REGUA’s Keeper of the Wild ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira funded by the World Land Trust found this banded lizard on the red trail at around 600 metres above sea level. This lizard has very short legs and if were not for the scales on its body, one could mistake it for a salamander, but salamander are not currently known to be further south than Roraima, Northern Brazil.
We had help to identify this individual from Canada’s naturalist Mike Patrikeev who stated it was Banded Galliwasp, Diploglossus fasciatus of the Anguidae family.
Indeed this example measured close to 30 centimetres in length, and Rildo said that in all his years as a ranger, he had only once seen this species before.
There is a similar Banded Galliwasp (Diploglossus lessonae) endemic to Brazil’s Northeast region, rated “Least Concern” by the IUCN, but I wonder whether it’s Atlantic Rainforest cousin is as common? In fact, we all wonder when we shall see another one.
We are always so pleased to share our work with interested parties and Patrick Sherriff’s lightening visit was no different.
Patrick lives in Hong Kong, and is World Land Trust (WLT) ambassador to the Far East. Due to start a tour of the Andean countries, he took time to visit REGUA to see the hard work we are engaged in.
Patrick arrived on a boiling hot day and we started his visit at the Matumbo Gap, a series of properties acquired over several years with WLT support. The area Patrick is standing on is being funded by Petrobras (the well known Brazilian petroleum company). The first hillside behind him is the area funded by WLT and the reforested area behind Patricks hat was funded by Brazilian SOS Mata Atlantica.
A real funding fruit salad and an excellent example of people and organisations coming together in partnership to achieve great success. This co-operation has enabled us to protect and begin the restoration of this vital landscape. The forest corridor being created across the “Matumbo Gap” of land which is starting to connect REGUA land to a previously fragmented area of forest.
As Patrick said “I’m glad I made the effort to visit you. Inspirational meeting real people making a real change through commitment and dedication. It was terrific to see first-hand the reforestation. Backbreaking work especially on some of those slopes. Your whole team needs to be congratulated! To see the growth of the reforestation over the years since replanting was also an eye-opener.”
Thanks Patrick, your appreciation is our encouragement!
Photographs and video captured by World Land Trust funded “Keeper of the Wild” REGUA Ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira, show the “endangered” Muriquis seem to have been less affected by the Yellow Fever bout that impacted the populations of the Howler monkeys earlier this year.
A couple of Howler carcasses were found on a REGUA partner property and the forests have remained silent as a result of the Yellow Fever that spread over South East Brazil. A massive campaign to vaccinate people resulted but it was impossible for doctors to reach the primates in the forests.
Rildo was walking the REGUA Red Trail high, above the waterfall in November and heard barking coming from lofty tree canopies some way away. Following the sound he quickly detected the group of five adults. An adult female Muriqui had her young with her and tried to scare Rildo away, but it was too good an opportunity to miss.
Rildo has heard the Howlers calling over the last month, so it seems we haven’t lost all populations. Fingers crossed that our continued restoration will give all species the room to increase in numbers and with corridors strengthen their populations.
Further studies are needed, but Rildo is delighted to share his rare sightings of the Muriqui with us.
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.
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.
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
Last weekend REGUA received Thomas Brooks, Head of Research at Geneva for IUCN.
In between seeing birds in the day and waiting for the owls to call in the evening, we discussed the importance of monitoring, something talked about at the recent World Land Trust conference in Thetford UK.
He also asked us about long term sustainability. I told Tom that we believe REGUA will continue to grow and reach to tourism, education and research income streams and that we look at the protection core costs such as Ranger work being covered by Eco-service payments.
As there is increasing evidence that forests produce water, we believe that grants will be available in the near future that provide annual fee given to those proprietors who have forest cover.
The Atlantic Rainforest has been subject to enormous change over the years and many species are suffering as a result of the forest vegetation cover change and, of course, hunting.
REGUA received UNESP (São Paulo State University) researcher Carla Martins Lopes with a team of three researchers. They are sampling leaf litter at the higher elevations of the Reserve to seek residues of DNA that can offer identification of the species that lived and frequented the same area in the past.
The World Land Trust Keeper of Wild Ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira guided the group to the top of the green trail, gathering leaves and bringing them down to our research laboratory.
We are very interested in the results, as this is a very new area of research sampling, and may offer some exciting surprises. Perhaps we can build up images of the animals that occupied these forests in the past, such as the Jaguars, Tapirs and White-lipped Peccary!
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.
The Atlantic Forest snake species, Bothrops jararaca, a type of pit viper, is one that locals hold in the highest regard and with good reason. It is dangerous only if one steps on one and accidentally gets bitten.
According to serpent specialists, snakes are not uncommon in REGUA’s forests. I have to admit that although I have walked many times in the forest I have failed to find one. However, I am sure that finding one coiled on the path can be a harrowing experience. In the distant past most local people would kill every snake irrespective of colour, thickness and length.
Today the REGUA rangers know that reptiles form an important part of our biodiverse forests and are not aggressive. They now leave them to their own business, and are helping to spread the word that unless they are inadvertently disturbed, most snakes would slither off into the forest before we are even aware of their presence.
REGUA’s World Land Trust “Keepers of the Wild” project sponsored ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira found this one by a rock and left it apparently dozing. He didn’t want to look closer!
REGUA and the Fatorelli family signed the deeds to the Lagoinha valley on 14th January 2018, at long last completed this delicate land purchase. The Rainforest Trust has not only been totally supportive but also very generous and patient, helping us to maintain the calm and vigour required during the entire period of negotiation. This has been one of the most complex and delicate land deals we have been engaged in, but through gentle persistence we managed to secure the property at an affordable value. I still feel fairly faint with the completion of this ultra-sensitive land purchase.
The story behind the scenes is really of soap opera magnitude. The Fatorelli property has a title that extends over the entire Lagoinha valley and this valley is located between two adjacent tracts of Atlantic Forest. Since the 1940s the property has been occupied by 40 tenant farmers working and living off the land. They have simple houses and undertake slash and burn agriculture causing serious habitat damage, some still hunt and the impact on the valley’s biodiversity is severe and one in conflict with REGUA’s objectives.
Over recent years farmers’ interests have declined and many wish to leave the valley and follow their family, moving to the nearby towns.
Tenant rights in Brazil are transferable and outsiders can buy plots on which to build second homes, attracting opportunistic local city dwellers to the area. The construction of second houses attracts others and ultimately poses a problem for the long term conservation aims of the Guapiaçu watershed along with many other areas of the world.
Limited energy and vehicle access are two factors that have helped reduce the threat locally up to now, but the availability of cheap plots and desire for second homes can abruptly change the scenario. This has been seen in the more accessible areas around the village of Guapiaçu in just the last decade.
Following the successful World Land Trust sponsored ‘Matumbo Gap’ land purchase, REGUA has addressed this issue, sought support and reached fair agreements to compensate those occupying the land and enabling them to vacate their properties. This gives REGUA the opportunity to protect the forest and allow it to recover.
REGUA is home to 11 species classified by the IUCN as Threatened – Brown-backed Parrotlet, White-necked Hawk, Golden-tailed Parrotlet, White-bearded Antshrike, Salvadori’s Antwren, Fork-tailed Tody-Tyrant, Russet-winged Spadebill, Bare-throated Bellbird, Black-backed Tanager, Buffy-fronted and Temminck’s Seedeaters are all classified as Vulnerable. A further 26 species at REGUA are classified as Near-Threatened further 28 bird species at REGUA are classified as near-threatened. In addition it is home to several troops of Southern Woolly Spider Monkey or Muriqui Brachyteles arachnoides South America’s largest and rarest primate classified as endangered. Many of these species are decreasing in number giving more urgency to the purchase and protection of the remaining Atlantic Forest.
In theory reserves and parks should not have houses or people living within their limits, but when protected areas are established with tenant farmers already living within, the Government prefers to avoid confrontation and circumnavigates issues permitting tenants to continue their lives and activities on site until they are ready to move.
Tenant farmers are protected by law yet do not have deeds with which to prove ownership. By openly negotiating with the families, explaining the aims and arriving at favourable agreements, the Fatorelli case is felt to be a key success story for the conservation movement in this country.
REGUA’s new full time ranger will regularly walk the Lagoinha valley and REGUA will continue to offer opportunities to those wishing to change their home for one closer to their families. The REGUA reserve continues to expand and guarantee an immense forested corridor to benefit its fauna and flora diversity. This is triumph for the conservation world and shows that sensitive conflict areas occupied by humans can be solved.
The Southern Muriqui (Brachyteles arachnoides) restricted to the Serra do Mar mountains of South East Brazil and classified as “endangered” on the IUCN red data list, used to have a much larger home range.
Sadly forest loss, fragmentation, timber extraction and urban expansion reduced its home range area and today the sighting of this magnificent species is really rare. Some retired hunters have never seen them!
Rildo da Rosa Oliveira is one of REGUA’s team of rangers. Rildo, who is funded by the World Land Trust “Keepers of the Wild” programme, caught these amazing photographs of the species with young of various ages indicating the population is stable and healthy.
Rildo (himself an ex-hunter) is engaged in helping University researchers in their studies. REGUA likes to promote research in the Reserve as a means to maintain a positive presence in the forests which are home to peccaries and pumas, the Solitary Tinamou and the Variegated Antpitta as well as important tree species. Maintaining a low impact and constant presence dispels the hunters and charismatic important species such as the Southern Muriqui become less flighty over time.
These animals are now being more regularly sighted and specialist André Lanna suggests REGUA might be home to the largest population of the Muriqui in South East Brazil, or the world for the matter, as the species is endemic to this region.
REGUA wishes to thank the World Land Trust for their support that permits ranger Rildo to keep a whopping 2500 hectares free for the species and the forests of hunters.