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REGUA’s 4th and 5th RPPN areas go ahead

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.

RRPN 5 comprises 97 hectares of the lower slopes of the Serra do Mar mountains (© N Locke)

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. 

INEA geographer Evelyn de Castro is conferring GPS location

Saving Nature capturing the beauty of REGUA

Ryan, Ian and Brian (© REGUA)
Ryan, Ian and Brian (© 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.

Supported by Saving Nature, 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.

Tiger Ratsnake

This diurnal snake, was seen by a group of visitors on our Green Trail, whilst walking in the forest with Adilei.

Although not venomous, they can still give a nasty bite if threatened.   Adelie knows how to deal with this sort of situation as he has spent all his life in these forests. One of the group got this amazing footage, standing at a safe distance.

Tiger Ratsnake, Spilotes pullatus (© REGUA)

These snakes lay eggs and are active on the ground and in trees.   Their prey are mammals and birds, including eggs and nestlings.   

Their defence strategy is to puff up their forebody and shake their tail.   This individual seemed quite relaxed and only shook the tail as it left the group by slithering under a nearby fallen tree.

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

Happy Christmas and New Year to all

Nicholas and Raquel (© REGUA)

It is with pleasure and excitement that we reach the end of this year having achieved so much progress, with the reserve expanding to 11,000 hectares, reaching 500,000 trees planted, receiving close to 1,000 students on courses, over 3,000 children visiting, and a bumper number of enthusiastic visitors from around the world.

You have all contributed to make this a successful model of conservation management. Raquel and I wish to do even more and we have a clear vision of what REGUA needs to reach the greater heights of sustainability.

So, please continue to encourage your friends to visit and tell them what a remarkable project this is and keep following us through website and social media. We want to show that our planet needs care and that REGUA is making its contribution.

Click on the link for a full report on 2018 at REGUA.

All the very best, a Happy Christmas and we wish all of you a healthy, happy and successful 2019.

Nicholas, Raquel, Thomas and the REGUA team

Bromeliad research

Camille in the field (© Nicholas Locke)

Climate change is predicted to increase the intensity of extreme climatic events such as severe droughts.  Little is known on how freshwater ecosystems respond to severe droughts in the neotropics.   Terrestrial organic matter, primarily derived from plant litter, represents an important food resource in these nutrient limited freshwater ecosystems.

The PhD project currently being undertaken by Camille Bonhomme from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) wants to investigate the effects of quantity of terrestrial matter subsidies on the response of the recipient aquatic communities to drought stress.

Camille will use tank bromeliads along with their associated aquatic invertebrates as model ecosystems. Tank bromeliads are neotropical plants. Their interlocking leaves form rosettes that collect rainwater and dead leaves from the overhanging trees, creating an aquatic habitat for various species of invertebrates.  

Bromeliad communities (© Nicholas Locke)

In the field experiment, bromeliads will receive either few or high quantities of leaf litter inputs. After a natural colonisation and equilibration period, the diversity and composition of the aquatic invertebrate community that colonised the bromeliads will be assessed and compared to the quantity of subsidised resources.   The bromeliad micro-ecosystems will then be submitted to a drying and rewetting event, to assess their resistance and resilience.

Camille hopes to show firstly that the variations in leaf litter provision will determine the composition and quality of the colonisation (including number of species, food chain length and overall community composition).

Secondly, that the leaf litter quantity will affect the stability of the community submitted to drought, expecting the higher provision of leaf litter to give greater support, by offering a “buffering” effect to the community. It is hoped to show that leaf litter will provide short term refuges for invertebrates and be more attractive for recolonisation after the drought.

We look forward to seeing the result of Camille’s research.

UNEES conference at REGUA

UNEES conference at REGUA
UNEES conference at REGUA (© Fiona Daborn)

From 22-24 October REGUA hosted delegates from Brazil, Mozambique and Germany for the UNEES conference (University meets Private Sector for Sustainability).

The project, led by Prof. Dr Leandro Fontoura of the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro links the teaching and research activities of the three participating universities with sustainable actors from the private sector, creating a knowledge transfer channel in the field of rural development (in particular issues such as natural resource degradation and food insecurity).

The university partners involved are:

  • the “Centre for Rural Development” of the Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany;
  • the MA programme “Rural development and Development Management” at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique;
  • the MA programme “Sustainable Development Practice” at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFRRJ).

How does it work?

Universities contribute action and development research to help solve the problems encountered by businesses. Businesses offer internships to students on Rural Development courses to enable students to help solve challenges and understand what the private sector needs. Universities improve their courses by incorporating practical examples from their business partners and businesses contribute guest lectures as appropriate.

In Day 1 of the workshop at REGUA we heard from a range of existing partners. First up was Robson of the Comunidade Rural do Bonfim, (about 3000 people) near Petropolis in Brazil. In 1984 the Brazilian government made the whole area, including their land, into a national park, meaning that traditional activities of farming were no longer permitted. They are in the process of transitioning to be able to offer Eco Tourism to visitors and they have students from UFRRJ on placement with them to help research and plan.

Next up was Hanna from Frankenforder Forschungsgesellschaft in Berlin, a private research company working in the area of agriculture and nutrition. Hannah had recently hosted an intern from UFRRJ (Brazil) to help solve various business challenges. For example, the intern helped a local asparagus company turn the parts of the asparagus that weren’t eaten into something useful, for instance a form of packaging, or a grain that could be added to bread to increase the nutritional value.

Raquel presenting at the UNEES conference (© Fiona Daborn)

The Mozambique team, made up of professors from a leading university in the country, contributed a very interesting presentation on their partnership with a National Park, a bank and a local solar power business.

Potential new partners also had their opportunity to present – Katie Weintraub working at the Sinal do Vale regeneration centre near to Rio is a current student on the MA in “Sustainable Development Practice” at UFRRJ. She showed a great video showcasing their hospitality services and sustainability projects around forest restoration, organic agriculture, and community development. One highlight was a bioconstruction project where local youth and international architects worked together to create a “marquee” space to host events (and bring in income to help the centre become self-supporting) – the final product was an amazing octagonal space made with recycled toothpaste tubes, a material which had the added benefit of keeping the interior cool.

The final slot went to Francine from “Articulacao entre chefs e Agricultre” using the CSA method – Comunidade que sustenta a Agricultura. Francine, originally a chef, set up the business to ensure that local producers got a good price for their crops and that food was used by restaurants as close as possible to where it was grown for maximum freshness and sustainability.

In between sessions, the delegates enjoyed exploring the grounds at REGUA and catching some good sightings of both Brazilian Tapir and Capybara!

A big Thank You to all REGUA supporters!

REGUA welcomed retired RSPB director Stuart Housden and Alan Martin recently.   Although Stuart is familiar with the project and had visited REGUA before, he is now a Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust (BART) Trustee and the aim of the visit was to learn what REGUA does; why its work is so valuable and how he could help us with his vast experience.

Stuart and Alan (© Nicholas Locke)

It is amazing to think that we started this off in 2001 with a plan to protect a part of the Atlantic Rainforest at REGUA and almost two decades later, this project is attracting international and national attention for progress in all of its programmes, be it in administration, protection, research, education, restoration or tourism.

REGUA’s location is privileged in that it is set in an area that still retains a significant amount of original biodiversity.   It is also just close enough to Rio de Janeiro city and its environs to make a day outing, an overnight stay or longer visit easily viable.

The factors that contribute to the biodiversity are various including; area of remaining forest cover, a forested gradient and fundamentally an understanding local community, be it land owners, farmers or the local population.    We started our conservation programmes 20 years ago with international support as funding within Brazil was virtually non-existent. Today we see the fruit of what we planted and the results today of every programme speak for themself.

Possibly the best thing about REGUA is that there are so many things to do, it has an exciting aura around it as ever more people are visiting and we can show positive results. The forests are returning the hillsides and valley, the biodiversity is improving, more land is put into set aside, more visitors and the community are learning and approving of our actions and we are getting bolder with our convictions.

Restored landscape (© Sue Healey)

So, although Raquel and I are getting older, we are keener than ever to gain improved results.   Through sharing experiences and knowledge, your visit helps us stride firmly towards the future.

A huge thank you to our UK volunteers, Lee, Rachel, Sue, and to Alan for having been champion king pin for so many years, and now Stuart who together with our mother charity BART and its Trustees endorse our actions and want to help us reach further towards the future.

On both sides of the Atlantic, we have marvellous teams and Raquel and I can firmly say that your determined support has made the difference!

If you would like to meet our UK Volunteer Team they will be at the British Bird Fair, Rutland Water, 17th-19th August, 2018.   Pop along and say hello, Marquee 1 stand 37

Scaled Antbird

Scaled Antbird  ( (Drymophila squamata) is a superb Atlantic Rainforest endemic species that can be seen along most mid elevation trails at REGUA making its plaintive call and hopping from branch to branch in the low vegetation.

In spite of its the male having monochrome colours the visual effect it creates as it hops in the undergrowth is startling, indeed the female, who shares similar patterning, but with dark brown buff and hints of cinnamon is equally attractive.   They can often be found feeding in pairs or small family groups as they search for insects and spiders in the forest.

Scaled Antbird (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

Our guests can be sure to gasp in appreciation – REGUA bird guide Adilie Carvalho da Cunha recently took this photograph.

Although its status is classed of ‘least concern’ as it is fairly common throughout its range, having protected areas such as REGUA are vital to ensure its continued healthy population.

We shall keep our eyes on them!!

Moustached Wren

Moustached Wren (© Adilei Carvalho de Cunha)

The Moustached Wren (Pheugopedius genibarbis) is quite a common Troglodyte here at REGUA especially around the wetlands.    A largish bird with unmistakeable black and white facial stripes, rufousy coloured back and wings, creamy under parts and the characteristic banded tail, it can be found in low undergrowth with its musical chirp feeding on insects.

Adilei attracted this male out of the brush and they had their moment of recognition, a brief duet and off he was looking for his insects.

Introducing the GGV II Team

GGV II Team (© Raquel Locke)

Introducing the Guapiaçu Grande Vida Team for their second project at REGUA.  Following the successful reforestation of 100 hectares of cattle pasture along the edge of the River Guapiaçu in 2013-15, the second project is now underway.

This time a 60 hectare plot is being planted, on steep and highly eroded land along the road on the way to our Waldenoor Trail.

From left to right, they are:
Patrick, Environmental Education Officer
Carol, Financial Administration Officer
Nathalie, Social Media Officer
Aline, Forest Restoration Officer
Tatiana, Environmental Education co-ordinator
Gabriela, GGV project co-ordinator
Lorena, Geographic Information Systems Officer
Carlos, Environmental Education Officer

Water Monitoring

A windy and cloudy Saturday full of activities as the Education Officers of the Guapiaçu Grande Vida team held a student training course.

They are being taught to use the water-monitoring kit which they will use in the Macacu and Guapiaçu rivers.    Arriving in the morning for breakfast they left after lunch with a certificate acknowledging they had completed this twenty hour course in three sessions.

Water testing

The syllabus included topics such as river basin management, mapping, environmental education and it’s relevance as a tool for conservation,  use of trails and open public areas with an educational approach, water cycle and water sampling for physical and chemical analysis.

Another successful day with enthusiastic students and tutors.

Bare-throated Bellbird

Ever wonder what the loudest bird on Earth is?  The outrageous Bare-throated Bellbird (Procnias nudicollis) is certainly a top contender!    While hiking up the Green Trail here at REGUA, singing males can be heard from over a kilometre away.

The call each male belts from his featherless blue-skinned throat sounds like a mallet striking an iron pipe, and echoes down the valley in rhythmic series.    As we climb higher up the mountain trail, the boinks and bonks of competing males get louder and louder, but we can often only catch glimpses of them perched high in treetops.

Today, volunteer bird guide Bobby found our lucky visitor group, front row seats to an ear-splitting performance by a young male singing close beneath the canopy.   Bare-throated Bellbirds are endemic to the Atlantic Forest, found nowhere else on Earth.  These large, fruit-loving passerines perform crucial seed dispersing services for many lowland and montane trees. Unfortunately, drastic logging of the Atlantic Forest for development, combined with illegal poaching for the caged-bird trade, has led to declining populations of this spectacular species and a Vulnerable designation by IUCN.    But thanks to REGUA, the forest home of these contending males along the Green Trail is safe into the future.    And they can return the favor by dispersing their favorite fruit trees throughout the reserve, helping the forest to grow!

Kaitlin,
Volunteer bird guide.

Laudato si/Care for the Common Home

REGUA attended the second International Congress “Laudato si and large cities” organized by the Antonio Gaudi Foundation in Barcelona.   Pope Francis’s triumphal encyclical “Laudato si” or “Care for the Common Home” published in 2015 with the support of 1,000 scientists is, according to many, the greatest Manifesto on environmental concerns regarding planet Earth.

Laudato Si (© Nicholas Locke)

It is an appeal for reflections and dialogue to every person on how we are shaping our world.

In this second Congress, guest speakers presented their views and experiences on key issues facing an increasingly burgeoning population of which 80% of us live in cities.   The topics continue to be of great relevance; water supply, atmospheric pollution and waste management.    The issues are common around the world but the consequences are increasingly dramatic. The four day Congress showed that many share preoccupations and provided glimpses of successful solutions.

Our delegates returned to REGUA with renewed enthusiasm and commitment to continue the work already started.

Paraty Literary Festival founder visits REGUA

World Land Trust/UK Founder and acting Chief Executive, John Burton informed us a week ago that Liz Calder wished to visit, so you can imagine how delighted we were to receive her together with her son Toby and partner Gislane.

Liz is well known in Brazil as being responsible for establishing the Paraty Literary Festival (FLIP).   It all started when she and her husband came to work for Rolls Royce in the 1960’s and she fell in love with this country.

Liz Calder with Raquel and Nicholas Locke (© Toby Calder)

At the time Paraty, the colonial gold route town, could only be reached by sea but when Liz finally visited, she recognized its potential as an international venue.   Many literary celebrities have passed through Paraty and this year marked its 15th anniversary.

Based on this global success, Liz has decided to take FLIP to the UK and this year an Arts Festival named FLIPSIDE will be held between 6th and 8th October at Snape Maltings  in Suffolk, UK.

The REGUA video narrated by Michael Palin, will be shown to the public and we hope this contributes to generate awareness on our work here within the same forests that extend to shape that town called Paraty!

Black-legged Dacnis

Black-legged Dacnis (Dacnis nigripes) is considered a threatened species on the IUCN red list, but it can still be found in gregarious groups on the Reserve feeding on Trema micrantha fruit.

Just a few years ago REGUA started planting forests on the lowland and the presence of this species signalled that our planting was successful.

Black-legged Dacnis is sparsely recorded along coastal Brazil and found generally in primary and good secondary forest feeding in mixed flocks.

Black-legged Dacnis (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

The male might be easily confused with Blue Dacnis (Dacnis cayana) which has pink legs, but the female is very different, and therefore easy to tell apart.

Adilei has even found both varieties feeding together in high altitude forests.  As breeding takes place between October and February, their presence in May on the lowlands suggests they are content to stay, so we shall be looking after them and checking their behaviour.

Roger Wilson

It is with great sadness that we heard that  World land Trust colleague and friend Roger Wilson passed away recently.

Roger was an experienced tropical forester and helped REGUA from day one with words of encouragement and the belief that we were capable of planting and delivering our forests.

Alan Martin, Roger Wilson and Nicholas Locke (© REGUA)

REGUA’s restoration programme is well known within Brazil and I can say with assurance that we owe so much to him for starting this work and putting us on the map. Tropical forestry loses a great ambassador and we were proud to have known him.  The photograph, taken in London in 2014, was the last time we were together.

Nicholas Locke

Three Generations visit REGUA

Helmut Seehawer has been visiting REGUA for many years.   As a former Lufthansa Airline Pilot, he flew from Germany to Brazil regularly, and in his free time explored the countryside.

On one occasion he travelled with his colleagues to Paraty in Rio State.  In those days there were no roads and travelling was a real adventure.   One of his friends was keen to find orchids and although Helmut could not understand the fascination, he wanted to explore the jungle.   He was delighted when they found some unspoilt forests with their huge trees, tangles and epiphytes.

The friend pointed out large, bright flowers of orchids on the branches of the trees, and at times the two of them climbed trees to get closer views, occasionally jumping from one tree to the other using the branches and vines.

Whilst climbing the trees, Helmut noticed some smaller plants with more delicate flowers, these too were Orchids and a passion was realised.

Helmut purchased a “Sitio” or property in the mountains near Nova Friburgo so that he could explore and protect the habitat there, especially the wonderful orchids he had grown to love.

Three Generations ~ Klaus, Helmut and Katja back at REGUA (© Seehawer family)

A collaboration with David Miller, Richard Warren and Isabel Moura Miller in the late 1990’s resulted in the  acclaimed book ‘Serra Dos Órgãos Sua Historia e Suas Orquideas’ [Serra Dos Órgãos your history and your orchid]’.

Published in 2006, the book features over 200 superb illustrations by Helmut, in wonderful detail. [See below for just one example]

Helmut is back at REGUA for an extended visit with his son Klaus and grand-daughter Katja, who are both carrying on the family love of biology and nature.   Klaus is a snake enthusiast and has spent long days in the field looking for snakes, whilst Katja has previously spent time as a Volunteer researcher at REGUA, studying the mammals around the wetland.

 

Illustrations by Helmut Seehawer (photo by Sue Healey)

 

Possible new snake for REGUA by Klaus Seehawer

Whilst counting Capybara, Katja and Helmut Seehawer found a wonderful green snake in the REGUA wetlands.   It has been provisionally identified it as Chironius multiventris.   If this is confirmed it would be a new snake for the REGUA snake species list.

Chironius multiventris showing blue irridescence (© Seehawer family)

The Chironius family of the Atlantic forest consists of five species of elegant green, grey, brown or black snakes.   The green variants are especially difficult to identify.

The common name of Chironius multiventris is cobra-cipó – liana snake.   It is a non-venomous snake that grows to nearly two metres.    The snake is diurnal and actively hunts for its prey in trees and on the ground.   It preys – good news for you birders out there! – mainly on amphibians.

The snake seen at noon right in the middle of the wetlands was 120 cm long and of a wonderful green colour with a blue shimmer reflecting from the sky above.  It was observed for a while and obviously distracted by hunting.

With the growing number of species across many taxa in the wetlands the number of snakes will also increase.   In intact Atlantic Forest habitat (without human snake killing) 80% of the snakes encountered will be nonvenomous.

Chironius multiventris well camoflagued (© Seehawer family)

On a separate occasion the Seehawer family encountered another large green snake on Green Trail.   This snake was possibly Chironius exoletus or Chironius bicarinatus, but they were not able to make a reliable identification as the colour and back marking was in between these two snake species.

Give snakes their space and enjoy the rare adventure of seeing one.

Klaus Seehawer

N.B. it should be noted that snakes are not easy to find at REGUA, their natural defence means they are well aware of human presence and will slip away rather than be found.  The Seehawer family are very experienced in finding snakes and walked in the forest with REGUA Rangers.

 

 

REGUA Ranger receives joint Conservation Award

Sometimes one feels that there seems to be a lull like the wind has dropped leaving the sails slack.   This year appeared that way; fewer visitors and reforestation grants contributing to the lack of needed momentum at a precious time.

Admittedly land purchases have been tough and it’s been hard to close the available areas with their respective owners.   I guess socio-economic conditions are constantly changing and these naturally affect the efficiency of our proposal.

Muriqui Research Team André and Rildo centre left and right resp. (© REGUA)

Then I received an email that the Global Conservation Leadership Programme winners had been announced and found the page to seek the name of those prizewinners.

The Young Conservationists is a great programme that seeks young researchers in Biology and provides them with a grant to continue with their studies.   I have often been asked by friends to submit a proposal but I do consider I am in the correct age range to compete.   Imagine my delightful surprise when checking this year’s prizewinners to find the Muriqui Monkey Project in SE Brazil.

The picture of André Lanna and Rildo as winners of the 2017 prize gave me a huge confidence boost. Well done André, REGUA ranger Rildo and Muriqui Team!

André had mentioned that REGUA may be the last bastion of the Southern Muriqui primate and suspect that there could be three populations here.   May their project continue to enjoy the success it deserves and place REGUA healthily on the map.

The wind is picking up my friends!

Warmly

Nicholas Locke  

http://www.conservationleadershipprogramme.org/project/muriqui-serra-do-mar-brazil/