Category Archives: Research

2019 Update

Dear Friends and Supporters of REGUA 

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 Guapiaçu Valley (© REGUA)

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.

Our Reforestation Team (© REGUA)

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.

Taking our education programme to local communities (© REGUA)

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.

Lowland Tapir reintroduction (© REGUA)

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. 

Restoration in action (© REGUA)

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.

King Vulture photographed by Marco Wood-Bonelli

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!


Nicholas, Raquel, Thomas and the REGUA Team 


King Vulture at REGUA

Although we continue to find new birds on the reserve, it isn’t actually that easy, so the King Vulture espied by Biologist Calel Passarelles in a new area of tree planting near our Onofre Cunha forest was especially thrilling.

King Vulture in cecropia (© Calel Passarelles)

Raquel Locke (REGUA’s Vice-President) remembers seeing several in the same area over twenty years ago. Two months ago, Marco Wood-Bonelli photographed one soaring over the new area of trees planted. Marco is finalizing his Masters Degree at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens Institute on the use of individual trees and artificial bamboo perches by birds.

He has already had identified 70 species that regularly use trees in open areas between forest fragments and he was keen to evaluate the use of these ‘island trees’ as stepping stones between forested fragments. His field visits terminated with the wonderful sight of the King Vulture perched on a Cecropia tree.

We hope this is an indication of more sightings to come.


Students investigate the health of the wetlands

RJ State University Student Group with Prof. Marcelo and Tim

Professors Marcelo Marinho and Tim Moulton returned to REGUA with their 3rd year Biological sciences at the RJ State University. Their field of interest is “Limnology and Oceanograph”, and they come to REGUA to study the biological, chemical, and physical features of lakes and other bodies of fresh water.

Every wetland is continually evolving and changing. Having followed the progress of REGUA’s wetlands since 2005, Professor Tim can state with authority that each of the three wetlands is vastly different from each other. The central wetland, created in 2005, is the healthiest with a small stream passing through; the second wetland lying below the lodge garden, created in 2007, receives a small amount of water that is diverted to maintain its level, and the wetland nearest the Conservation Centre, created in 2010, has water emerging from sources below the surface but offering a constant flow.  

The students at work. (© Prof.Tim Moulton)

The central wetland is full of underwater plants/macrophytes and its water is almost transparent. The second has water seeping under the walls and does not overflow. As a consequence it has a greenish appearance, covered by “watermeal” (Wolfia sp), most appreciated by waterfowl, including the Masked Duck, a rare visitor. The 2010 wetland is occasionally covered by orange Euglenoid algae. As a scientist Tim is really perplexed and is coming up with many questions. Have the algae have choked out the macrophytes or vice versa? Have fish stirred up the bottom? Is the wetland turning eutrophic that might lead to the death of its fish?  

Professors Marcelo and Tim are naturally very excited to learn more and have directed their students to study elements of the wetlands to reach the heart of the matter. This is a prime example of the benefits to both student and REGUA; whilst students gain experience, REGUA gains from the ongoing research that students are carrying out.

Students taking water samples on the main wetland (© Prof. Tim Moulton)

We are delighted to receive many students from diverse Universities and offer them such a wonderful outdoor laboratory. This offers us the opportunity to talk and explain what REGUA’s ambitions are and therefore provoke and reach to young thinkers who will help to shape society in the future.

These visitors will certainly be touched by the efforts and development of this project and take this model elsewhere.     

SavingNature capturing the beauty of REGUA

When Brian Rodgers came to visit in June, he brought his drone with a new lens that promised great opportunities.   The drone offers remarkable views that can really capture the beauty of the landscape here at REGUA, it is also a very necessary tool to help us understand the importance of the conservation work going on.    

Ryan, Ian and Brian (© REGUA)

Supported by SavingNature, Brian arrived with two students Ian Handler and Ryan Huang from Duke University, in North Carolina, USA.   Their plan was to help set up camera traps, in strategic places around the reserve, and also to continue their scientific research at the Golden Lion Tamarin project in Silva Jardim. 

Brian helped REGUA secure the Vecchi land corridor last year, an important strategic purchase to link the Vecchi ridgeline with Onofre Cunha, land which REGUA already owns and protects.   Brian was delighted to see the progress we are making in planting this pasture land to create a forested link.

Drone image of the Guapiaçu Watershed (&copy SavingNature)

Zoology “freshmen” at REGUA

REGUA is delighted to offer its premises to a number of Universities in Rio de Janeiro.

The most recent group, Zoology 2019, arrived from Rio de Janeiro Federal University. These students, starting their first term, have come to REGUA for their four day field course.

REGUA offers full board accommodation and the Reserve gains a chance to receive these young minds and an opportunity to explain the purposes of the project. The students gain a safe place to be introduced to the world of science.  

Students working hard in the laboratory

A perfect match and we trust these youngsters will take their skills and remember their time here and contribute to conservation in some way in their professional lives in the future.         

Not a Praying Mantis!

Jorge Bizarro REGUA’s Research Co-ordinator and Lepidopterist recently found this interesting creature. We initially thought it was a Mantis and sent the photograph through to our friends in the Projeto Mantis Research Group.

Leo Lanna from the team sent back his excited reply:

“This is amazing find and actually, it is not a praying mantis! I know it looks just like a Mantis, but it actually belongs to another insect order, the Neuroptera. The family pays homage to mantises – it is called Mantispidae – and they are an amazing example of convergent evolution. This means that different evolution pressures led them to develop similar structures. They do hunt with their raptorials, like mantises, but you can notice some differences, especially the way they fold their wings, which are located on the sides of the animal, not over it. The wings are also more translucid.

Mantispidae (© R Locke)

Take a look at the eyes too. Mantispidae always have a beautiful, coloured pattern when you take a picture with flash, like a star or rainbow. Mantises have plain compound eyes with the fake pupil effect, not this colourful one.

We usually find a green, tiny species, from genus Zeugomantispa. We once found a huge one at Tijuca Forest, from genus Climaciella, but neither look like this one.

Thanks for sharing these findings!”

What a great find, on reading more I found that Mantispidae are also known as Mantid lacewings or mantis-flies in some parts of the world.

Thanks also to Leo and his team for encouraging us to continue to research the amazing creatures of the forests at REGUA.

Butterflies of REGUA

Robert Locke is visiting us at REGUA and we know how he enjoys taking photographs of butterflies, an interest that he has enjoyed for many years.

Two species he found and photographed recently are Paulogramma pygas (previously Callicore) also known as Pygas eighty-eight and Dynamine postverta, also known as Four-spot Sailor.

P. pygas showing the “88” on the underwing (© R Locke)

P. pygas is restricted to much of high altitude South America. Its common name refers to the underside of the wing which shows an “88” shape in the pattern.

D. postverta, is restricted to much of western lowland South America, preferring woodlands and farmland.

Both are beautiful butterfly species and both male and female will be featured in a new book currently being prepared on the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos, the surrounding mountain range to REGUA and one of the most biodiverse regions of Brazil.

The Serra dos Órgãos mountains range is a biodiversity hotspot and REGUA is considered to be a very well preserved and protected area within this range.

As we continue to increase the area under our protection, creating corridors for wildlife and strengthening the range of trees planted, we are securing the future for all its inhabitants. These two wonderful species of butterfly are part of the beauty to be found here.

D. posverta male (© R. Locke)

Should you like to visit REGUA and take photographs that could be featured in the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos publication, we would be very happy to receive you!  


Maxillaria picta orchid

Helmut Seehawer is visiting us at REGUA and continues to explore for orchids here.

Once again we walked with Helmut to the lofty Lagoinha summits, an extremely important area for orchid dispersal, full of Platyrhipsa brasiliensisStelis ruprechtianaOctomeria grassilabiaOncidium lietzeiPabstiela spZygopetalum pedicillatum, and so many micro orchids.

Maxillaria picta (© REGUA)

We came across these relatively common Maxillaria picta, first described by Sir William Jackson Hooker, English botanist in 1811. Hooker didn’t travel personally to Brazil but probably received these plants and then described them from collected samples.

Helmut is 84 years old and he was delighted to be scrambling up these rocky summits in search of his precious orchids.

We think the world of Helmut, his incredible dedication and knowledge that allows us to draw people’s attention to them and their importance in this very biodiverse region of the globe, after all, the Serra do Órgãos is known for over 1,000 species, or 5% of the world’s entire diversity of orchids!!

Jorge finds a Praying Mantis

Jorge appeared the other morning asking me to photograph an interesting Praying Mantis which he hadn’t seen before. “We have to get this to the Mantis team”, he said.

So I sent photographs and a description off to Leonardo Lanna of the research team researching Praying Mantis at REGUA.

Eumusonia genus (© Nicholas Locke)

Biologist Leo Lanna of the Mantis team said  “This is a male of Eumusonia genus, a grass mantis. We’ve registered them on our visits – what is cool is that REGUA is the only place where we see a great variation in the males colours. They are described as brown, but we’ve seen yellow and green ones, and this is the first one we have seen that is brown with green legs.

They live among grasses and tiny bushes, as well as leaf litter, mainly on more open areas, like fields and trail borders. You can easily identify them by the triangle segment on the tip of their abdomen. Males and females share this triangle-shaped segment though females have no wings. We discovered a healthy population in the garden of Casa da Pesquisa (REGUA’s research house) when we were there in 2017 and now in March we’ve found many more, from small ones to adult males and females. We didn’t find in any other area of the reserve, though, but this will definitely add to our work..”

It is so gratifying to receive news back from Leonardo, and exciting that REGUA is the first place where they have seen this colour variation. Leonardo is so enthusiastic, interested and generous with his time in providing valuable feedback. This encourages us to keep our eyes alert in the hope of finding another species.. 

Duke University students visit REGUA

You will have recently read that the US charity SavingSpecies helped REGUA acquire a parcel of land. Once planted with trees this will be an important corridor linking two established forests.

Setting up the camera traps (© Nicholas Locke)

We recently received students from Duke University in USA. The three students; Bridgette Keane, Chiara Klein and Jacob Levine set up camera traps in both remnant forest blocks to record the fauna present. In time, and once the replanting programme has been completed in the new plot, there will be comparisons with what is using the “new” corridor.

They also planned to take panorama images with the famous ‘Gigapan’ system, a system developed for taking many high resolution photos and stitching them together to make a massive panorama photo. 

Having set up their project, these delightful students left us to go onto the Golden Lion Tamarin project. After three days REGUA’s bird guide, Adilei and I collected the video material to see what was moving in these patches of forest.

Preparing for the panorama! (© Nicholas Locke)

The results were startling for we recorded a Cracid; Rusty-margined Guan (Penelope superciliaris), the less common Grey-fronted Dove (Leptotila rufaxilla) and White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi). The mammals were brilliant with a tail(!) of Brazilian Squirrel (Sciurus aestuans), several Agoutis (Dasyprocta leporina),  and Common Opossum (Didelphis marsupialis). To top it all Crab-eating Raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus) was also captured on film. These species are using the forest to forage, which is great for seed dispersal and helps the nutrient cycle. 

Most Neotropical mammals are nocturnal, and the use of camera traps helps us understand which animals are present in these forests.   We are really impressed that these species appear to be quite common in this fragment border and this is the required base line information for us to monitor the forest corridor once it is planted. 

To view the Agouti video, published with the kind permission of the Duke University project, click here