Category Archives: Visitors

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 


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.

Canopy hide gets new ladder!

Those who remember our first canopy hide with its wooden ladder, erected in 2005, will be delighted to know that the ladder has been replaced with a metal spiral staircase enabling a much easier ascent.

Looking at the earlier image below, one sees how the view around the hide has changed. In 2005 the hide was placed in cattle pasture. We then planted trees to link this area with our surrounding forest and now the tower situated with and below some of the nearby tree canopies. Our linked forests now tower over the wetlands.

2019 (© REGUA)
2005 (© REGUA)

Giving and excellent overview of the wetlands, this low altitude tower permits birders the chance to peer into the world of crakes and herons.

There are two slightly higher altitude towers for forest species and a great bird hide at the water level edge of the wetlands for you to enjoy at REGUA.   

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!!

Treks and Walks at REGUA

If you are interested in treks and walks in the forest, we are definitely the right place to come to. REGUA has over 45 kilometres of well-marked trails with breath-taking views and stunning scenery.

stunning scenery (© N Locke)

It’s a good chance to get to know the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest and its superb attributes. This wonderful area is quite rightly considered one of the most biodiverse regions of the world. Our local team of are well experienced and have walked these trails many times, over the years. Yet every time we find something new. 

The trail pictured is the Cachoeiras de Macacu to Guapiaçu trail, a walk of 14 km, and it will take you minimum of 4 hours. There are waterfalls and fresh cool water spots and even places to swim on a hot day. 

Above all, trails of this kind offer walkers a chance to see the importance of what REGUA is trying to do, restoring and protecting the forests to allow their ecosystem to function healthily. Isn’t this our responsibility?

      

Raquel Locke in the forest (© N Locke)

Leon Restaurant winners


The first Leon restaurant opened in London in 2004 and soon won various awards for quality.

The success in the fast food service led to cookbooks, products and a meteoric expansion around the globe.

(© Nicholas Locke)

Attached to the name are firm convictions in innovation and sustainability. Puro Coffee, a brand of coffee, likewise believes in tropical forest conservation, having helped REGUA acquire an important parcel of forest. Puro supplies coffee to Leon and the chain ran a raffle for their staff early this year with a prize being a three day stay at REGUA and Rio de Janeiro.

The three lucky winners  Habiba Boulakila, Elie Holder, Alessio Giangrande, together with regional manager, John Brooks arrived yesterday at REGUA and spotted capybaras and caimans on their first walk.

We visited Miguel Hertal’s Arabic coffee plantation in Bom Jardim and the group will finish off their tour on Ipanema beach in Rio. They will be able to relate their experience to their customers and staff.  A great break for these lovely people!!

The Orchid Cathedral

Our readers will no doubt be following new on the construction of our extraordinary Orchid Cathedral, made possible by a generous grant from the San Diego Orchid Society and Peter Tobias.  

Though progress is slow, the Cathedral will be ready for our dear friend Helmut Seehawer, set to arrive this coming April. Helmut, now 82 is to continue his inventory of the orchids here at REGUA. We are delighted because he still has the energy and all the experience in identifying the species on the mountains here at REGUA. 

The Orchid Cathedral (© Nicholas Locke)

 To think that the total number of species of orchids in the world stands at 20 thousand of which 5% or one thousand are found in the mountains here at REGUA and environs. Bathed in cloud forest and stretching from over 2,000 metres to sea level, we can only being to appreciate how lucky we are. 

The Orchid Cathedral, a sun-screened area of 300m², will feature a rocky base, tree ferns mixed with palms, ground plants and some native small Myrtle trees, such as Eugenia sp, to which orchids will be attached. Posts will also hold some of these epiphytes. A path meandering through the house will allow visitors to see why these plants are so special, and interpretation signage will help the visitor understand the delicate role they play in nature and why so many people get excited about them. 

Should any volunteer wish to come and help us organize the interior, we would love to hear from you!!

It is getting exciting around here and already an air of expectation is setting in.

For more information on volunteering at REGUA see here.

Russo’s ‘Banana stop’ is back!

We are delighted to announce that the Russo’s birdfeeder is back working.

Many locals and visitors alike, enjoy stopping at Russo’s makeshift stall on the road to Nova Friburgo. However, following a fire it had been closed for some time.

Russo has now, happily, picked up the courage to rebuild and regain his reputation of one the best places to photograph tanagers close up. The road works that improved access has helped and today the Russo store, though mainly equipped with bananas, snacks and sweets, offers excellent photo opportunities for Green-headed Tanager, Red-necked Tanager, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Violaceous Euphonia , Green Honeycreeper, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Ruby-crowned Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia and even the occasional Spot-billed Toucanet. 

Red-necked Tanager (© Nicholas Locke)

We always like to stop on our excursions, so be prepared with plenty of memory cards!

     


Orchids at REGUA

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.

Ranger Messias, Helmut, Ranger Matheus, Nicholas Locke (© REGUA)

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.

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