Last week, Allan Archer of talk: Wildlife interviewed Lee Dingain of the REGUA UK Team about the work that REGUA is doing to conserve and restore the Atlantic Forest of the upper Guapiaçu valley. The conversation covers topics such as the habitats and biodiversity at REGUA, the threats to the forest and biodiversity, reforestation, wetland restoration, the tapir reintroduction, and how to visit REGUA. To watch the interview visit the talk: Wildlife YouTube channel or click below.
Dear Friends and Supporters of 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!
Nicholas, Raquel, Thomas and the REGUA Team
One of the newest projects at REGUA is the creation of an orchid and bromeliad garden at the lodge. This is a small area to the side of the lodge veranda and was the brainchild of Nicholas Locke, REGUA’s President.
Huge rocks were delivered earlier this year and moved into place. There are also some well weathered orchid posts which have proved very effective in the front garden of the lodge so we are hopeful that they will soon house flourishing exotics. Bromeliads are already in place – all found on fallen branches around the reserve.
Over time more plants will be added, including ferns, and will provide an excellent opportunity for lodge guests to easily see plants that are only too often found high in the canopy.
The garden is sited along the north wall of the lodge ensuring that the plants are in a shady environment. Netting has been added to give further protection. House Wren and Masked Water-Tyrant are already using the area to search for food and a Yellow-headed Caracara has found a good look-out post!
With Christmas, New Year and Carnival this has made for a busy couple of months at REGUA. The summer is also a time when staff take a well-earned break, and have time for visiting family away from the Guapiaçu area.
However, during the “quieter” time of the year, when there are fewer visitors, the priority at REGUA is to ensure that any maintenance or building words required at the Lodge are carried out.
The main task during this Brazilian summer, was to block up the old entrance and bathroom doors from the lobby area into Room 5 and open up a new entrance off the veranda at the front of the lodge, and put a new door through to the bathroom. This makes Rooms 4 & 5 truly ‘en-suite’ and more private with the lobby area becoming part of Room 4.
This noisy and dusty work had to be done in the closed season, and quickly, to ensure minimal disruption to our visitors.
With the work completed and painted, it is hard to believe that there has been any change at all.
Excellent work from the REGUA building team.
In addition, the whole lodge is getting a coat of paint, the humid atmosphere takes its toll on the paintwork, and it is vital to ensure that this is regularly done.
Some changes are also to be made to the pool area with some of the veranda columns being removed to open up the area. Maintenance work to the swimming pool and its surrounding area is also undertaken to ensure it is ready for the busy year ahead.
The humid atmosphere and strong sunlight also badly affect our pool furniture with plastic made brittle and wood a target for both termites and mould, so sourcing replacement tables and chairs is a regular task. Tom Locke, our Lodge Manager is tasked with finding suitable replacements.
The long awaited garden platform has finally been opened, offering the most fantastic views across the wetlands and mountains. The remarkable tree growth around the lodge has gradually blocked off the panoramic views from the garden so we were faced with a choice: to chop some trees down or rise above them. The simple option was quickly forgotten as Nicholas’s plans to create a two-storey roofed viewing platform at the top of the driveway developed. Apart from the magnificent views, it has become a wonderful place to watch the roosting egrets coming and going as well as the flocks of tanagers that are at eye-level. And it isn’t too far away to carry the evening caipirinhas to see the sun go down.
Okay, so we can’t be sure this is actually a world first, but as far as we know it is! Up until now we’ve attracted moths and other insects at night by hanging a mercury vapour bulb beside the pale wall outside the back door of the lodge(with another bulb at the conservation centre). This has been highly success, contributing greatly to our first publication A Guide to the Hawkmoths of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil, however, this was far from ideal and so we have designed and built a purpose built moth wall in the lodge garden.
The wall will be fitted with a mercury vapour bulb and a black mercury vapour bulb on both sides, and includes a shelf for holding collecting pots and a roof to keep the moths dry. In out excitement we even started using the wall before it was finished. So far the wall has attracted a huge number of moths, including many species of hawkmoths, dragonflies, crickets, praying mantis, butterflies and beetles, including a beautiful male Harlequin Beetle Acrocinus longimanus.
We can’t wait to see what the wall attracts in the future. For more on the moth wall click here.
Lodge guests, Julie and John Spence, are currently travelling around South America, having arrived in Brazil after spending time in Africa. They spent three full days with us at REGUA at the end of July spent and had a wonderful time. They are recording their trip on their excellent travel blog. Click on this link to read what they have to say about REGUA.
The year 2010 was a great year for visitor numbers at the lodge. The number of bed-nights was the highest ever at just over 1,500, and we have already received bookings of over 1,000 for this year. As the numbers grow it does put greater pressure on all the staff at REGUA, and therefore we are delighted to announce that one of our previous visitors, Helen Cavilla, has volunteered to help out. Helen will be at REGUA from June to November and amongst other things will be helping with the booking arrangements, ensuring the smooth running of the Lodge, and making sure that all the visitors have an enjoyable stay and leave with a better understanding of the project and its objectives. Nicholas and Raquel will of course continue to be responsible for the full range of activities at REGUA including acting as the principal hosts for visitors, but having a dedicated person looking after the guests during the peak months should help things run evenly more smoothly.
Improvements to the lodge at REGUA are now almost complete, ready for the busiest time of year for visitors. An excellent new bedroom with its own private balcony has been built and two single rooms have been created. The lodge can now accommodate a maximum of 18 people in six double, two twin and two single rooms and all rooms have their own en-suite bathrooms. Three of the double rooms (the premier rooms) are larger and have their own balconies with views across the mountains. Whilst this building work was in progress we also improved the water supply and replaced the solar heating system to ensure a more reliable supply of hot water for the increasing number of visitors. In addition, extra volunteer accommodation has also been built, with the old stable block near the office now converted into two comfortable units for longer-staying volunteers.
As the garden and surrounding area matures, the list of birds and mammals seen around the feeders increases. Recent additions to the more usual tanagers and euphonias have included Rusty-margined Guan, Orange-winged Parrot and up to five Tufted-ear Marmosets. But the feeders continue to attract visitors at night as well with several species of bats at the hummingbird feeders.
Two weeks ago the first Lowland Paca Cuniculus paca was seen feeding on bananas. Lowland Pacas are one of the most favoured quarry for hunters, and so the appearance in the garden is another favourable sign of the reduction in hunting pressure. The provision of manioc roots underneath the feeder encouraged the Lowland Paca to return on the following three nights, so it is hoped that this will be a regular visitor to accompany the evening caiparinhas on the terrace.
British birders Alan Davies and Ruth Miller (on the right of the picture)) are mid way through an attempt to beat the record for the highest number of bird species seen in a year (currently 3,662). As they go they are also raising awareness of the importance of conserving the habitats birds live in, and raising money for conservation. They write:
“Since arriving here, we’ve birded a few of the trails at REGUA with Adilei and a Dutch couple, Anja and Roy, who have a lifelist of over 5,000 species, so we’ve been in very good company. On just one day walking the trails here, we saw 106 species which is testament to the fantastic habitat at REGUA, not just the pristine forest but also the incredibly wildlife-rich restored wetland area. Some of the key species that we added to our list are Black-cheeked Gnateater, Blue Manakin, Shrike-like Cotinga, Spot-billed Toucanet and Masked Duck to name just a few. In only two birding days, we’ve added 61 new species for the year, an incredible result putting our total year list at 2,726. This is such a great place to be based – very comfortable accommodation, plenty of delicious home-made food, very friendly and welcoming staff, excellent trails, and of course, such a great welcome from Nicholas and Raquel who really make you feel at home here. In fact, it’ll be hard to leave.”
To follow Alan and Ruth’s adventures visit www.thebiggesttwitch.com.