During the month of May, REGUA’s rangers will be taking part in a training course led by Eduardo Rubião, Phoenix Nature Consulting founder. Rain Forest Trust has kindly donated the funding for this course to take place as a means to encourage REGUA’ s conservation commitment in the Guapiaçu watershed.
Park rangers duties and their relevance to society as a whole, an introduction to the different Brazilian park categories, First Aid principles, walks in the wetlands and in REGUA’s trails including their maintenance and signage are the main training course’s topics. REGUA’s rangers play a vital role in providing a variety of services which guarantee the protection and conservation of REGUA’s forests.
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!
REGUA’s Keeper of the Wild ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira funded by the World Land Trust found this banded lizard on the red trail at around 600 metres above sea level. This lizard has very short legs and if were not for the scales on its body, one could mistake it for a salamander, but salamander are not currently known to be further south than Roraima, Northern Brazil.
We had help to identify this individual from Canada’s naturalist Mike Patrikeev who stated it was Banded Galliwasp, Diploglossus fasciatus of the Anguidae family.
Indeed this example measured close to 30 centimetres in length, and Rildo said that in all his years as a ranger, he had only once seen this species before.
There is a similar Banded Galliwasp (Diploglossus lessonae) endemic to Brazil’s Northeast region, rated “Least Concern” by the IUCN, but I wonder whether it’s Atlantic Rainforest cousin is as common? In fact, we all wonder when we shall see another one.
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.
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.
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 (TapirusTerrestris) 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 (Callithrixjacchus) 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.
Photographs and video captured by World Land Trust funded “Keeper of the Wild” REGUA Ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira, show the “endangered” Muriquis seem to have been less affected by the Yellow Fever bout that impacted the populations of the Howler monkeys earlier this year.
A couple of Howler carcasses were found on a REGUA partner property and the forests have remained silent as a result of the Yellow Fever that spread over South East Brazil. A massive campaign to vaccinate people resulted but it was impossible for doctors to reach the primates in the forests.
Rildo was walking the REGUA Red Trail high, above the waterfall in November and heard barking coming from lofty tree canopies some way away. Following the sound he quickly detected the group of five adults. An adult female Muriqui had her young with her and tried to scare Rildo away, but it was too good an opportunity to miss.
Rildo has heard the Howlers calling over the last month, so it seems we haven’t lost all populations. Fingers crossed that our continued restoration will give all species the room to increase in numbers and with corridors strengthen their populations.
Further studies are needed, but Rildo is delighted to share his rare sightings of the Muriqui with us.
Last weekend REGUA received Thomas Brooks, Head of Research at Geneva for IUCN.
In between seeing birds in the day and waiting for the owls to call in the evening, we discussed the importance of monitoring, something talked about at the recent World Land Trust conference in Thetford UK.
He also asked us about long term sustainability. I told Tom that we believe REGUA will continue to grow and reach to tourism, education and research income streams and that we look at the protection core costs such as Ranger work being covered by Eco-service payments.
As there is increasing evidence that forests produce water, we believe that grants will be available in the near future that provide annual fee given to those proprietors who have forest cover.
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 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!
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 Southern Muriqui (Brachyteles arachnoides) restricted to the Serra do Mar mountains of South East Brazil and classified as “endangered” on the IUCN red data list, used to have a much larger home range.
Sadly forest loss, fragmentation, timber extraction and urban expansion reduced its home range area and today the sighting of this magnificent species is really rare. Some retired hunters have never seen them!
Rildo da Rosa Oliveira is one of REGUA’s team of rangers. Rildo, who is funded by the World Land Trust “Keepers of the Wild” programme, caught these amazing photographs of the species with young of various ages indicating the population is stable and healthy.
Rildo (himself an ex-hunter) is engaged in helping University researchers in their studies. REGUA likes to promote research in the Reserve as a means to maintain a positive presence in the forests which are home to peccaries and pumas, the Solitary Tinamou and the Variegated Antpitta as well as important tree species. Maintaining a low impact and constant presence dispels the hunters and charismatic important species such as the Southern Muriqui become less flighty over time.
These animals are now being more regularly sighted and specialist André Lanna suggests REGUA might be home to the largest population of the Muriqui in South East Brazil, or the world for the matter, as the species is endemic to this region.
REGUA wishes to thank the World Land Trust for their support that permits ranger Rildo to keep a whopping 2500 hectares free for the species and the forests of hunters.
The latest news on our second GGV Project from REGUA’s Vice-President, Raquel Locke:
The much expected rain has finally arrived and the entire landscape has been relieved from a near two-month drought.
The GGV Petrobras funded project aims at restoring a further 60 hectares of degraded land with native trees over a two-year period. (The first project restored 100 hectares).
On average, 1667 trees will be planted per hectare by a team of six Rangers who are very keen to start with their work. An array of 100 native Atlantic Forest tree species will be planted in this area. Tree matrices in REGUA´s forests provide the template for our planting of species.
The young trees are grown in REGUA’s nursery. The seeds are carefully brought down from the forest by our nursery staff. Once in the nursery, seeds are either stored or sown in seed beds according to their characteristics and demands.
It is interesting to note that some tree species need shade all through their time in the nursery, whilst other species need half or full exposure to sunlight. Their pioneer, early secondary, late secondary and climax species characteristics dictate these requirements.
The rainy season heralds the start of our planting season, beginning in October and ending late March.
Staff and tree saplings will be transported to the planting sites which are on average some six kilometres from REGUA´s Conservation Centre.
The much-improved road access to Pai Velho area in Areal vicinity has just been completed which should make the task more efficient.
REGUA received members of the Rio de Janeiro voluntary Forestry Brigade, a grass roots organization made up of professional people from Rio city who are committed to conservation.
The Team arrived on a lovely Saturday morning to enjoy a walk around the wetlands and discuss opportunities to support REGUA’s work. Among the issues discussed during the day were potential for help in combatting hunting and forest fires, first aid courses and community engagement through education programmes, these are all issues which could be used to support landowners across the globe. With REGUA’s successful Ranger Team, Community, Young Ranger and School education programme we were delighted to host the event and share our own experiences.
The Brigade would like to include REGUA as a place where they can stage weekend events including hiking on the forest trails on the prowl for any hunters.
Many members are retired but totally committed to forest protection and very keen to support REGUA activities.
REGUA’s Young Ranger programme has just celebrated its tenth year of activity.
Designed to attract local children enrolled at schools, the programme offers a weekly afternoon visit managed by the REGUA part-time teacher Professor Carlos. The children are aged between 11 and 15 years of age and receive extra tutorials. These usually centre on subjects related to the environment but equally discussing social development.
The youngsters are really interested in the walks in the reserve and the visits to surrounding areas of interest. This year we shall take them to Serra do Órgãos National Park, Três Picos Park and as far away as Rio de Janeiro. It’s precisely on these visits that they start realising that they live in an area of outstanding natural beauty and begin to understand REGUA’s mission in the conservation of the Guapiaçu Valley.
These children grow knowing that REGUA has a non-offensive and long term objective that seeks a long term protection of the forests surrounding their homes and when they leave home and perhaps live in other areas of Brazil, they can take their experience with them, becoming multipliers of principles.