The Atlantic Rainforest has been subject to enormous change over the years and many species are suffering as a result of the forest vegetation cover change and, of course, hunting.
REGUA received UNESP (São Paulo State University) researcher Carla Martins Lopes with a team of three researchers. They are sampling leaf litter at the higher elevations of the Reserve to seek residues of DNA that can offer identification of the species that lived and frequented the same area in the past.
The World Land Trust Keeper of Wild Ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira guided the group to the top of the green trail, gathering leaves and bringing them down to our research laboratory.
We are very interested in the results, as this is a very new area of research sampling, and may offer some exciting surprises. Perhaps we can build up images of the animals that occupied these forests in the past, such as the Jaguars, Tapirs and White-lipped Peccary!
The Atlantic Forest snake species, Bothrops jararaca, a type of pit viper, is one that locals hold in the highest regard and with good reason. It is dangerous only if one steps on one and accidentally gets bitten.
According to serpent specialists, snakes are not uncommon in REGUA’s forests. I have to admit that although I have walked many times in the forest I have failed to find one. However, I am sure that finding one coiled on the path can be a harrowing experience. In the distant past most local people would kill every snake irrespective of colour, thickness and length.
Today the REGUA rangers know that reptiles form an important part of our biodiverse forests and are not aggressive. They now leave them to their own business, and are helping to spread the word that unless they are inadvertently disturbed, most snakes would slither off into the forest before we are even aware of their presence.
REGUA’s World Land Trust “Keepers of the Wild” project sponsored ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira found this one by a rock and left it apparently dozing. He didn’t want to look closer!
The Atlantic Rainforest endemic Solitary Tinamou (Tinamus solitaries) has to be one of the hardest birds to see at REGUA. I have only once seen one walking a distant trail some years ago. The bird leapt onto the path in front of me and we walked serenely in single file for what seemed like an eternity but perhaps it was only a few seconds before it left. I rejoined the bird group I was with half an hour later and told them excitedly what I had seen. All I could see on their faces were torturous expressions of sadness. Never again!
The Solitary Tinamou occurs throughout the Atlantic Rainforest and suffers from the loss of habitat. Hunters’ reputation depended on bagging these birds, but with the conservation efforts and reduced hunting the populations are rising and the birds can be heard throughout the reserve. Ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira found this single egg. He wasn’t able to go back to make sure it hatched, but we do hope all is well for the chick and its parents.
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 latest news on our second GGV Project from REGUA’s Vice-President, Raquel Locke:
The much expected rain has finally arrived and the entire landscape has been relieved from a near two-month drought.
The GGV Petrobras funded project aims at restoring a further 60 hectares of degraded land with native trees over a two-year period. (The first project restored 100 hectares).
On average, 1667 trees will be planted per hectare by a team of six Rangers who are very keen to start with their work. An array of 100 native Atlantic Forest tree species will be planted in this area. Tree matrices in REGUA´s forests provide the template for our planting of species.
The young trees are grown in REGUA’s nursery. The seeds are carefully brought down from the forest by our nursery staff. Once in the nursery, seeds are either stored or sown in seed beds according to their characteristics and demands.
It is interesting to note that some tree species need shade all through their time in the nursery, whilst other species need half or full exposure to sunlight. Their pioneer, early secondary, late secondary and climax species characteristics dictate these requirements.
The rainy season heralds the start of our planting season, beginning in October and ending late March.
Staff and tree saplings will be transported to the planting sites which are on average some six kilometres from REGUA´s Conservation Centre.
The much-improved road access to Pai Velho area in Areal vicinity has just been completed which should make the task more efficient.
REGUA received members of the Rio de Janeiro voluntary Forestry Brigade, a grass roots organization made up of professional people from Rio city who are committed to conservation.
The Team arrived on a lovely Saturday morning to enjoy a walk around the wetlands and discuss opportunities to support REGUA’s work. Among the issues discussed during the day were potential for help in combatting hunting and forest fires, first aid courses and community engagement through education programmes, these are all issues which could be used to support landowners across the globe. With REGUA’s successful Ranger Team, Community, Young Ranger and School education programme we were delighted to host the event and share our own experiences.
The Brigade would like to include REGUA as a place where they can stage weekend events including hiking on the forest trails on the prowl for any hunters.
Many members are retired but totally committed to forest protection and very keen to support REGUA activities.
REGUA’s Young Ranger programme has just celebrated its tenth year of activity.
Designed to attract local children enrolled at schools, the programme offers a weekly afternoon visit managed by the REGUA part-time teacher Professor Carlos. The children are aged between 11 and 15 years of age and receive extra tutorials. These usually centre on subjects related to the environment but equally discussing social development.
The youngsters are really interested in the walks in the reserve and the visits to surrounding areas of interest. This year we shall take them to Serra do Órgãos National Park, Três Picos Park and as far away as Rio de Janeiro. It’s precisely on these visits that they start realising that they live in an area of outstanding natural beauty and begin to understand REGUA’s mission in the conservation of the Guapiaçu Valley.
These children grow knowing that REGUA has a non-offensive and long term objective that seeks a long term protection of the forests surrounding their homes and when they leave home and perhaps live in other areas of Brazil, they can take their experience with them, becoming multipliers of principles.