Category Archives: Restoration

What a difference a year makes!

It’s amazing how things can change in a year.   It’s just over a year since I was last at REGUA, and so much has happened.

Most noticeable to the lodge visitor is the tapir release project where  five Lowland or Brazilian Tapir (Tapirus Terrestris) have been released at the nearby wetlands, they often make the short trip up to the lodge garden.   It is surreal to see guests at night photographing moths at the moth wall, with a rather large mammal wandering past on its evening patrol, both seemingly unaware of the other.

Tapir in our restored wetland area (© Sue Healey)

The Tapir have managed to get food off the garden feeding stations so a suspended higher-level table has now been made.   The Common Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) were a little perplexed initially but soon mastered the art of a trapeze-style dash across the wires.   Some continue the more traditional approach – head first down a nearby tree.

The lodge orchid garden continues to develop, and with ferns and bromeliads amongst the rocks it makes a breeding area for house wren and feeding area for hummingbirds, the lantana and milkweed are doing well, again both favourites with the hummingbirds.

Other changes may not directly affect our lodge guests but they are making a huge difference to local visitors, including school visits, with a new car park by the conservation centre – hopefully no more buses getting stuck in the mud!   A new accessible trail has been created to Amanda’s hide, bringing opportunities where previously it would have been impossible for some people to enjoy the delights of the wetlands.

On the project itself, we reached the milestone figure of 500,000 trees planted and continue to plant – over 69,000 trees were planted in the 2017/18 planting season alone, thanks to the generous donations from many of our supporters.

Wouldn’t one million trees planted be a great figure to reach in the future!

With more key land areas coming under REGUA’s care, increased wildlife corridors are being protected and created in the Guapiaçu catchment area.   This will extend the range for many species of wildlife and enable them to strengthen in population, increase genetic diversity and increase the overall biodiversity of the valley.

Restored and reforested wetland area (© Sue Healey)

Our Rangers continue to patrol the forest, adding security and monitoring the wildlife, whilst there has been a huge reduction in hunting in the area since the project began, we cannot stop our vigilance even though there is very little evidence of hunting seen or heard now.

If you would like to support REGUA’s work, full details on how to make a donation are available from our “donate” page here.

If you would like to volunteer, please see our link here for full details.

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.

Tribute to GGV Gabriela Viana

Gabriela Viana is a dedicated conservationist who has helped project REGUA with her knowledge, experience and dedication.   Gabriela  lives in the municipality of Cachoeiras de Macacu just 15 miles away from REGUA, and her professional life led her to work at the Golden Lion Tamarin project,  ITPA and IBIO, all successful conservation organizations in Rio de Janeiro State.

Gabriela with her team (front centre) (© Nicholas Locke)

Gabriela helped REGUA develop its Agenda 21 action plan in 2005, and she always wanted to work and further conservation efforts in this municipality.    When Petrobras signalled its interest to fund a project, Gabriella came to our rescue and helped write a proposal, but after two unsuccessful attempts we were less keen to submit a third.

With much insistence Gabriela then suggested we focus our expertise on compounding our education and reforestation programmes, and she prepared a project based on those two lines.   We were ecstatic that out of 600 projects submitted, REGUA was approved and the overall results were considered excellent by Petrobras, leading to an invitation to submit a sequel last year.

REGUA then introduced an important component along with education and restoration; that of monitoring water quality engaging local school children.   Not only was this perceived as important by Petrobras, but it sparked off a huge awareness by the local population of the importance of water quality for its towns.   This led to a photographic competition that resulted in further promotion of the project.

GGV Team relaxing with Nicholas and Raquel Locke (© Jorge Bizarro)

Gabriela is the personification of dedication, quality and perseverance and she was recently head-hunted by WWF to direct their “threatened” species programme.  Gabriela helped put REGUA on the map and believed in the capability of her team.   She taught us quality and style in the quest for project results that have shaped REGUA into a major player in the local Conservation world of Rio de Janeiro.

A big thank-you Gabriela for the time you have dedicated to REGUA.

Second Tapir release begins!

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.

The Tapirs arrive (© Nicholas Locke)

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.

The first crate being carefully lowered (© Nicholas Locke)

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!!

You can see Flora’s arrival into the quarantine pen here:  Flora’s arrival filmed by Nicholas Locke.

Young Rangers 2018 Programme has started

Prof. Carlos Quintanilha, the Environmental Education teacher in charge of REGUA’s Young Ranger programme has  started with the weekly lessons on Thursday afternoons.   There are 15 very enthusiastic youngsters coming from the nearby communities of Matumbo and Estreito.    All of them attend the local school in the morning and look forward to coming to the Reserve in the afternoon.

The Young Rangers with Prof. Carlos & Raquel Locke (© REGUA)

Prof. Carlos is a very dedicated teacher keeping the Young Rangers’ interest in nature with different subjects and activities which are undertaken during their visits.  So far this year the Young Rangers have worked with the subject of water availability and its sustainable use.    Carlos is raising their awareness on clean, abundant water being  dependant on the protection of our forests.

“Forests produce water” is the quote you hear them commenting amongst themselves.

Tree Planting 2017/18

The REGUA nursery team composed of Barata, Mauricio, Diamoneli and forester Aline Damasceno successfully produced the 50,000 trees as part of the Petrobras Socioambiental  funded project, also referred to as Guapiaçu Grande Vida or GGV.

Planting over 100 species of native tree species is a good average and seeds are sourced in the nearby forests.

The annual planting season is between November and March taking advantage of the summer rains.  The year 2018 has been “La Ninha” providing us with the necessary rains and plant mortality has been very low.

Diamoneli, Aline, Mauricio and Barata (L-R) (© REGUA)

The area on which the trees were planted is the enormous “Pai velho” REGUA reserve hillside. Its steepness has required enormous effort by the team but we are happy to announce that we are close to ending the planting there.

However, it hasn’t ended yet, for REGUA wishes to plant a further 20,000 trees this season and by the end of the next planting season we will top our half a million tree mark!!

Well done team!

Another pocket of The Lagoinha Valley secured

Last month REGUA secured yet another small property within the Lagoinha farm located at 600 metres above sea level with breath-taking views down the valley.

Though located within the Fatorelli farm and inside the Três Picos Park, Carlinho had acquired the occupational rights twelve years ago and over the years had made two simple houses and some plantations.   The opportunity of securing this area helps reduce the pressure within the valley and Carlinho was very happy to invest in another property elsewhere.

REGUA’s Messias in the Lagohina Valley. (© REGUA)

REGUA has the mission to secure as much forest as possible and the purchase of the Fatorelli title revealed 10 owners in the property with occupational rights.

REGUA is slowly working to compensate those farmers like Carlinho wishing to vacate and allow the forests of this beautiful valley to return.

Thanks to Rainforest Trust for donating the funds for this purchase.

 

Danish Travel Fund land is forested

Ready to plant 2017 (© Nicholas Locke)

The amazing thing about planting trees is that they will grow with a little effort, dedication and perseverance.

The area of the Matumbo Gap acquired by the Danish Travel Fund is an example of such an area.   Planted in early 2017, the area a year later has already closed and the grass has virtually gone, crowded out by the strong saplings as they drink up the generous Brazilian rainfall throughout the summer, and grow towards our sunlight .

REGUA planted over 25,000 trees in this area some of which were also funded by the World Land Trust’s  “Forests of the Future” initiative.

The mix of over 150 native species are growing very well and REGUA has engaged the Rio Rural University in monitoring plant plots to measure growth.

January 2018 (© Nicholas Locke)

Increasing the link in the Lagoinha Valley

(© REGUA)

After many months of negotiations several important pieces of land were finally successfully negotiated with former Lagoinha valley land owners during 2017.   REGUA has been slowly acquiring land in the Lagoinha valley to consolidate a forested corridor between the Primatology reserve and REGUA land.

The valley has been traditionally farmed for over a century and many years ago it was considered inconceivable that REGUA could even embark on the challenging process of acquiring the land owned by over 50 families for the purpose of conservation. Ownership was identified, property limits mapped and the acquisition of each property was negotiated with each of its owners.    What appeared a dream many years ago is now reality and REGUA has acquired over 25 small holdings that will now be permanently protected. This has a been a real success story and much is owed to REGUA ranger Messias whose grandfather once owned this large farm as well as his brother Claudio.

REGUA wishes to thank its benefactors Urs Peter and Lindsay Bury who once again provided the valuable funds and with matched funding from Rainforest Trust we secured another area in this precious habitat.