With the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions on travel, as with so many places around the world, REGUA tourism levels have collapsed.
Rainforest Trust, who have helped to raise funds for us over the years, came to our aid and helped us support Adilei, REGUA’s bird guide until guests can return.
With this hiatus in his usual work Adilei has been able to do many regular walks around the reserve as well as maintaining the trails. On a recent survey of the wetlands, Adilei spotted a female Masked Duck in the middle of one of the wetland lakes. He played the call and to his surprise the bird flew toward him and landed a few metres away. The bird called with a series of short high-pitched calls in a falling crescendo.
Masked Duck is associated with wetlands which have rafts of water plants on the surface. They use these plants as camouflage and hide out of sight. As it is small duck and sits rather low in the water it can be very hard to find. Adilei’s photograph actually shows the bird in relatively clear water, maybe it was reassured by the call and Adilei’s calm, quiet enjoyment.
REGUA’s wetlands have always had this species and many guests have seen it here, however as the wetlands have matured and with the growth of the planted trees, and increased weed growth, sightings have reduced and they have become increasingly hard to see.
A male was seen last year and with this latest sighting, hopefully we will be able to see more of them in the future.
Birding at REGUA is not so easy and demands much attention and physical resistance from the birder. Trekking up slopes of what remains of the Atlantic Rainforest in a hot climate and with birds that are naturally shy, makes for hard birding conditions. The forest litter that protects the soil and retains soil moisture makes for noisy crunchy walks, giving away one’s presence in the attempt to catch a glimpse of any bird. One of the toughest birds to see is the Solitary Tinamou, (Tinamus solitarius), a large terrestrial bird that was historically much persecuted for Sunday meals. The Solitary Tinamou is an Atlantic Rainforest endemic feeding mostly on insects and toady it is labelled “Near” threatened by the IUCN red data list.
Though hunting has significantly reduced at REGUA, on any forest walk, we can hear these birds call very occasionally, though to see one is another matter. It is probably easier to find a ground nest with a couple of emerald green eggs than the birds themselves.
Adilei recounted his joy at hearing an adult call on one of his walks and when trying to stalk it found only a young chick attempting to merge in with the leaves. Naturally well camouflaged, it went into the brush to make it hard to catch a crisp image. This was a joyous moment for Adilei, as one so rarely sees these birds in the wild. A good sign that REGUA efforts in protection and conservation is contributing to increase their numbers.
Aguas Compridas is an area of the reserve that we reforested with World Land Trust funding back in 2012. Just last week our bird guide Adilei, heard the call of Bertoni’s Antbird Drymophila rubricollis in this area. Bertoni’s Antbird is an Atlantic Forest Endemic and normally associated with higher altitudes, between 900 and 2000 metres above sea level. As this piece of land is at around 95 metres above sea level, Adilei was surprised to hear the species there.
At around 08:00, Adilei left his house as usual with his trusty binoculars. He heard the call and eventually found the bird in this small piece of secondary forest scrub. Only the single male bird was seen and it was singing its heart out, sadly without a reply. Was it simply lost, or maybe calling to a female? Maybe it had been forced low down as it is unusually cold at the moment, even for this, our winter season.
It will be interesting to see if it is heard again. Unfortunately Adilei did not have his camera with him on this occasion, so here’s a photograph of a different individual I took recently, to highlight how stunning this bird is.
We bring you a follow up of the news of the birth of Rio de Janeiro’s first wild Lowland Tapir Tapirus terrestris birth for over a century, at REGUA.
The story kicks off in 2016 when Professor Fernando Fernandez of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) arrived at REGUA with a plan of releasing 10 pairs of Lowland (or Brazilian) Tapirs at REGUA over 3-4 years, a species that has been extinct for over 100 years in Rio de Janeiro state, (a physical territory equivalent to the country of Costa Rica). The forests that Roger Wilson of the World Land Trust had exhorted us to plant in 2005, were at a stage that they represented the perfect gateway to the forested mountains of the Três Picos State Park, the third largest remaining fragment of Atlantic Forest in the world. After much time convincing the Park authorities that this was a great idea to improve forest quality through seed dispersal, the go ahead was granted.
REGUA built two huge fenced pens in the forest by the wetlands to receive three Lowland Tapirs raised in a captive breeding centre in Minas Gerais. Accompanying Eva was her adolescent calf, Flokinho, and partner Adão, names chosen by the local community in late 2017. Sadly Adão succumbed to pneumonia, but soon afterwards the Projeto Refauna team brought another three, Jupiter, Valente and Flora, from another breeding centre in Paraná. Jupiter is a fitting name, being the God of sky and thunder in Roman mythology, as Jupiter spoon chased off Flora’s calf Flokinho, who is now living in the lower part of the Guapiaçu valley. Time passed as the three weaned off their supplementary diet of fruit and lo and behold 13 months later we have our very first tapir calf!
The Projeto Refauna team managed the first glimpses through a camera trap. Then REGUA bird guide, Adilei Carvalho da Cunha, installed two camera traps, but found the card in one was faulty and the other trap captured no video of any tapir (though a surprising amount of recordings of agouti paca, common marmoset, common opossums and the smaller gray four eyed opossum). Adilei replaced the dud card and later successfully returned with these two videos. Both show a very healthy individual (still without a name) which we expect to be at least three months of age. Mum is living by some fields and plantations, not in deep forest, and has been seen walking a trail that goes to the river many times of the day.
This is not only the very first Lowland Tapir born at the Guapiaçu Ecological Reserve, but also the first born out of captivity in Rio de Janeiro state for over a hundred years. We have to thank Projeto Refauna, the tapir captive breeders and of course the Três Picos State Park authorities, who will certainly be seeing the tapirs roaming before long in this immense green area.
One of the amphibians that we love to show guests that visit REGUA are the smooth horned frogs, Proceratophrys boiei that are often found within leaf litter along the forest trails. They sit waiting for passing prey, or hunt for spiders, beetles and other insects, with their wide mouth they can take relatively large prey and have been known to eat small frogs.
They remain stationary and move very slowly if found and picked up. This is an Atlantic rainforest endemic species. Listed as “Least Concern” by the IUCN in view of its wide distribution along the range of the biomes, only 7% remains of the forest which provides its home. Current research in our forests indicates that its population is unlikely to be declining, and with the restoration we are carrying out, we hope this situation continues as we increase the suitable habitat.
The smooth horned frog spawns in temporary slow-flowing water within the forest or on the forest edge. This species is featured on the World Land Trust site and after all these years I would say it is one of my favourite frogs of our 72 species list.
REGUA recently hosted Pieter van Midwoud, project director at Ecosia and their partner Joaquim Freitas of the “Atlantic Rainforest Pact”. They visited as they have funded REGUA’s restoration programme and wanted to see the developments.
Ecosia is a global search engine platform now centred in Switzerland and part of its profits are directed to tropical tree planting around the Globe.
Ecosia offers a small top-up grant to existing projects and in this way reached to part-funding 60 million trees by June 2019, today one of the greatest contributors to restoration efforts in the world.
Last November, Joaquim brought Pieter to see REGUA’s contribution over the last three years and was totally bowled over by the results. We hope that Ecosia can continue to help us for their grant is very important to fuel our efforts.
Almost exactly twenty years ago, renowned UK birders Guy Kirwan, Rodd McCann, Rob Williams and Canadian bird artist David Beadle visited REGUA, returning a year later in the company of the late Argentine birder Juan Mazar Barnett. Staying at the modest REGUA research accomodation, they had come to find the Rio de Janeiro AntwrenMyrmutherula fluminense, following the sighting by Stephen Knapp which had electrified the birding world and put REGUA on the international map. The birders all saw the bird in a secondary forest at 100m elevation and I even asked David if he could draw us a picture of this extraordinary bird.
The Rio de Janeiro Antwren is a monotypic species that lies in Professor Luis Gonzaga’s collection at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). During Professor Gonzaga’s doctorate field work in 1982 he found and collected a common antwren in one of his mist nets in the lowland forest near Magé, some 30 miles away from REGUA as the crow flies. Upon further study he realized that it was not the White-flanked Antwren Myrmutherula axilaris and named it Myrmutherula fluminense.
Over the years, birders came to REGUA to try to see not only this bird, but also other species of Atlantic Forest birds, and the REGUA organization grew to become the respected conservation project it is today. Birders and naturalists from around the globe visit REGUA and stay at our lodge. The results of our habitat protection, partly funded by visitation to REGUA, have been inspirational, but the Rio de Janeiro Antwren was never seen again, suggesting that it may well have been the White-flanked Antwren or even a possible hybrid.
Brazilian ornithologist Fabio Olmos visited and mist-netted in exactly the same area six years later and caught an immature White-flanked Antwren offering doubts as to the real identity of that mysterious bird that David and friends saw.
Professor Gonzaga kept the bird for over 15 years until it was given the ultimate test, the DNA test, and what did he find? The results showed that the bird was completely different from the Myrmutherula genus. Now he has a single bird of a new unnamed genus, probably the rarest bird in Brazil!
On the search now are Brazilian ornithologists Luciano Lima and Rafael Bessa, Rafael famous for rediscovering the Blue-eyed Ground-DoveColumbina cyanopis, missing for over 75 years. They are involved in a field project sponsored by American Birding Conservancy to search the lowland forests for the mysterious bird. Could others lurk out there in similar secondary forest? Luciano and Rafael have completed their fieldwork and have some ideas, but we are left with doubts. However, it was chance to tell them the story of the bird that put REGUA on the map, that brought generous donors to help establish this lowland reserve and all its programmes in conservation of the Atlantic Forest. There are still many small patches of forest out there so perhaps we have not heard the last of this enigmatic bird!
Photographic registers are always great and can often give one a shock when seeing how fast forests, when properly cultivated, can spring back into life. An area of grassland acquired from the Lemgruber family represented an important forest corridor to areas both to sides. The World Land Trust rushed to our support and helped fund this tree planting which has resulted in this extraordinary transformation. This forest is only 24 months growth!!
Over 150 species were planted in the green grasslands in March 2018 and carefully tended. The results are dramatic!
We are very grateful to the REGUA field team who have put the effort and the WLT team who funded us. The results are worth every effort and today we have birds and mammals associated with secondary forest cover using this young forest. Thank you all for your support in providing area for these trees, it’s another 7 hectares that will turn into RPPN shortly and be protected for ever. This is the very essence of REGUA’s work here in the Atlantic rainforest, a global hotspot, in its aim of
The delegates were conservationists engaged in projects in their home country and were selected to share in this professional course where the main objective lies in meeting other like-minded leaders and share in a common theme. This results in inspiration, fortitude, persistence and networking with the programme’s central theme being the conservation of the environment, be it species or habitat.
Stuart Paterson and Christina Imrich organized the event flawlessly and the 19 participants from varied countries across the world enjoyed a most productive time at REGUA. Aside from the classroom and field work over the week at REGUA, the group participated in field trips that included the Mangroves close by and of course the city of Rio de Janeiro.
The young leaders embody the standards that the CLP leaders wish and return to their host countries invigorated and keen on their own personal projects.
This is brilliant for us at REGUA for we get a chance to show what we do and likewise get a personal boost from meeting these talented individuals.
After a many years of receiving researchers and volunteers from around the world, REGUA’s reputation continues to grow.
Many have visited over the years to help and support REGUA by contributing with their skills, this long-standing key activity has attracted the American Earthwatch Institute.
With a proposal to examine in detail ecosystem services and the restoration of the Atlantic rainforest, Dr Manuel Muanis from Rio Federal University has developed a programme to attract conservation and pro-active Earthwatch volunteers.
Dr Manuel’s plan included locating camera traps to photograph mammal movement in different stages of REGUA’s planted forest and compare this with the natural regenerating forest. The aim is to compare the populations of these animals in both forest types, to understand whether the net benefits in ecosystem services and functions are comparable.
“Mammals act as a regulator for a variety of interactions between a large diversity of species, so the health of mammal populations can be used as an indicator of overall ecosystem health. Understanding to what extent vegetation recovery also restores mammal diversity will provide data about the long-term health and sustainability of these reforested areas.”
“This study will directly contribute to the management plan of REGUA. As we work towards stewarding and restoring the world’s forests, information about how to best manage that process and restore ecosystem functions is critical.”
The team is really committed and enthusiastic, and although January is the hottest time of the year for us, everyone worked extremely hard.
The results are meaningful and Earthwatch will send volunteers throughout the year to provide data that can provide us with a better understanding of forest restoration.
Thank you Earthwatch team for coming and staying at REGUA and helping us.
This is brilliant work and we look forward to learning more as your research develops!
The benefit of Ultra Violet (UV) exposure for animals is widely recognised but little studied. It is understood to have a wide range of health benefits for skin, hair, bone development and even animal fertility. Most available data on UV exposure is based on reptiles studied in Australia. Obviously, animals in their natural surroundings have a higher UV exposure than can be provided in temperate zoo collections, so how do we look at the issue?
With that question in mind, Steve Goodwin and Priscilla Mills from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) London Zoo, came to REGUA and spent two weeks measuring the UVI (ultraviolet Index) on the Common Marmoset (Callithrix Jacchus) in the wild.
They measured daytime temperatures, light levels and humidity, to build a profile of what these animals may be exposed to throughout the day.
Through their careful and constant fieldwork, Steve and Priscilla observe for how long and what level of UV these marmosets are exposed to, and hopefully this will help build a better picture of what these animals need to remain healthy.
Steve and Priscilla can then extrapolate the information and compare it to the levels offered in captivity and gain an insight into their behaviour back at the Zoo. If this data proves to be successful, than they wish to use it for other mammal species in captivity.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Although we continue to find new birds on the reserve, it isn’t actually that easy, so the King Vulture espied by Biologist Calel Passarelles in a new area of tree planting near our Onofre Cunha forest was especially thrilling.
Raquel Locke (REGUA’s Vice-President) remembers seeing several in the same area over twenty years ago. Two months ago, Marco Wood-Bonelli photographed one soaring over the new area of trees planted. Marco is finalizing his Masters Degree at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens Institute on the use of individual trees and artificial bamboo perches by birds.
He has already had identified 70 species that regularly use trees in open areas between forest fragments and he was keen to evaluate the use of these ‘island trees’ as stepping stones between forested fragments. His field visits terminated with the wonderful sight of the King Vulture perched on a Cecropia tree.
We hope this is an indication of more sightings to come.
Professors Marcelo Marinho and Tim Moulton returned to REGUA with their 3rd year Biological sciences at the RJ State University. Their field of interest is “Limnology and Oceanograph”, and they come to REGUA to study the biological, chemical, and physical features of lakes and other bodies of fresh water.
Every wetland is continually evolving and changing. Having followed the progress of REGUA’s wetlands since 2005, Professor Tim can state with authority that each of the three wetlands is vastly different from each other. The central wetland, created in 2005, is the healthiest with a small stream passing through; the second wetland lying below the lodge garden, created in 2007, receives a small amount of water that is diverted to maintain its level, and the wetland nearest the Conservation Centre, created in 2010, has water emerging from sources below the surface but offering a constant flow.
The central wetland is full of underwater plants/macrophytes and its water is almost transparent. The second has water seeping under the walls and does not overflow. As a consequence it has a greenish appearance, covered by “watermeal” (Wolfia sp), most appreciated by waterfowl, includingthe Masked Duck, a rare visitor. The 2010 wetland is occasionally covered by orange Euglenoid algae. As a scientist Tim is really perplexed and is coming up with many questions. Have the algae have choked out the macrophytes or vice versa? Have fish stirred up the bottom? Is the wetland turning eutrophic that might lead to the death of its fish?
Professors Marcelo and Tim are naturally very excited to learn more and have directed their students to study elements of the wetlands to reach the heart of the matter. This is a prime example of the benefits to both student and REGUA; whilst students gain experience, REGUA gains from the ongoing research that students are carrying out.
We are delighted to receive many students from diverse Universities and offer them such a wonderful outdoor laboratory. This offers us the opportunity to talk and explain what REGUA’s ambitions are and therefore provoke and reach to young thinkers who will help to shape society in the future.
These visitors will certainly be touched by the efforts and development of this project and take this model elsewhere.
The REGUA orchid cathedral is receiving its 80% sun filter netting which will reduce the temperature significantly.
Obviously orchids are found across the entire gradient, from sea level to 2000m above sea level and the challenge is to provide an ambience that responds to their climatic demands.
We have received sound advice with regard to the structure of the building, how to provide the best environment for the specimens and most importantly, the ongoing management of the orchids. Rosário Braga (a biologist and former head of OrquidaRio, the RJ orchid club) and Helmut Seehawer, a long-standing friend of REGUA and orchid expert have been invaluable in their support.
We have been warned that watering is not a simple task, and we aim to have a semi-automatic sprinkler system to support the environment of the Cathedral. As Helmut Seehawer advised, air movement is essential and we are using wire netting on the lower section to allow for wind movement. Helmut has also suggested we use as much natural forest compost as possible.
By the end of the year, the REGUA orchid cathedral will be open to the public, an addition to the existing trail network revealing the jewels of the forest.
We are very pleased to announce that the formal documents including Geo-referenced maps have been handed to the INEA (RJ State Institute of the Environment) for validation.
The papers were presented as part of the process to guarantee the long term protection for REGUA’s forests and biodiversity.
REGUA already has three RPPN’s areas totalling 367 hectares and these two extra reserve parcels will more than double the area under this permanent protection. Short of giving the land to make a National Park, Private Reserve (RPPN) status is the best tool for long term conservation, and offers donors the possibility of acquiring land and guaranteeing its permanent protection.
Under full protection status, only activities in research, tourism and education are permitted. The effect in planning and transparency raises REGUA’s profile and the ambition to become the largest RPPN owner in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
One of the conditions to create RPPN is that the property is fully forested, and REGUA’s reforestation programme is currently completing two projects that will enable REGUA to become the second largest RPPN owner in the state by next year.
On 27th October each year, Rio de Janeiro Bird Club gathered at REGUA for the annual event at REGUA. The previous day many birders visited the Três Picos Park and then arrived to stay overnight at REGUA and explore the Reserve on the following day.
The event was a real success with 76 birders participating and 242 bird species seen. REGUA took birders on the green trail to see the Shrike-like Cotinga and to Waldenoor to see the Long-tailed Potoo, both enigmatic birds that can be tough to see anywhere else.
The event raises awareness and offers an opportunity for REGUA to show its conservation efforts and biodiversity protection.
We already look forward to welcoming the club at next years event!
The Birdfair was in full swing this time last week, and REGUA had an amazing time. Many friends came along to find out the latest news of the project and we kept in touch here in Brazil via messages and photographs. Our UK team received vital help over the weekend, so a big REGUA “thank you” to Alan, Sue, Stuart, Ken, Tracy and Ian, who gave their time.
Everyone who visited our stand showing continued interest and support in the project really makes a difference and keeps us pushing forward with new impetus to protect and restore more land.
Without our amazing team of workers, volunteers, visitors, donors and support from so many people across the globe we would not have been able to achieve so much in so short a time. You are all playing a vital role in continuing to build the reputation and success of REGUA.
REGUA is delighted to offer its premises to a number of Universities in Rio de Janeiro.
The most recent group, Zoology 2019, arrived from Rio de Janeiro Federal University. These students, starting their first term, have come to REGUA for their four day field course.
REGUA offers full board accommodation and the Reserve gains a chance to receive these young minds and an opportunity to explain the purposes of the project. The students gain a safe place to be introduced to the world of science.
A perfect match and we trust these youngsters will take their skills and remember their time here and contribute to conservation in some way in their professional lives in the future.