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.
One of the amphibians that we love to show guests that visit REGUA are the smooth horned frogs, Proceratophrys boiei that are often found within leaf litter along the forest trails. They sit waiting for passing prey, or hunt for spiders, beetles and other insects, with their wide mouth they can take relatively large prey and have been known to eat small frogs.
They remain stationary and move very slowly if found and picked up. This is an Atlantic rainforest endemic species. Listed as “Least Concern” by the IUCN in view of its wide distribution along the range of the biomes, only 7% remains of the forest which provides its home. Current research in our forests indicates that its population is unlikely to be declining, and with the restoration we are carrying out, we hope this situation continues as we increase the suitable habitat.
The smooth horned frog spawns in temporary slow-flowing water within the forest or on the forest edge. This species is featured on the World Land Trust site and after all these years I would say it is one of my favourite frogs of our 72 species list.
REGUA recently hosted Pieter van Midwoud, project director at Ecosia and their partner Joaquim Freitas of the “Atlantic Rainforest Pact”. They visited as they have funded REGUA’s restoration programme and wanted to see the developments.
Ecosia is a global search engine platform now centred in Switzerland and part of its profits are directed to tropical tree planting around the Globe.
Ecosia offers a small top-up grant to existing projects and in this way reached to part-funding 60 million trees by June 2019, today one of the greatest contributors to restoration efforts in the world.
Last November, Joaquim brought Pieter to see REGUA’s contribution over the last three years and was totally bowled over by the results. We hope that Ecosia can continue to help us for their grant is very important to fuel our efforts.
Photographic registers are always great and can often give one a shock when seeing how fast forests, when properly cultivated, can spring back into life. An area of grassland acquired from the Lemgruber family represented an important forest corridor to areas both to sides. The World Land Trust rushed to our support and helped fund this tree planting which has resulted in this extraordinary transformation. This forest is only 24 months growth!!
Over 150 species were planted in the green grasslands in March 2018 and carefully tended. The results are dramatic!
We are very grateful to the REGUA field team who have put the effort and the WLT team who funded us. The results are worth every effort and today we have birds and mammals associated with secondary forest cover using this young forest. Thank you all for your support in providing area for these trees, it’s another 7 hectares that will turn into RPPN shortly and be protected for ever. This is the very essence of REGUA’s work here in the Atlantic rainforest, a global hotspot, in its aim of
After a many years of receiving researchers and volunteers from around the world, REGUA’s reputation continues to grow.
Many have visited over the years to help and support REGUA by contributing with their skills, this long-standing key activity has attracted the American Earthwatch Institute.
With a proposal to examine in detail ecosystem services and the restoration of the Atlantic rainforest, Dr Manuel Muanis from Rio Federal University has developed a programme to attract conservation and pro-active Earthwatch volunteers.
Dr Manuel’s plan included locating camera traps to photograph mammal movement in different stages of REGUA’s planted forest and compare this with the natural regenerating forest. The aim is to compare the populations of these animals in both forest types, to understand whether the net benefits in ecosystem services and functions are comparable.
“Mammals act as a regulator for a variety of interactions between a large diversity of species, so the health of mammal populations can be used as an indicator of overall ecosystem health. Understanding to what extent vegetation recovery also restores mammal diversity will provide data about the long-term health and sustainability of these reforested areas.”
“This study will directly contribute to the management plan of REGUA. As we work towards stewarding and restoring the world’s forests, information about how to best manage that process and restore ecosystem functions is critical.”
The team is really committed and enthusiastic, and although January is the hottest time of the year for us, everyone worked extremely hard.
The results are meaningful and Earthwatch will send volunteers throughout the year to provide data that can provide us with a better understanding of forest restoration.
Thank you Earthwatch team for coming and staying at REGUA and helping us.
This is brilliant work and we look forward to learning more as your research develops!
The Guapiaçu Grande Vida (GGV II) Petrobras funded forest restoration and environmental education project has now come to the end, after two more productive years at REGUA. Here is a summary of the main achievements:
Forest restoration: In the GGV II area, 60 hectares of degraded areas were replanted between 2017-2019, with 120,000 native trees of 181 different Atlantic Forest species. Together with the 100 hectares planted with 180,000 trees by the GGV I project between 2013-2015, a total of 160 hectares have now been reforested with 300,000 saplings grown in our nursery from seeds collected on the reserve. Replanting these areas has created forest corridors between the remaining forest fragments, that are vital if biodiversity is to thrive and recover.
As part of the restoration scheme, growth and biomass counts in the previously planted GGV I area and the GGV II area were established. The GGV I area was monitored, concentrating efforts on weeding, leaf-cutter ant control, tree replanting and fertilizer soil enrichment. Monitoring across the whole 160 hectares planted provided the base on which to evaluate the effectiveness of the restoration and allowed for carbon sequestration analysis of the GGV I area after four years since it was planted. REGUA’s rangers, as well as both agriculturalists and land owners (totalling 32 participants), were trained to implement forest restoration methodology.
Environmental education: As part of the environmental education strategy, a water quality monitoring protocol was implemented in the Guapi-Macacu watershed. 52 Cachoeiras de Macacu secondary school students were selected and trained to collect 300 water samples at four different sites along the Guapiaçú, Macacu and Boa Vista rivers (upstream and downstream of villages and towns). In addition, a very instructive publication, Methodology and Water Quality Monitoring Results, was produced.
School visitation programme: This programme aimed at strengthening visitation to the new Grande Vida educational trail. The first 400 metres of the trail have been adapted to host the physically handicapped visitors.
The GGV school visitation programme funded children’s transport to REGUA and the Sharing Nature environmental education approach was implemented for students (primary and secondary school levels) to experience proximity to nature. Over 4000 students visited REGUA between 2017-2019. The GGV team held two teacher training courses, which allowed teachers to make the best educational use of the Grande Vida trail. A trail guiding course was also organized for 22 participants which enabled them to acquire knowledge on Cachoeiras de Macacu’s sustainable use of its natural beauties.
At the end of December 2019 the Petrobras Socio-Environmental Program grant was finally signed, and in January 2020, the GGV project, now renamed the Guapiaçú Project, started its activities. We have another two very busy years ahead of us (2020-2022), continuing the forest restoration within the upper Guapiaçú watershed, and developing the environmental education activities within Cachoeiras de Macacu and the neighbouring Itaborai municipalities.
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!
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.
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.
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 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, includingthe 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.
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.
We are very pleased to announce that the formal documents including Geo-referenced maps have been handed to the INEA (RJ State Institute of the Environment) for validation.
The papers were presented as part of the process to guarantee the long term protection for REGUA’s forests and biodiversity.
REGUA already has three RPPN’s areas totalling 367 hectares and these two extra reserve parcels will more than double the area under this permanent protection. Short of giving the land to make a National Park, Private Reserve (RPPN) status is the best tool for long term conservation, and offers donors the possibility of acquiring land and guaranteeing its permanent protection.
Under full protection status, only activities in research, tourism and education are permitted. The effect in planning and transparency raises REGUA’s profile and the ambition to become the largest RPPN owner in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
One of the conditions to create RPPN is that the property is fully forested, and REGUA’s reforestation programme is currently completing two projects that will enable REGUA to become the second largest RPPN owner in the state by next year.