Renowned Atlantic Forest bird and butterfly guide, Richard Raby visited REGUA over the Carnival season. His aim was to escape the drums and processions in his home beach town of Maricá which is only about one and a half hours drive from REGUA.
Richard organises tours to Rio de Janeiro and has followed the REGUA project for many years. He was impressed with the species seen on the lowland trails in the restored forests along the trails by the wetlands. He told us that he would normally only see some of these species within mature forested parks.
Walking around the wetlands was the perfect place for him to relax and enjoy the peace and serenity. Whilst with us Richard was able to find and photograph some interesting butterflies, a few of which are pictured here. This just reinforces our belief that our restoration efforts are really working!
Although the countries of Mozambique and Brazil are located far from each other in miles, they share the same mother tongue and have relatively similar climates and also economic interests.
Can they learn from each other and can they help each other? Since 2006, the German Development bank GIZ has been promoting a cooperation agreement between both countries in various sectors, and late last year one Rio de Janeiro University invited several successful conservation projects to share an internet platform that would increase visibility and promote tourism.
Both the Golden lion Tamarin Project, and Conservation International participated and it shows we all have common interests in reaching out to help other organizations in both countries to engage with and share experiences. The very first stone was laid!
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 Atlantic Rainforest at REGUA is well protected and expanding, and one of the prime habitat quality indicator species are amphibians. Are the populations stable or declining?
Researchers are always interested as their population numbers reflect air quality and air humidity levels, which in turn are affected by forest cover. There are over seventy amphibian species at REGUA and with programmes in forest protection and expansion, all species appear to be in good shape.
One genus that attracts attention is the Atlantic rainforest endemic Horned frog which we found on the green trail recently. Both Proceratophrys appendiculata (also known as Guenther’s Horned Frog) and Proceratophrys boiei were seen. They live in the leaf litter in forests up to an altitude of around 1200m, and spawn in forest streams.
Both species are relatively common at REGUA and all visitors like to pick them up and get a closer look at them. They sit immobile and looking rather glum, patiently waiting to be returned to the ground when they hop off into the leaf litter and are quickly almost impossible to refind.
The Blue-winged Macaw (Primolius maracana) is one of those very special Psittacidae that occur between coastal Brazil spanning west to Bolivia and Argentina. They are found in an area in the North East of Brazil, but they generally seem to occupy the extent of the Atlantic Rainforest.
No longer so common, we remember seeing them nesting in thick bamboo clumps but that was a while ago and before our wetlands were developed. Perhaps they are not fond of water bodies as they are now observed only on the rain shadow side of the Serra do Mar mountain range.
We like to show these friendly yet shy birds to visitors on the Sumidouro trail in search of other endemics such as the Three-toed Jacamar and Serra Antwren. These are all drier region species and one can see these wonderful Macaws on tall Imperial Palms typically chatting together in what appears profound chitchat!
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!
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.
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 !!
The Atlantic Rainforest endemic Solitary Tinamou (Tinamus solitaries) has to be one of the hardest birds to see at REGUA. I have only once seen one walking a distant trail some years ago. The bird leapt onto the path in front of me and we walked serenely in single file for what seemed like an eternity but perhaps it was only a few seconds before it left. I rejoined the bird group I was with half an hour later and told them excitedly what I had seen. All I could see on their faces were torturous expressions of sadness. Never again!
The Solitary Tinamou occurs throughout the Atlantic Rainforest and suffers from the loss of habitat. Hunters’ reputation depended on bagging these birds, but with the conservation efforts and reduced hunting the populations are rising and the birds can be heard throughout the reserve. Ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira found this single egg. He wasn’t able to go back to make sure it hatched, but we do hope all is well for the chick and its parents.
The tapirs still haven’t been fully released into the wild but their pen surrounds a large inlet of water and in the heat of the day both adults, baptized Adam and Eve, enjoy staying in the water to savour the coolness.
Adam has a radio collar attached but Eve’s collar was removed to let a sore heal. Seeing two tapirs wallowing in the protected and natural habitat at REGUA is quite a sight!
We are hoping for a soft release by the end of February – more news to follow!