We bring you a follow up of the news of the birth of Rio de Janeiro’s first wild Lowland Tapir Tapirus terrestris birth for over a century, at REGUA.
The story kicks off in 2016 when Professor Fernando Fernandez of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) arrived at REGUA with a plan of releasing 10 pairs of Lowland (or Brazilian) Tapirs at REGUA over 3-4 years, a species that has been extinct for over 100 years in Rio de Janeiro state, (a physical territory equivalent to the country of Costa Rica). The forests that Roger Wilson of the World Land Trust had exhorted us to plant in 2005, were at a stage that they represented the perfect gateway to the forested mountains of the Três Picos State Park, the third largest remaining fragment of Atlantic Forest in the world. After much time convincing the Park authorities that this was a great idea to improve forest quality through seed dispersal, the go ahead was granted.
REGUA built two huge fenced pens in the forest by the wetlands to receive three Lowland Tapirs raised in a captive breeding centre in Minas Gerais. Accompanying Eva was her adolescent calf, Flokinho, and partner Adão, names chosen by the local community in late 2017. Sadly Adão succumbed to pneumonia, but soon afterwards the Projeto Refauna team brought another three, Jupiter, Valente and Flora, from another breeding centre in Paraná. Jupiter is a fitting name, being the God of sky and thunder in Roman mythology, as Jupiter spoon chased off Flora’s calf Flokinho, who is now living in the lower part of the Guapiaçu valley. Time passed as the three weaned off their supplementary diet of fruit and lo and behold 13 months later we have our very first tapir calf!
The Projeto Refauna team managed the first glimpses through a camera trap. Then REGUA bird guide, Adilei Carvalho da Cunha, installed two camera traps, but found the card in one was faulty and the other trap captured no video of any tapir (though a surprising amount of recordings of agouti paca, common marmoset, common opossums and the smaller gray four eyed opossum). Adilei replaced the dud card and later successfully returned with these two videos. Both show a very healthy individual (still without a name) which we expect to be at least three months of age. Mum is living by some fields and plantations, not in deep forest, and has been seen walking a trail that goes to the river many times of the day.
This is not only the very first Lowland Tapir born at the Guapiaçu Ecological Reserve, but also the first born out of captivity in Rio de Janeiro state for over a hundred years. We have to thank Projeto Refauna, the tapir captive breeders and of course the Três Picos State Park authorities, who will certainly be seeing the tapirs roaming before long in this immense green area.
Yet another year has passed and Raquel and I, on behalf of everyone at the REGUA project, would like to share this update that is just full to the brim of encouraging news.
The mission statement of the project is the conservation of the Guapiaçu watershed achieved through the implementation of four principle programmes; protection; restoration; education and research.
Land Purchase is a visceral part of REGUA’s protection programme and in 2019 REGUA purchased or (at the time of writing) is in the process of finalising the purchase of various parcels of land to integrate into the Reserve of 338.5 hectares/846.25 acres. This would not be possible without the continued generosity of our supporters.
REGUA employs 10 rangers from the local community and their work consists of principally patrolling the forests along 45km of the reserve’s trail network. The aim of the patrolling is to show REGUA presence and discourage hunting. Coming from the local community the rangers are able to share news and discuss any concerns which enables them to be part of the decisions made and work done here. Sponsorship supports some of our rangers enabling us to increase our team as land purchase increases the size of the reserve.
REGUA continues to reforest as part of its programme in habitat restoration. The project has now planted over 520,000 trees since 2005. Tree planting is not an easy task, but with support from many individuals, and grants from companies and supportive conservation organisations, REGUA has planted tough areas and results are heart-warming. Increasing the overall forest cover, reducing edge effect, and creating and strengthening forest corridors, which offer greater areas for biodiversity, are vital.
Our education programme thrives with the out-reach programme to local schools meeting over 2,270 children. We have 19 enthusiastic young people in our young ranger programme and have met just under 200 school teachers and received 80 tutors on our teacher courses. All of which continues to spread our message of conservation and the value of the wonderful landscape and biodiversity in to the local communities.
Over 2,000 individuals have participated in training courses and research work at REGUA and our reputation with major universities continues to grow.
The results have led to protocols in tree monitoring established by the RJ Government; on-going experimental plots; long term monitoring plots to measure tree growth; carbon sequestration studies; seed exchange and hosting technical workshops at REGUA as well invitation to participate in seminars and congresses.
Our protection and increased continuous forest, made REGUA a suitable project to launch the tapir reintroduction programme, a fact which we feel is an clear endorsement of the work we are doing. The reintroduction project is run by the Rio de Janeiro University. REGUA currently has nine tapirs roaming in the nearby local forests. This attracts public attention and reflects the value of a safe nature reserve. Sadly things are not always straightforward and two casualties showed that bats, anaemia and infections are to be reckoned with.
Tourism at REGUA has continued to increase as a result of its reputation spread by word of mouth, internet and social media promotion, report writing and reviews. The Lodge offers comfortable accommodation, and guiding helps to make for a pleasurable and productive time. The bird life continues to attract visitors and groups from around the globe, but similarly dragonfly, butterfly and amphibian groups are visiting. Rio is an international hub and makes the REGUA an easy place to visit being just under two hours from the airport with a remarkably preserved habitat.
Our plans for the future are clear, we have to keep developing and promoting our work independently. REGUA wishes to expand and consolidate through land purchase and complementary programmes. Tourism continues to be an essential component of REGUA’s fund-raising.
The conservation principles and ethos has attracted political interest and with the aim of securing water resources, the Government has declared the Guapiaçu watershed as strategically important for conservation.
Brazil continues to be a key area for global conservation, but it’s not an easy country to work in. Located in a global “hotspot”, the Atlantic rainforest biome, located in an “Important Bird Area” (IBA) as defined by Birdlife International, REGUA is an “Outpost of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve”.
Perhaps REGUA is not pristine habitat nor is it the home to some of the more charismatic species instantly recognised by the general public, but our main contribution is that we are repairing and organising damaged ecosystems. REGUA is showing that this different approach, will one day be vital for repairing tropical forests around the globe.
Three RPPNs areas have been constituted and two more are waiting to be approved, taking us up to second position in the State list of protected private areas. Our conservation efforts are being recognised and they are a source of inspiration to people visiting anxious to see what the fuss is all about!
This year REGUA was able to put more land into protection, plant more trees, publish more science and receive more visitors. As a result we are influencing public politics as to the regional importance of this Guapiaçu watershed and encouraging others to follow us.
We could not be prouder of our efforts. We would like to wish everyone a very Happy Xmas and a wonderful New year.
Here’s to a great year ahead – and hoping for more great sightings like the King Vulture photographed by Marco Wood-Bonelli in September 2019!
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.
Volunteers Fiona and Colin Daborn report on their second week at REGUA.
We’ve now come to the end of our second week volunteering at REGUA and there has been plenty of work on trail maintenance, tree planting and nursery tasks. We’ve also chalked up a surprisingly extensive species list. We love the outdoors and all things nature but we wouldn’t classify ourselves as serious birders. At home in the UK we love seeing birds when we are out and about hiking or camping but we don’t normally keep a log. Life at REGUA is different. Whilst doing our volunteering we have so far seen an incredible 48 species of birds not to mention numerous butterflies and moths. My favourite bird is the bright red Brazilian TanagerRamphocelus bresilius, easy to spot and still breathtakingly colourful even after a few sightings.
But there is more to REGUA than just birds. Our volunteer shared house backs on to the wetlands and most mornings before breakfast we have been down to the water’s edge to watch the group of 12 or so Capybara Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris who have made a small island their home. It has been a real treat to see them so close and they are great subjects for photos because they stay relatively still.
From the same location you can sometimes also catch a glimpse of a Broad-snouted Caiman Caiman latirostris gliding slyly through the water, keeping a low profile and watching out for his next meal. Sometimes the only part showing is a bulging glassy eye. Just once so far we have been able to see a sloth up high in the bare branches of a tree – standing just outside Casa 3 (another volunteer/visitors house) with binoculars it was great to watch him as he moved at glacial speed down the trunk.
We’ve also had the privilege (?) of seeing two snakes this week. We disturbed the Tiger Rat Snake Spilotes pullatus while clearing debris on the Brown Trail – it must have sensed us coming and the first indication was a steady rustling noise as it slithered away through the leaves and then up a tree. Obviously feeling safe at that point it stayed still watching us watching him/her! Our other sighting was whilst walking back to the truck after tree planting as we followed a small stream, I glanced down and saw a venomous Jararacussa Bothrops jararacussu coiled on a rock on the lookout for lunch. As we were up on the bank at a safe distance there was plenty of time to study the impressive patterning and triangular head.
Most evenings around 5 pm you can find us sitting at the top of the observation tower, reclining in the comfy chairs and having a definite sense of being “on top of the world”. The view from there is amazing (you must come and see!) and truly hopeful – there are trees as far as the eye can see. We’ve spotted lots of hummingbirds from this viewpoint but on the walk back from the tower to our house we’ve also been lucky enough to see tapir. REGUA is in the midst of a Lowland Tapir Tapirus terrestris reintroduction programme so it has been fascinating to learn about that but even more exciting to see the tapir themselves snuffling around in the undergrowth rediscovering their native landscape.
We’re looking forward to exploring more of this landscape ourselves in Week three of our volunteering adventure. Coming soon!
Follow Fiona and Colin’s adventures at REGUA on their blog.
Following the arrival of three Lowland Tapir Tapirus terrestris at REGUA last January, a further two males and a female named Jupiter, Valente and Flora arrived at REGUA in Guapiaçu as part of the continued Tapir reintroduction programme at REGUA on Sunday June 10th. Sadly, we sustained the loss of the large adult male from pneumonia in March so these three new individuals were a most welcome addition to the remaining population, a mother and adolescent tapir who are very well.
This reintroduction project has been carried out in partnership with Professor Fernando Fernandez, Maron Galliez and Joanna of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and approved by the Rio de Janeiro State Environmental Department (INEA) as well ICMBio.
The tapirs arrived after a tiring 24 hour trip of over 1,000 km from the Klabin conservation project in Northern Paraná State. They were transported in their travelling cases but had behaved admirably and arrived quite calm.
Following much local interest, the cases were promptly taken to be unloaded and released in their two and a half acre quarantine pen created especially for them within a secluded part of the wetlands. The quarantine area has a small pond in which to play and enjoy.
Lowland Tapir has been extinct in the state of Rio de Janeiro for over 100 years and the arrival of these animals at REGUA represents the very first reintroduction of its kind in Rio de Janeiro state. REGUA starting reforesting lowlands in 2005 with the support of the World Land Trust and in 2005 created RPPN status which protects these restored forests for the future.
Lowland forest has virtually been eliminated in the State and REGUA’s protected area of 300 hectare Atlantic Rainforest adjacent to the enormous Três Picos State Park looked a very attractive area that could guarantee sufficient habitat for the species.
Being herbivores, tapirs consume all the fruit they can find on the forest floor. Feeding on fruit and walking large distances in the forests, they are regarded as the ‘gardeners of the forests’. The UFRJ team understood the need for reintroductions as a means to learn more about this species and their adaptability whilst REGUA wants the animals to spread tree species, increasing forest diversity and ensuring its resilience on the long term. Likewise, captive breeding programmes are only too delighted to support such well conducted release programmes as it provides the justification for breeding these lovely animals in captivity.
Until their supported release, and like their predecessors Eva and Flokinho the three tapirs will enjoy a diet of fruit and vegetables, up to 8 kilogram per animal per day together with dried maize, to keep them well nourished. Professors Maron and Joanna will keep their eye on them ensuring that the radio collars are not bothering them and they like their diet. After their release they will find fruit and maize nearby, but like most native animals they will probably prefer to roam and return to the solitary lives they enjoy.
Their release will provide valuable information as to their wanderings and habitat preferences, but there are already camera traps in the pen to check on their nocturnal behaviour and later more will be placed in the forest.
Exciting times ahead for our tapirs and for our biologists!!
The Tapir re-introduction team comes to Regua on a weekly basis to check on the well-being of the Tapirs and to talk to community neighbours about this project.
The Young Rangers were thrilled to hear from Joana the Education Officer from the Tapir Reintroduction programme, that the Tapirs are becoming more independent from the food provided for them and that they are moving further away from the release-pen as each day goes by.
Prof. Carlos and the young rangers will be visiting the local villages of Guapiaçú, Santo Amaro, Areal, Matumbo and Estreito to inform the communities on the positive development of this pioneering project.
The tapirs still haven’t been fully released into the wild but their pen surrounds a large inlet of water and in the heat of the day both adults, baptized Adam and Eve, enjoy staying in the water to savour the coolness.
Adam has a radio collar attached but Eve’s collar was removed to let a sore heal. Seeing two tapirs wallowing in the protected and natural habitat at REGUA is quite a sight!
We are hoping for a soft release by the end of February – more news to follow!
The Southern Muriqui (Brachyteles arachnoides) restricted to the Serra do Mar mountains of South East Brazil and classified as “endangered” on the IUCN red data list, used to have a much larger home range.
Sadly forest loss, fragmentation, timber extraction and urban expansion reduced its home range area and today the sighting of this magnificent species is really rare. Some retired hunters have never seen them!
Rildo da Rosa Oliveira is one of REGUA’s team of rangers. Rildo, who is funded by the World Land Trust “Keepers of the Wild” programme, caught these amazing photographs of the species with young of various ages indicating the population is stable and healthy.
Rildo (himself an ex-hunter) is engaged in helping University researchers in their studies. REGUA likes to promote research in the Reserve as a means to maintain a positive presence in the forests which are home to peccaries and pumas, the Solitary Tinamou and the Variegated Antpitta as well as important tree species. Maintaining a low impact and constant presence dispels the hunters and charismatic important species such as the Southern Muriqui become less flighty over time.
These animals are now being more regularly sighted and specialist André Lanna suggests REGUA might be home to the largest population of the Muriqui in South East Brazil, or the world for the matter, as the species is endemic to this region.
REGUA wishes to thank the World Land Trust for their support that permits ranger Rildo to keep a whopping 2500 hectares free for the species and the forests of hunters.
The introduction of the Lowland or Brazilian Tapir Tapirus terrestris at REGUA is going very well. The two adults (previously referred to as Napoleon and Daphne) have been baptized ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ by the REGUA Young Rangers and the one year old calf (previously named Frank) has been given a new name, ‘flokinho’ or ‘Snowflake’ – probably because you see him very rarely here in the forest. He regularly wanders in and out of his release pen and ventures around the entire lowland area.
The researchers have been doing a great job and attached a radio collar to both adults and the programme is going according to schedule. For those who have never seen a tapir running in the forest, this is an opportunity not to be missed. They run faster than a champion Samoan rugby player with a similar frame and promptly disappear into the forest. There is a great pool in their release pen in which they can wallow and the adults love relaxing.
These tapirs are just terrific animals and although we are providing a fruit and vegetable supplement, they much prefer browsing the natural vegetation. They appear to enjoy nocturnal activities and we are set to release them at the end of February if all goes well.
Based on their and our learning, more will follow.
Southern Tamandua Tamandua tetradactyla are not often seen at REGUA, with previous records including one in the lodge garden and another found dead in the forest at the wetland several years ago.
But last November our bird guide Adilei Carvalho da Cunha was lucky enough to find one on the Red Trail and managed to capture some excellent video of the encounter.
This member of the anteater family is found in a variety of habitats from mature to disturbed secondary forest and arid savannah, although it is thought to prefer living near streams or rivers. Feeding on ants and termites they will occasionally take bees and honey. A solitary species, Southern Tamanduas are mainly nocturnal, although as can be seen here, they are sometimes found during the day and this individual seemed to be completely at ease with Adilei’s presence.
It’s great to see this enigmatic creature in the forests at REGUA and this sighting is another indicator of the improvement our reforestation has made to the biodiversity of the forest environment.