Brazilian Gold frog

Measuring less than one cm in length, the Brazilian Gold frog also known as “Saddleback toad” or “Brachycephalus sp.” are some of the smallest frogs endemic to South East Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest. 

They are found at very high altitude, where they are adapted to low temperature and high humidity. As a result, the populations are isolated and form technically “sky” islands on mountain tops. Over 16 species have been described.   As one can see from the photo, these amphibians have three toes on each foot, and two fingers on each hand, in contrast to the usual five digits of most frogs. 

Brazilian Gold Frog Brachycephalus sp
© Nicholas Locke)

Whilst climbing in search of orchids in the recently purchased Lagoinha area with Helmut Seehawer last December, we came across a large number of these golden frogs in leaf litter.   On taking a photograph, one gave an enormous silent roar in protest and then leapt away a massive distance by our standards to safety. We left them to their lives in this isolated world.

Our thanks to Rainforest Trust who provided funding to purchase this land. It is located at around 1000m above sea level and nestles next to Lagoinha farm.

IUCN states that species here at REGUA are of “least concern” and very well protected from deforestation, but we hope that climate change and pollution won’t affect them adversely.


World Land Trust Ambassador Visits REGUA

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 Sherriff at the Matumbo Gap (© Nicholas Locke)

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!
        

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.

Giant Grasshoppers found at REGUA

Michael Patrikeev, a long standing friend and supporter of REGUA is always coming up with amazing information on his sightings while at the Reserve.   The latest concerns two species of large grasshopper found at REGUA.   Here’s Michael’s report and excellent photographs. 

“I have identified two species of Tropidacris from REGUA

Nymph of Giant Red-winged Grasshopper (Tropidacris cristata) in Guapiaçu, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Tropidacris cristata (Giant Red-winged Grasshopper) is the largest known grasshopper, reaching up to 14 cm in length, and 24 cm wingspan. The adults are olive or brownish-green, with orange hindwings. The nymphs are striped with black and yellow, and likely toxic. This species inhabits forested areas of Central and South America from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, and the island of Trinidad.   In flight it resembles a small bird.   

Tropidacris collaris (Giant Violet-winged Grasshopper) is found in tropical forests and grasslands of South America east of the Andes, from Colombia to Argentina.   Along with T. cristata, this is one of the largest known grasshoppers (length around 10 cm, wingspan 18 cm). The adult is mostly green, yellow-green or brown, with blue hindwings. This species is more common than T. cristata.

Giant Violet-winged Grasshopper (Tropidacris collaris) in Guapiaçu, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I have photographed only nymphs of these species in REGUA, but would expect one of these to come to a light at the Reserve sooner or later – they are quite a sight!”

Both species are widely distributed in the Neotropics, and common.   T. collaris occurs in both forests and savanna, and T. cristata is mostly a forest species.”

More details and photos can be seen on Michael’s website here:

http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Fauna%20invert/Tropidacris%20cristata%20page.html

http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Fauna%20invert/Tropidacris%20cristata%20page.html

Tree planting continues at REGUA!

Using traditional methods – Fransisco and his mule (© Nicholas Locke)

Our efforts in tree planting often seem staggering, but such is our ambition at REGUA. We see degraded land as a burden to the planet and certain of our argument – that there is no way to justify the destruction of tropical forests or even search for their sustainable use. Why? We do not know how they work as an ecosystem and it erases just too many life forms that depended on it. That cannot be responsibility!! Forests and the species that depend on it around the globe are suffering and at REGUA, we are trying to grow them back. Not so easy!! 

We are so fortunate to have friends, trustees, professors, students, volunteers, staff, community members and children that also share this view. They all want to help us help us understand how it works and help us to restore the areas devoid of forest.  

This hard work provides opportunities in labour for the local community but more importantly, they gain pride in creating a more beautiful place. Responsibility is shared and though there may be a minimum that see disrespect for the hard work their ancestors put into harnessing land, today their grandchildren understand that forests teem with life, biodiversity and of course, produce water. 

Miguel proving that working on steep slopes is possible! (© Nicholas Locke)

We have just capped half a million trees planted and we are very proud of our story.

We are especially proud of our ground team who made it possible!

Amazing Treehoppers

The family of Treehoppers otherwise known as Membracidae is made up of more than 3,500 species.

Treehopper (© Nicholas Locke)

Treehoppers evolved from the order Hemiptera (from the Greek “halfwings”) cousins to many other winged insects. Treehoppers are mostly found in the tropical world and instantly draw the attention from passers-by with their incongruous shapes and especially protruding head gear, called “pronotum.”

They use the pronotum to mimic thorns on the branches they live on, preventing predators from seeing them. This is not their only source of defence however.

Treehoppers feed on plant sap by drilling into plant stems. As a result, a sugary substance called “honeydew” is secreted. The honeydew is an important food source for a variety of ants, bees and wasps. In return presence of the ants, bees and wasps keeps predators away and is a direct benefit of their symbiotic relationship.

Some species of Treehopper also have a well-developed ant mutualism, and these species are normally gregarious, helping to attract ever more ants to protect them.

The Treehopper pictured was found with others in the INEA Nursery in Trajano de Morais, around 100km from here, where we have picked up seedlings. I have identified the Genus as Heteronotus , confirmed by Dr. Lewis Deitz. 

After this brief introduction, I’m sure you will want to visit and look out for these amazing creatures. I certainly can’t wait to find more!!  

Ed: To see the symbiosis in action see Nicholas’ video here.

Our latest land purchase!

REGUA is very pleased to announce that SavingSpecies, a United States based organisation, helped REGUA to acquire an essential parcel of land to allow us to create a biodiversity corridor. This six hectare plot, located close to REGUA, was essential to connect the 2,500 hectare forested Vecchi ridgeline to the 200 hectare Onofre Cunha land already owned and protected by REGUA.

Mapping by Lorena Asevedo

Onofre Cunha will now be connected to the main reserve of 6,700 hectare of REGUA. One can see the strategic importance of this small sliver of land on the map. In a short time we will begin to create a forested corridor allowing birds and animals to move through and beyond.

SavingSpecies is an environmental organization that looks primarily at building biodiversity corridors as seen with the successful Golden Lion Tamarin project. There, increasing access for these emblematic primates has allowed them to colonise ever greater areas in Silva Jardim, less than 60km away from REGUA.

This new purchase, in a mixed landscape with farmland and fragmented forests, the linking of these remnants is really the only hope for gene pools of stranded biodiversity to move around.

We are incredibly grateful to Brian and Liz who instantly shared our belief that where there is a will there is a way!

Thank you to SavingSpecies, Stuart, Clinton, Erin and all. You show that there is hope and that it is possible to change the world we live in.

Never lose the faith!!

A view of Grassland which will be forest very soon! (© Nicholas Locke)

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.

British painter Jelly Green raising funds for REGUA

'Into the Shadows' 2018, oil on canvas, 153 x 183 cm
‘Into the Shadows’ 2018, oil on canvas, 153 x 183 cm

Contemporary British painter Jelly Green has spent the last four years painting rainforests around the world, mainly in central Brazil.

Jelly will be showcasing these paintings at an exhibtion in London in April to raise awareness of the devastation that is happening in rainforests worldwide and will also be very generously donating 25% of the exhibition profits to REGUA.

If you are in London in April why not visit the exhibition? Details are given below:

Devour
4th – 7th April 2019 (open 11 am – 6 pm)
gallery@oxo
204 Oxo Tower Wharf
Bargehouse Street
South Bank
London
SE1 9PH

For further details check out Jelly’s website. You can also follow her on Instagram.