Category Archives: Visitors

Cologne University Professor Udo Nehren visits REGUA

Cologne University has been present at REGUA for more than a decade bringing students to study elements of the landscape.

Cologne Professor Udo Nehren supervised Masters student Marisa Kunze on the interface between landscape ecology and resource economics.

REGUA is interested in understanding the potential for expanding private protected areas in Rio de Janeiro. Professor Udo suggested evaluating ecosystem services that are provided/improved through setting up projects like REGUA (e.g. habitat quality, connectivity, erosion control, carbon storage, and also tourism visitation etc.) and how these can be assessed (qualitative, semi-quantitative, and where possible monetary). By evaluating the cost and benefits, one can determine profitability.

Outcomes like these can be used to promote REGUA and show the many ecological and social benefits that environmental projects can provide, especially important when thinking of upscaling to larger areas.

Nicholas, Professor Udo and Raquel with two students, Teresa (left) and Claudia (right). (©REGUA)

Marisa spent two months studying REGUA’s surface area, management agreements, and visitor data, completing this through interviews with local stakeholders to evaluate public perception. We look forward to reading the results, but it is work like this that can help shape the future for conservation projects such as REGUA.

Thank you Professor Udo and Marisa! 

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.

Rothschild Silkmoth (Rothschildia hesperus)

Dr Adrian Spalding, president of the British Entomological and Natural History Society in company of Devon’s Marsland reserve director Gary Pilkington visited REGUA in search of insects and birds last October.    The weather was not helpful being hot and dry, so together with Jorge, REGUA’s resident lepidopterist, we headed for a night’s “moth trapping” at Bel Miller’s house in nearby Macae de Cima.

Rothschildia hesperus (© Nicholas Locke)

The weather at that point changed and a light drizzle started.   Bel had mentioned that the weather had also been dry so the rain was most welcome.   Before dinner, Gary set up the light and whilst we had our meal, we could see the moths homing in.   Dr Adrian was up and down and taking photographs of species that converged by the light.    Jorge patiently placed examples of Hawkmoths for identification and send mouth-watering photos to Alan Martin, co-writer of REGUA’s publication “A Guide to the Hawkmoth of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil”.

A multitude of Silkmoths, Tiger moths, Hawkmoths and other micro moths as well as other insects attracted by the light and humid weather came in droves and Adrian said that this must be “the best night EVER I have mothed!”    Gary was similarly delighted, his head covered in moths busy taking photos.

A superb Giant Silkmoth visited, Rothschildia hesperus (Linnaeus, 1758).   Occurring from Argentina to South USA, this is a canopy rainforest species found from sea level to 1400m. It has a wingspan of 10-12 cm and the male is larger bearing transparent triangular windows in each wing.   Females have more rounded wings than males. The adults do not feed, for after mating and laying eggs, and their life’s function is fulfilled.

Dr. Adrian and Gary were in their element. Who wouldn’t be, covered in moths !!

3rd dragonfly and damselfly tour a resounding success!

Tom Kompier leads a successful team (© Raissa Knupp)

An eminent group of European dragonfly and damselfly specialists converged at REGUA this month to see their beloved species under the professional guidance of Tom Kompier from the Netherlands.

Tom (dressed in the National garb right) visited regularly over two years under the auspices of Rio de Janeiro National History Museum, and wrote the definitive guide book A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Órgãos (avaliable to buy on the Publications page), identifying an amazing 204 species, one of which is new for science and will named after REGUA!

This is the third organised dragonfly and damselfly tour at REGUA and the group saw 147 species in their eight days here. The weather in the first two days wasn’t helpful, but the group not only cherished seeing their species but loved their time enjoying the REGUA hospitality.

Thank you for coming and sharing your enthusiasm of these quality habitat indicator species!

David Nemazie of University of Maryland visits REGUA

We were fortunate to receive birders David Nemazie and René Santos at REGUA recently. David is chief of staff for Environmental Science at University of Maryland USA, and René is a super bird guide who brought him here.

The State of Maryland is twinned with the State of Rio de Janeiro with both Chesapeake Bay and Rio’s Guanabara Bay having geographical and environmental similarities. Both coastal bays have similar environmental issues due to large populations and associated problems with waste water treatment, storm water, and habitat degradation.

In 2014, the Governor of the State of Rio concerned with the Olympics in 2016 approached Maryland’s governor and asked him and the University for guidance in cleaning Rio’s Bay following their success.   Rio’s governor obtained support from INEA (RJ Environmental State Agency), UFRJ (RJ University) and other partners to provide the first step, the elaboration of the “Guanabara Bay Report Card”

David Nemazie with Nicholas and Raquel (© REGUA)

The report cards (https://ecoreportcard.org/report-cards/guanabara-bay ) have been successful in other regions and offer a snap shot of the state of the Guanabara Bay as it is today.   It gives ‘scores’ on health and condition, identifying the issues at heart.

It now is up to all of us to engage the wider public with programmes in awareness and education to help the Government define priorities and actions that will contribute to a better care for our Guanabara Bay, home to river dolphins and seahorses.

We are ready to help and do our part.

 

The Knight Family continue their visit

The Knight Family at REGUA with Jorge (left), Raquel and Micaela (right) (©Loan Heringer)

Sylvia and Chris Knight visited REGUA recently with their two children, and one of the tasks they undertook was to see how many different seeds they could find in the forest.

However, that was not the only thing they did in their visit – here’s more from Sylvia.
“As a family, some of the real highlights were our night-time walk where we were spotting caiman, opossums and nightjars as well as other sightings of sloths, a gorgeous orange spined hairy dwarf porcupine, two male blue manakins displaying to a female, watching 1743 cattle egrets come in to roost, and so much more.

We’d like to reiterate our thanks to all the people at REGUA who made us feel so welcome, and made our stay so enjoyable by ferrying us around, feeding us, finding us incredible wildlife and answering a lot of questions!

The Knight family

Seed Collecting Holiday!

Sylvia and Chris Knight recently stayed at REGUA with their two children.    They opted to stay in the relaxed environment of the research accommodation, and here is their review of their stay with us.

Our seed collection (© Knight Family)

“We have just returned home after four wonderful days at the REGUA reserve.   As a family with two primary school aged children, we knew that having the chance to spend time at the reserve was going to be incredible, but was slightly concerned about how long the girls would last before they got tired or bored.    We needn’t have worried!

The combination of incredible birds, mammals, insects, plants and reptiles together with the most wonderful swimming spots we have ever encountered meant they were totally engrossed and as sad to leave as their parents were.

Having visited two other places in Rio state before arriving at REGUA, they particularly appreciated the amount of space and the freedom that gave them – for example being able to go and visit the capybara group on their own before breakfast. A mini ‘project’ for the visit was to make a seed collection – we were just short of 100 types, but I’m sure it could have been much more.

Sylvia and Chris Knight”