pictured: Left to right. Students Laura and Zilka, Dr Simone Lisboa (UERJ), Prof. Udo Nehren, Dr Dietmar Sattler, Raquel Locke, Dr Antonio Carlos Oscar (UERJ) and Nicholas Locke in the front.

Ants

As faithful followers of the illustrious Dr. Edward O. Wilson, we are always keen to learn about Ants and when Professor Jarbas Queiroz from the Rio de Janeiro Rural University visited wanting to study Formicidae at REGUA, we could not have been happier.

Ectatomma tuberculatum This species feeds mostly on insects and lives in a nest made of grass cuttings above ground. When disturbed, it attacks with a ferocious bite.

Jarbas’  soft way of speaking only made us more intrigued about this very special group of insects, which many consider the pillar of tropical ecosystems.  Surprises were in store for Raquel and myself, when after 30 years living here, we only knew of three species of ants; Fireants or Solenopsis, the Azteca family of ants living in hollow Cecropias and the famous leaf cutters of the Atta and Acromyrmex genus.

Imagine our surprise when he said there must be at least 400 species present at REGUA alone.    It didn’t take long to suggest that we put together a field guide with the most common species to help those interested in their identification.

Jarbas presented Biology student Eder Cleyton Barbosa to us and Eder took to his study like a duck to water.    So far Eder has identified 120 species, bringing together a rich text and superb photos.    Eder is very talented and aside visiting a well-known laboratory at Curitiba Paraná  to identify many species,  he thinks he may have a new species.

With a few more field trips, he should have the material needed to publish his book which will be terrific to help us determine species, habit and their behaviour.

If you want to come and study Formicidae here at REGUA we would be only too pleased to receive you!   Please get in touch.

Camponotus sp. This ant scavenges for sugars and will form symbiotic relationships with other insects such as leafhoppers and aphids

Young rangers

Our young ranger project, now in its 13th year,  continues to flourish under the ever-present influence of Prof. Carlos.   From nearby schools, the youngsters are collected once a week and brought to the reserve.

These young people are given the opportunity to experience life in the forest with walks and activities which bring them into a new environment.   Although the majority of the subjects raised are based on environmental and conservation issues, this can follow a very wide area of experiences as they are made aware of the human responsibility and duty as a citizen, to nature and their community as they grown up.

Young Rangers hear Tapir update (© REGUA)

Indoor lessons on various topics including the biodiversity of the Mata Atlântica, how forests help provide clean water and the importance of recycling.   Walks around the wetland area, enable practical activities, such as water quality testing, clearing the paths of fallen branches and repainting the distance markers to be carried out.   Sometimes they help in the tree nursery or plant out saplings.   These practical activities ensure that these young people become engaged with the forest and feel comfortable there.

Researchers visiting REGUA are happy to discuss their projects – with snakes and bats being the two most popular talks so far.   The children are also involved in the education programme supporting the introduction of Lowland Tapir on the reserve.   This has encompassed our local communities and reinforces the importance of improving and protecting the Guapiaçu Valley.

 

 

 

Muriquis appear safe from the yellow fever scare

Photographs and video captured by World Land Trust funded “Keeper of the Wild” REGUA Ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira, show the “endangered” Muriquis seem to have been less affected by the Yellow Fever bout that impacted the populations of the Howler monkeys earlier this year.

A couple of Howler carcasses were found on a REGUA partner property and the forests have remained silent as a result of the Yellow Fever that spread over South East Brazil.    A massive campaign to vaccinate people resulted but it was impossible for doctors to reach the primates in the forests.

Rildo was walking the REGUA Red Trail high, above the waterfall in November and heard barking coming from lofty tree canopies some way away.    Following the sound he quickly detected the group of five adults.   An adult female Muriqui had her young with her and tried to scare Rildo away, but it was too good an opportunity to miss.

Rildo has heard the Howlers calling over the last month, so it seems we haven’t lost all populations.   Fingers crossed that our continued restoration will give all species the room to increase in numbers and with corridors strengthen their populations.

Further studies are needed, but Rildo is delighted to share his rare sightings of the Muriqui with us.

Happy Christmas and New Year to all

Nicholas and Raquel (© REGUA)

It is with pleasure and excitement that we reach the end of this year having achieved so much progress, with the reserve expanding to 11,000 hectares, reaching 500,000 trees planted, receiving close to 1,000 students on courses, over 3,000 children visiting, and a bumper number of enthusiastic visitors from around the world.

You have all contributed to make this a successful model of conservation management. Raquel and I wish to do even more and we have a clear vision of what REGUA needs to reach the greater heights of sustainability.

So, please continue to encourage your friends to visit and tell them what a remarkable project this is and keep following us through website and social media. We want to show that our planet needs care and that REGUA is making its contribution.

Click on the link for a full report on 2018 at REGUA.

All the very best, a Happy Christmas and we wish all of you a healthy, happy and successful 2019.

Nicholas, Raquel, Thomas and the REGUA team

Our Orchid House is on its way!

With so many orchid species to be found in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest, REGUA is building an Orchid House.   This has been made possible with the generous support of the San Diego Orchid Society and Peter Tobias.   Our aim is  to show visitors some of nature’s best treasures.

There are over 1,000 orchid species to be found in the Serra dos Órgãos region, a reflection of privileged growing conditions, such as the cloud forest along its mountain ridgeline.

The Orchid House – building commences (© Nicholas Locke)

Orchids range in size, colour and perfume with the majority being arboreal but there are terrestrial species as well.   David Miller and Helmut Seehawer were the first to look closely at orchids of this region and between them wrote the definitive book on the species found here. Sadly orchids are commonly known as “parasites” for people associate their living style as totally dependent on hosts for their survival.   The REGUA orchid Cathedral is a miniature shaded garden which will feature examples of the many native orchids and give us the opportunity to explain their secrets to REGUA’s visitors.   It will allow us to show visitors that orchids are very important and part of the ecosystem and indicate the forests are in a good state of health and biodiversity.

Once the Orchid Cathedral is complete, we shall invite Rio’s Orchid Society to help us in the fun part, that of arranging the specimens to make most of their beauty.   We hope our visitors will leave understanding more about these highly evolved plants which are epiphytic and not parasitic, and appreciate that they are the jewels of the forests.

For more information on the book Serra does Órgãos: Its History and its Orchids, follow this link.

 

Look who came to dinner!

Raquel and I were busy having dinner after a good day’s work, when a large beetle crashed into our table.   We didn’t recognise it, but upon consulting Celso Godinho Jnr’s field guide of Beetles of the World, we found it to be a fine example of the Flat-faced Longhorn beetle,  or Taeniotes subocellatus  of the Cerambycidae family.

Flat-faced Longhorn beetle, Taeniotes subocellatus (© Nicholas Locke)

It was first collected in 1792, making it the second discovered Taeniotes beetle, as named by Guillaume-Antoine Olivier, one of Frances most prestigious naturalists in his own important reference book.

This species is found as far north as Guyana in August / September coinciding with the same month it came to us for dinner.

Stingless Bees Nest Guarding

Michael Patrikeev, a long-standing friend and supporter of REGUA, sent this amazing photograph of stingless bees, Scaptotrigona xanthotricha, also known as Yellow Mandaguari.    Along with this explanation of the behaviour taking place:

“This species, restricted to the Atlantic Forest of the south-east Brazil, inhabits primary and mature secondary humid forest, where it builds nests in cavities and crevices in trees.

The image shows the bees guarding the elaborate structures at the entrance to their nest. These structures, resembling tree fungi, are made of wax.

Nest of Scaptotrigona xanthotricha (© Michael Patrikeev)

Note the claw marks below the nest on the left.    These bees are known to produce a good quality honey, and perhaps some mammal raided the nest earlier.”

This is just one of the multitude of forest species protected in REGUA.   Each piece of information we find continues to reinforce the importance of the work which the REGUA Team and its supporters make possible.

More info can be found on Michael’s website:

http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Insects/Hymenoptera/Apidae-bees/Scaptotrigona-xanthotricha.html

 

7th Annual visit for Miraflores School

Having children visit is what keeps REGUA going, for they are the ones that one day will inherit the responsibility of caring for this World.

Nicholas with pupils (© Raquel Locke)

The Rio de Janeiro Miraflores bilingual school made their 7thannual visit this year, expressing their keenness to learn about Nature and helping to plant native trees.

Miraflores’ School’s director Luiz makes sure that this event is given the right importance for he sees in this excursion, an activity that awakens the pupils to environmental responsibility.   This year REGUA received 65 children between the age of 6 and 7, divided them into smaller groups to walk them around the reserve showing flora and fauna, from insects to reptiles and mammals to the trees growing.   Being a bilingual school they demand the talking in English enjoyed by all.   They visit the nursery, fill the individual plant bags, plant seeds and transfer seedlings to understand what is involved in the entire process to start a forest.

Children planting trees (© Raquel Locke)

Their walk shows that forests can be started and provide habitat for a multitude of species. They feel responsible and connected, and learn that restoration is only about effort.

The school has been visiting annually since 2011 and I always remind them that they are the reason why we want to continue planting trees. It is a true privilege too offers these children the opportunity of sharing this unique experience here at REGUA.

Thank you Luiz for providing the opportunity to share our work with you; your staff and your children.