The programme began in 2006 with children aged 10-16 from the nearby local villages of Guapiaçu, Santo Amaro, Areal, Matumbo and Estreito. In average, 15 youngsters were picked up and brought to REGUA´s visitor centre once a week where they enjoyed both lessons in the classroom and walks in the wetlands. This programme covered many aspects of REGUA’s mission statement which is the Guapiaçú watershed conservation. The Young Ranger Programme aimed at raising awareness of the Atlantic forest biodiversity and our responsibility and duty as citizens to protect it. Topics such as forests providing ecosystem services, the need to restore degraded areas, the topic of recycling materials, talks on Atlantic Forest fauna and flora were taught to a very enthusiastic audience. Walks around the wetland area were organized enabling outdoor practical activities such as water quality testing and birdwatching. The young rangers also planted trees and helped looking after saplings in REGUA´s tree nursery. These activities contributed to these youngsters becoming more interested in the forest and all its unique biodiversity. Visits to other conservation institutions and museums were organized, probably one of the most exciting outings young rangers looked forward to.
Researchers visiting REGUA were happy to present their projects to the young rangers both in the classroom and out in the field. Young rangers were thrilled to have English lessons taught by volunteers who were willing to share their experiences of the world. The young rangers were also involved in supporting the reintroduction of the Lowland Tapir at REGUA, with visits to the surrounding communities informing on the latest development of this pioneering project.
The Atlantic Forest is one of the hotspots of biodiversity in the globe and it is REGUA´s mission to contribute to conserve the Atlantic Forest in the Guapiaçu watershed together with the local inhabitants empowering them with a sense of pride and belonging. With the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in March 2020 the Young Ranger Programme came to a temporary end. We intend restructuring this programme and hopefully in 2022, we will be recruiting youngsters from Guapiaçú, Matumbo, Estreito, Areal, Morro Frio and Boa Sorte to enrol in this successful education programme.