Our efforts in tree planting often seem staggering, but such is our ambition at REGUA. We see degraded land as a burden to the planet and certain of our argument – that there is no way to justify the destruction of tropical forests or even search for their sustainable use. Why? We do not know how they work as an ecosystem and it erases just too many life forms that depended on it. That cannot be responsibility!! Forests and the species that depend on it around the globe are suffering and at REGUA, we are trying to grow them back. Not so easy!!
We are so fortunate to have friends, trustees, professors, students, volunteers, staff, community members and children that also share this view. They all want to help us help us understand how it works and help us to restore the areas devoid of forest.
This hard work provides opportunities in labour for the local community but more importantly, they gain pride in creating a more beautiful place. Responsibility is shared and though there may be a minimum that see disrespect for the hard work their ancestors put into harnessing land, today their grandchildren understand that forests teem with life, biodiversity and of course, produce water.
We have just capped half a million trees planted and we are very proud of our story.
We are especially proud of our ground team who made it possible!
REGUA is very pleased to announce that SavingSpecies, a United States based organisation, helped REGUA to acquire an essential parcel of land to allow us to create a biodiversity corridor. This six hectare plot, located close to REGUA, was essential to connect the 2,500 hectare forested Vecchi ridgeline to the 200 hectare Onofre Cunha land already owned and protected by REGUA.
Onofre Cunha will now be connected to the main reserve of 6,700 hectare of REGUA. One can see the strategic importance of this small sliver of land on the map. In a short time we will begin to create a forested corridor allowing birds and animals to move through and beyond.
SavingSpecies is an environmental organization that looks primarily at building biodiversity corridors as seen with the successful Golden Lion Tamarin project. There, increasing access for these emblematic primates has allowed them to colonise ever greater areas in Silva Jardim, less than 60km away from REGUA.
This new purchase, in a mixed landscape with farmland and fragmented forests, the linking of these remnants is really the only hope for gene pools of stranded biodiversity to move around.
We are incredibly grateful to Brian and Liz who instantly shared our belief that where there is a will there is a way!
Thank you to SavingSpecies, Stuart, Clinton, Erin and all. You show that there is hope and that it is possible to change the world we live in.
We are so lucky to receive Helmut Seehawer, orchid enthusiast who, together with his close friend David Miller, surveyed the nearby Macae de Cima valley for these extraordinary epiphytes.
Helmut and David identified and described close to 1,000 species found there and wrote and illustrated the book “Orchids of the Serra dos Órgãos”. Helmut, a retired airplane pilot developed a passion for orchids when he first flew into Rio de Janeiro many years ago and spent a day accompanying fellow crew in another region of Rio looking for these epiphytic plants.
What got him hooked were their many different mysterious forms, sizes, colours and shapes which made it a complicated hobby to master. Helmut’s fascination led him to study and survey extensive areas and today he is a recognised authority on their identification.
Helmut is 81 years old and has an unassailable passion and energy. Since his first visit to REGUA he has identified a total of 72 genera comprising 257 species which represent 60% to 70% of known existing orchids.
Divided into the different areas he has surveyed at REGUA these are Helmut’s findings;
Green and Red Trails and Wetland area 68 genera 206 species
Rio do Gato Valley 36 genera 65 species
Biaza Reserve 35 genera 112 species
St Andre west slope 15 genera 25 species
East slope of Lagoinha 15 genera 26 species
West slope of Lagoinha 24 genera 74 species
Helmut writes “It seems that the Green and Red trail forest is especially rich but I walked it ten times, Lemgruber six times, Rio do Gato five times, Lagoinha twice and all the rest once only”
Last October, accompanied by two REGUA rangers, I walked with Helmut to a recently acquired area, the Vidal property on the Serra do Mar ridge-line. The first expedition was a little misty, but with Black-and-Gold Cotinga calling around us we knew were in a special place. The next expedition permitted some mind blowing vistas of the surrounding forest for miles around. Helmut was far too interested in his orchids to notice and he concluded that this rocky high altitude area must be one of the best places he had ever visited.
Helmut hopes to return in late May 2019 and we are only too pleased to walk with him, learn from him and share his passion. The REGUA orchid cathedral will be ready to present a sample collection of some of the species found here and draw visitors to appreciate their beauty.
Helmut’s enthusiasm and energy encourage us to continue to increase our knowledge and protection of this amazing valley. We look forward to seeing him on more expeditions in the future.
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 (TapirusTerrestris) 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.
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 (Callithrixjacchus) 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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!!