Looking back at 2021! It was a challenging year for everyone, however we feel proud and grateful for all the opportunities and experiences we lived. May we begin this coming year of 2022 smiling and with a positive attitude! We thank all those who support and wish to see REGUA move forward!
January 31st, “Private Reserve for the Patrimony of Nature”.
(RPPN Portuguese acronym) Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest is basically tropical forest that stretches 20 degrees of latitude hugging South America’s continental rim. From seashore and beach vegetation to lofty mountain peaks, this biome is a mixture of endless habitats with unique and rich biodiversity that contributes to one of the highest rates of endemism on the planet. However, it is also the region of historical occupation and this has made this region a global conservation “hotspot”, and it needs all the help it can get!
Três Picos State Park and adjacent protected areas form the largest remnant of Atlantic Forest in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It is in this area that the NGO Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) is located. REGUA’s mission is the protection of the Guapiaçu catchment and one effective tool for long term conservation is the creation of “Private Reserve for the Patrimony of Nature”, or simply “RPPN” of a property’s forested area. REGUA applies to the RJ State environmental agency INEA, requesting areas be officially registered as RPPN.
REGUA has established 5 RPPNs adjacent to the Park’s perimeter, totaling 700 hectares and REGUA wants more!. Activities such as environmental education, scientific research and visitation can occur with the support of REGUA´s staff.
RPPN offers protection for biodiversity and defines the land use of areas outside existing parks, both important aspects for future regional planning. Any farmer with forests in their property can effectively protect them and we hope that more land owners rally to having a RPPN!
Today we celebrate the “RPPN” day and we wish all the success to the owners and congratulate the authorities INEA and ICMBIO for actively participating and supporting this process.
REGUA was very lucky to host the global Conservation Leadership Programme in 2019.
This course is result of a partnership between three renowned international conservation organizations, made up of BirdLife International, Fauna & Flora International (FFI), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The Programme started in 1985 and the aim is to help emerging conservation leaders to grow professionally through support, advice and awards.
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.
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.
One of our UK supporters recently sent me a link that brought attention to this article produced on the Nature Research organisation website. The paper was written by four British experts who, in their view, state that carbon storage can only be long term effectively reached through planting native forests of mixed species.
They studied the results of the BONN challenge (IUCN and German Government), planting 20 million trees to combat climate change, and noted that efforts have been concentrated in three core activities; single species timber forestry, area abandonment and agroforestry. Their conclusion is that the net effect of these actions is not the same as planting forests of mixed species. The authors conclude existing forest protection, ecoservice payments and investments in natural forest restoration for biodiversity are the only long term solutions to store carbon effectively and combat climate change.
Our friend Robin Chazdon (who has visited REGUA a couple of times) and other eminent experts recently published a paper on the same website, titled “Forests, when natural regeneration is unrealistic” in response to this article and their view that single species forestry and agroforestry cannot be dismissed as a means to reach to meet the global temperature reduction targets. They call for innovative practices and policies to reach to long term solutions and draw attention to the socio-economic demands and benefits, that old interface of community and our natural world.
This is yet more evidence, to encourage us to continue in our goal to protect, regenerate and restore the forests in our part of the Atlantic forest and to work with local communities, encouraging others to join in this vital project.
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.
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!
It’s amazing how things can change in a year. It’s just over a year since I was last at REGUA, and so much has happened.
Most noticeable to the lodge visitor is the tapir release project where five Lowland or Brazilian Tapir (Tapirus Terrestris) have been released at the nearby wetlands, they often make the short trip up to the lodge garden. It is surreal to see guests at night photographing moths at the moth wall, with a rather large mammal wandering past on its evening patrol, both seemingly unaware of the other.
The Tapir have managed to get food off the garden feeding stations so a suspended higher-level table has now been made. The Common Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) were a little perplexed initially but soon mastered the art of a trapeze-style dash across the wires. Some continue the more traditional approach – head first down a nearby tree.
The lodge orchid garden continues to develop, and with ferns and bromeliads amongst the rocks it makes a breeding area for house wren and feeding area for hummingbirds, the lantana and milkweed are doing well, again both favourites with the hummingbirds.
Other changes may not directly affect our lodge guests but they are making a huge difference to local visitors, including school visits, with a new car park by the conservation centre – hopefully no more buses getting stuck in the mud! A new accessible trail has been created to Amanda’s hide, bringing opportunities where previously it would have been impossible for some people to enjoy the delights of the wetlands.
On the project itself, we reached the milestone figure of 500,000 trees planted and continue to plant – over 69,000 trees were planted in the 2017/18 planting season alone, thanks to the generous donations from many of our supporters.
Wouldn’t one million trees planted be a great figure to reach in the future!
With more key land areas coming under REGUA’s care, increased wildlife corridors are being protected and created in the Guapiaçu catchment area. This will extend the range for many species of wildlife and enable them to strengthen in population, increase genetic diversity and increase the overall biodiversity of the valley.
Our Rangers continue to patrol the forest, adding security and monitoring the wildlife, whilst there has been a huge reduction in hunting in the area since the project began, we cannot stop our vigilance even though there is very little evidence of hunting seen or heard now.
If you would like to support REGUA’s work, full details on how to make a donation are available from our “donate” page here.
If you would like to volunteer, please see our link here for full details.
Our young ranger project, now in its 13th year, continues to flourish under the ever-present influence of Prof. Carlos. From nearby schools, the youngsters are collected once a week and brought to the reserve.
These young people are given the opportunity to experience life in the forest with walks and activities which bring them into a new environment. Although the majority of the subjects raised are based on environmental and conservation issues, this can follow a very wide area of experiences as they are made aware of the human responsibility and duty as a citizen, to nature and their community as they grown up.
Indoor lessons on various topics including the biodiversity of the Mata Atlântica, how forests help provide clean water and the importance of recycling. Walks around the wetland area, enable practical activities, such as water quality testing, clearing the paths of fallen branches and repainting the distance markers to be carried out. Sometimes they help in the tree nursery or plant out saplings. These practical activities ensure that these young people become engaged with the forest and feel comfortable there.
Researchers visiting REGUA are happy to discuss their projects – with snakes and bats being the two most popular talks so far. The children are also involved in the education programme supporting the introduction of Lowland Tapir on the reserve. This has encompassed our local communities and reinforces the importance of improving and protecting the Guapiaçu Valley.
With so many orchid species to be found in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest, REGUA is building an Orchid House. This has been made possible with the generous support of the San Diego Orchid Society and Peter Tobias. Our aim is to show visitors some of nature’s best treasures.
There are over 1,000 orchid species to be found in the Serra dos Órgãos region, a reflection of privileged growing conditions, such as the cloud forest along its mountain ridgeline.
Orchids range in size, colour and perfume with the majority being arboreal but there are terrestrial species as well. David Miller and Helmut Seehawer were the first to look closely at orchids of this region and between them wrote the definitive book on the species found here. Sadly orchids are commonly known as “parasites” for people associate their living style as totally dependent on hosts for their survival. The REGUA orchid Cathedral is a miniature shaded garden which will feature examples of the many native orchids and give us the opportunity to explain their secrets to REGUA’s visitors. It will allow us to show visitors that orchids are very important and part of the ecosystem and indicate the forests are in a good state of health and biodiversity.
Once the Orchid Cathedral is complete, we shall invite Rio’s Orchid Society to help us in the fun part, that of arranging the specimens to make most of their beauty. We hope our visitors will leave understanding more about these highly evolved plants which are epiphytic and not parasitic, and appreciate that they are the jewels of the forests.
For more information on the book Serra does Órgãos: Its History and its Orchids, follow this link.
Having children visit is what keeps REGUA going, for they are the ones that one day will inherit the responsibility of caring for this World.
The Rio de Janeiro Miraflores bilingual school made their 7thannual visit this year, expressing their keenness to learn about Nature and helping to plant native trees.
Miraflores’ School’s director Luiz makes sure that this event is given the right importance for he sees in this excursion, an activity that awakens the pupils to environmental responsibility. This year REGUA received 65 children between the age of 6 and 7, divided them into smaller groups to walk them around the reserve showing flora and fauna, from insects to reptiles and mammals to the trees growing. Being a bilingual school they demand the talking in English enjoyed by all. They visit the nursery, fill the individual plant bags, plant seeds and transfer seedlings to understand what is involved in the entire process to start a forest.
Their walk shows that forests can be started and provide habitat for a multitude of species. They feel responsible and connected, and learn that restoration is only about effort.
The school has been visiting annually since 2011 and I always remind them that they are the reason why we want to continue planting trees. It is a true privilege too offers these children the opportunity of sharing this unique experience here at REGUA.
Thank you Luiz for providing the opportunity to share our work with you; your staff and your children.
Gabriela Viana is a dedicated conservationist who has helped project REGUA with her knowledge, experience and dedication. Gabriela lives in the municipality of Cachoeiras de Macacu just 15 miles away from REGUA, and her professional life led her to work at the Golden Lion Tamarin project, ITPA and IBIO, all successful conservation organizations in Rio de Janeiro State.
Gabriela helped REGUA develop its Agenda 21 action plan in 2005, and she always wanted to work and further conservation efforts in this municipality. When Petrobras signalled its interest to fund a project, Gabriella came to our rescue and helped write a proposal, but after two unsuccessful attempts we were less keen to submit a third.
With much insistence Gabriela then suggested we focus our expertise on compounding our education and reforestation programmes, and she prepared a project based on those two lines. We were ecstatic that out of 600 projects submitted, REGUA was approved and the overall results were considered excellent by Petrobras, leading to an invitation to submit a sequel last year.
REGUA then introduced an important component along with education and restoration; that of monitoring water quality engaging local school children. Not only was this perceived as important by Petrobras, but it sparked off a huge awareness by the local population of the importance of water quality for its towns. This led to a photographic competition that resulted in further promotion of the project.
Gabriela is the personification of dedication, quality and perseverance and she was recently head-hunted by WWF to direct their “threatened” species programme. Gabriela helped put REGUA on the map and believed in the capability of her team. She taught us quality and style in the quest for project results that have shaped REGUA into a major player in the local Conservation world of Rio de Janeiro.
A big thank-you Gabriela for the time you have dedicated to REGUA.
Last week REGUA received Igor Camacho in the company of Ian Thompson, Conservation director for The Nature Conservancy, Brazil to successfully see the Shrike-like Cotinga amongst many local specialities.
Ian’s stay provided us with the opportunity to discuss our own objectives and plans. We understand that most International agencies prefer providing funds to establish parks in Partner countries as opposed to supporting local NGOs buying land.
The former takes a fraction of the cost but on the other hand, NGOs understand the importance of engaging at local level, with their local communities, providing employment and raising awareness, all as a result of their own personal commitment.
Though decreeing parks is an important step taken by Governments, often those areas become “paper parks” allowing occupation, hunting and farming to continue. Nature’s protection can be hard to enforce in these situations and NGOS are squeezed out of their stewardship role.
South East Brazil’s most successful Young Ranger course has celebrated its 12th anniversary.
It is aimed at the younger segment of our local communities and offers young children a glimpse into our own vision of the world, that of conservation. We want to show them why we need to protect Nature here and how we do so.
If they can understand that they live in one of the most bio-diverse Hotspots in the globe and that REGUA wants to share this with them, then we have helped instil the concept of responsibility. It has been a brilliant 12 years with super results and it’s a programme that all sister conservation projects could offer.
P.S. I well remember a group of friends visiting the Reserve in May 2006, agreeing to help with your new Educational project. They took telescopes down to the Wetland to meet our first group of Young Rangers. The children had never really had the opportunity to look at birds and the excitement could be heard back at the lodge as they looked at different species and delighted in trying to understand their English names. The current Young Rangers are studying and monitoring the quality of the water in the wetlands, are keen to explore the forests in the area and understand far more about the importance of protecting the area they live in. They still love to practice their English too!
The Tapir re-introduction team comes to Regua on a weekly basis to check on the well-being of the Tapirs and to talk to community neighbours about this project.
The Young Rangers were thrilled to hear from Joana the Education Officer from the Tapir Reintroduction programme, that the Tapirs are becoming more independent from the food provided for them and that they are moving further away from the release-pen as each day goes by.
Prof. Carlos and the young rangers will be visiting the local villages of Guapiaçú, Santo Amaro, Areal, Matumbo and Estreito to inform the communities on the positive development of this pioneering project.
A windy and cloudy Saturday full of activities as the Education Officers of the Guapiaçu Grande Vida team held a student training course.
They are being taught to use the water-monitoring kit which they will use in the Macacu and Guapiaçu rivers. Arriving in the morning for breakfast they left after lunch with a certificate acknowledging they had completed this twenty hour course in three sessions.
The syllabus included topics such as river basin management, mapping, environmental education and it’s relevance as a tool for conservation, use of trails and open public areas with an educational approach, water cycle and water sampling for physical and chemical analysis.
Another successful day with enthusiastic students and tutors.
Guapiaçu Grande Vida (GGV) Petrobrás funded project is back at REGUA!
On September 11th the GGV team gathered at REGUA to start the work which will be carried out during the next two years.
With the restoration of a further 60 hectares of degraded land and the monitoring of water quality in the Guapiaçú and Macacu rivers (at six fixed points in both rivers upstream and downstream), the GGV project aims at contributing to the safeguarding of a healthy forest ecosystem and fresh water availability for human consumption.
The innovation of the GGV second phase is the inclusion of Cachoeiras de Macacu County Council as a formal partner with the assignment of a teacher and a biologist to assist the GGV Environmental Education staff.
The GGV official launch took place on September 21st at the County Council headquarters in Cachoeiras de Macacu town. Petrobras representatives, local authorities including the Council´s Mayor and civil society representatives attended the ceremony.
The GGV monitoring of 100 hectares planted in 2013 will be included as part of the forest restoration programme. A training course for this purpose will be held for the tree-planting staff at REGUA’s Conservation Centre. Growth rates and biomass are to be measured by the students.
The GGV Environmental Education programme based on the monitoring of water quality in the Guapiaçú and Macacu rivers will select 40 students from one County Council run school and one State run school in Cachoeiras de Macacu town. The selected group of students are currently undertaking their first and second year of secondary school level education. The students will be selected according to their grades and their interest to take part in this innovative water quality monitoring of the Guapiaçú and Macacu rivers. The GGV Environmental Education team will use rented vehicles to transport the students from their schools to the water monitoring sites.
The Environmental Education programme will also organize a teacher training course and a training course for nature guides. These two courses envision the use of the wetland trails maximising their educational potential for school and group visits.
SavingSpecies is a US based charity led by Stuart Pimm and Clinton Jenkins. These are the finest conservation biologists, internationally respected for championing the environment. Stuart and Clinton visited together with a potential donor who may help us acquire an important piece of land to integrate REGUA.
Stuart and Clinton were also visited by UERJ ornithologist Maria Alice Alves who had helped them predict the location of the Grey-winged Cotinga on the mountain tops close by. They also had a chance to hear the conservation status of the Patagonian Hooded Grebe as explained by volunteers Bob and Gaitlin from the US.
The evening conversations flowed and subjects ranged from project development to vision building and funding capacity.
We need “hands-on” locally run environmental projects protecting threatened species and REGUA is all about habitat protection and has been able to include its local communities in the responsibility of the needed conservation work. There is hope!
On August 24th, Regua hosted the Inaugural RPPN(*) or “Reserva Particular do Patrimônio Natural” Scientific Seminar in Rio de Janeiro state.
INEA – Rio de Janeiro State Environmental Agency – encourages land owners to create their own private reserves which are officially recognized by the state government. RPPN status allows no direct use of the land but allows activities such as environmental education, sustainable tourism and scientific research to be carried out. Much of REGUA’s land has been granted RPPN status and three new areas were finalised last August.
There were over 100 participants attending the event that started in the morning and continued until the evening.
Studies on forest ecology, flora and fauna inventories were presented to a very interested audience.
Land owners, university professors, undergraduates, post graduates, state and municipal authorities enjoyed this seminar which enriched everyone´s knowledge on the Atlantic Forest.
*The nearest English translation would be Private Natural Heritage Reserve
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”
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.