Rainforest Trust CEO Joins Council for Amphibian Protection

Paul 1         Dr. Salaman with Golden Poison Frog
Paul 2Golden Poison Frog
Paul 3Williams bright-eyed frog © Miguel Vences

On December 17, 2013, Rainforest Trust CEO, Dr. Paul Salaman, joined the Amphibian Survival Alliance’s (ASA) Global Council. The ASA, formed in 2009, is the world’s largest partnership for amphibian conservation and was established in response to the decline of frogs, salamanders and caecilians worldwide. Salaman will join the ranks of 20 world-renowned amphibian experts, both scientists and conservationists, which comprise the Global Council. The Council meets annually and is responsible for developing strategy and prioritizing programmatic actions for the ASA.

“Being elected to the Global Council is a wonderful honor. It’s also a great opportunity to raise public awareness about the state of amphibians, encourage others to act, and share knowledge and experience with leaders in the field. By closely coordinating our efforts with the ASA, we can improve amphibian conservation, which is vitally important for the future survival of many species,” said Salaman.

Salaman was elected to the Global Council as a result of his leading role in amphibian conservation, which dates back to 2003. At that time, he coordinated the Global Amphibian Assessment’s Tropical Andes Workshop, which included the participation of Conservation International (CI), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and 30 regional experts. Since then, Salaman has led Rainforest Trust in the establishment of several critical reserves specifically designed to protect amphibians, including the Golden Poison Dart Frog Reserve in Colombia and the Sierra Caral Reserve in Guatemala. Rainforest Trust has also protected areas in El Dorado, Colombia; Antisanilla, Ecuador; and Serra Bonita, Brazil that play a significant role in the survival of threatened amphibians.

“Endangered amphibians can survive in small watersheds, and Rainforest Trust has had great success throughout the tropics in protecting these areas through land acquisition. Saving these strongholds, which are sometimes only a few thousand acres in size, clearly overlaps with ASA’s mission and makes us natural partners,” he added.

Conservation Success in Bolivia

Blue-throated Macaws © E. Gustavo Sánchez Avila
Maned Wolf © Valter Kruk
Collard AnteaterCollard Anteater © E. Gustavo Sánchez Avila

On December 30, 2013, our Bolivian partner secured the purchase of
14,827 acres of natural savanna and forest habitat that will more than double the size of the Blue-throated Macaw Reserve to 27,180 acres.

The extension by Asociación Armonía is significant because it will protect a mosaic of tropical grasslands, including the addition of two large palm forest islands, a small central river, water edge short grass habitat, and over 20 small isolated palm islands. An extension of this size means that the Blue-throated Macaw Reserve can now adequately support landscape species which require large protected home ranges, such as Jaguars, Pumas, and Maned Wolves.

The extension of the Blue-throated Macaw Reserve improves its ability to protect the 27 species of medium and large mammals that depend on this protected habitat, including the ‘Vulnerable to Extinction’ Giant Anteater and Marsh Deer, as well as many of the threatened mammals such as Maned Wolf, Jaguar, Puma, Pampas Deer, White-collared Peccary and Capybara. The Omi River in the Blue-throated Macaw Reserve is the only year round water source for a massive area, where many mammals depend on this clean water through the dry season.

Over 250 bird species frequent the Blue-throated Macaw Reserve; the most imperiled being the ‘Critically Endangered’ Blue-throated Macaw. The additional protection of two large forest islands will ensure food resources for the flocks of Blue-throated Macaws, while the smaller forest islands will protect remote roosting sites.

The Beni tropical savanna is an area twice the size of Portugal and almost entirely ranched, with yearly massive burns to clear the way for cattle. It is a land of extreme contrasts with intensive flooding in the summer, and months of drought in the winter. The Beni savanna is considered an ‘Endangered Critical’ ecosystem yet the Blue-throated Macaw Reserve is the only protected area in this ecosystem without cattle impact and annual grassland burning. The Beni has undergone hundreds of years of logging, hunting and cattle ranching. Overgrazing, annual burning and the planting of exotic grass species have greatly altered the ecosystem.

Asociación Armonía is developing tourism to sustainably manage the Blue-throated Macaw Reserve in the future.

Supporters with Rainforest Trust included World Land Trust, GreaterGood/The Rainforest Site, American Bird Conservancy, International Conservation Fund of Canada, IUCN Netherlands, and Loro Parque Fundación.

Buenaventura Grows by 600 Acres

el_oro_parakeet2  El Oro Parakeet
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan - Copy Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
Coati de Nariz blanca - Copy Coati family 

Thanks to help from Rainforest Trust, our Ecuadorian partner, Jocotoco, has purchased 600 acres to expand its Buenaventura Reserve. The expansion, which will increase the reserve to a total of 4,600 acres, contains 400 acres of pristine cloud forest and will provide habitat for a multitude of threatened wildlife.

Among the 15 endangered bird species found in the reserve are the El Oro Parakeet and the Ecuadorian Tapaculo. The few dozen surviving Ecuadorian Tapaculos depend on the reserve for their survival. Likewise, nearly two-thirds of the world’s last 800 El Oro Parakeets take refuge in Buenaventura.

“We are encouraged that this reserve is now protecting a substantial portion of the global population of the El Oro Parakeet,” said Rocío Merino, Executive Director of Jocotoco. “We must now ensure the protection of surrounding landscapes that are frequently used by bird species from a unique combination of Chocó, Tumbes, and western Andean regions within the reserve. Working with surrounding communities of El Placer and Moromoro, including private landowners and municipalities, will be key to our long-term success.”

The reserve protects one of the largest tracts of cloud forest remaining in southwestern Ecuador, and has gained renown as the premier birding site in the region.

Many species, found nowhere else in Ecuador’s protected area system, live in the reserve. Over 330 bird species – including 31 hummingbirds – have been recorded at Buenaventura; 34 species are endemic to the area.

“Expanding the Buenaventura Reserve is an urgent conservation priority as the future of the El Oro Parakeet and the Ecuadorian Tapaculo depend tremendously upon the existence of the reserve and the forests it protects,” said Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “This significant expansion of the reserve is a great conservation victory that’s going to result in a stronger, more effective sanctuary for wildlife in Ecuador.”

Since its creation in 1999, the reserve has steadily grown in size. Rainforest Trust has supported the purchase of 4,025 acres.

This project was made possible with support from the American Bird Conservancy, Dansk Ornitologisk Forening, and the International Conservation Fund of Canada.

Update: Rainforest Trust President, Dr. Robert Ridgely, and CEO, Dr. Paul Salaman, will be leading a conservation tour to Ecuador in 2014 that will visit the Buenaventura Reserve. To learn more about the tour, which will take place March 12-22, and include visits to the Tapichalaca and Jorupe reserves, please contact us.

News Release: Dr. Thomas Lovejoy Joins Board of Directors

Lovejoy 1Lovejoy in the field
Lovejoy 2Biodiversity Chair at George Mason University
parque madidi Bolivian “debt-for-nature” swap

Rainforest Trust Names Leading Conservationist Dr. Thomas Lovejoy to Board of Directors

WARRENTON, VA – DECEMBER 4, 2013 — Rainforest Trust, a nonprofit conservation organization focused on protecting threatened tropical lands and saving endangered species, announced today the appointment of Dr. Thomas Lovejoy to its Board of Directors. Dr. Lovejoy is an internationally renowned conservation biologist and a leader in making the protection of tropical rainforests a public issue.

Dr. Lovejoy, who introduced the term “biological diversity” to the scientific community in 1980, has worked in the Amazon of Brazil for nearly 50 years. An influential force for conservation in many roles, he has served as chief biodiversity adviser to the President of the World Bank; chair of the Independent Advisory Group on Sustainability for the Inter-American Development Bank; senior adviser to the President of the United Nations Foundation; executive vice president at World Wildlife Fund-U.S; and Assistant Secretary for Environmental and External Affairs for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Currently, Dr. Lovejoy serves as the first biodiversity chair of the Heinz Center for Science, University Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University.

“Tom Lovejoy is one of the world’s leading voices and experts on tropical biodiversity and the most influential advocate for the protection of Amazon Basin ecosystems. We are honored and thrilled to have him on the Board of Rainforest Trust,” said Dr. Robert Ridgely, President of Rainforest Trust. “Dr. Lovejoy understands Rainforest Trust’s mission and our conservation model, and we look forward to benefitting from his guidance and extraordinary experience as our organization embarks on important conservation projects in the Amazon, Borneo, the Philippines and Madagascar.”

Dr. Lovejoy is also known for developing the innovative concept of “debt-for-nature” swaps, in which a portion of a developing nation’s foreign debt is forgiven in exchange for local investments in environmental conservation measures. This innovation alone has made billions in conservation funds available in countries ranging from Bolivia to Madagascar. Dr. Lovejoy’s contributions to conservation biology have earned him numerous awards and citations, including the Blue Planet Prize 2012. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in biology from Yale University.

He joins Rainforest Trust’s board at a time of exciting change for the organization, which is entering its 25th year. In addition, Rainforest Trust recently announced the launch of a major new project to save 5.9 million acres in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon’s last true wilderness. Importantly, the project – which has a fundraising goal of $2.9 million – will protect several uncontacted indigenous tribes.

To donate or learn more about Rainforest Trust, visit https://www.rainforesttrust.org/donation-options/ways-to-give.

About Rainforest Trust
Rainforest Trust is a nonprofit conservation organization focused on saving rainforest and endangered species. Since its founding in 1988, Rainforest Trust has saved nearly 8 million acres of rainforests and other tropical habitats in 73 projects across 17 tropical countries. We protect threatened land in partnership with local conservation leaders and indigenous communities. Rainforest Trust has been awarded the top four-star Charity Navigator rating for each of the last five years.

Media contacts:

Marc Ford, Rainforest Trust

Marie Gehret, RF|Binder

‘Irreplaceable’ Areas Identified in New Study

Atelopus walkeri or laetissimus - xs - Copy Atelopus walkeri found in El Dorado
el dorado scenic El Dorado Nature Reserve
philippines cockatoo Philippine Cockatoo found in Cleopatra’s Needle

A study of the world’s protected areas released in the November 14th edition of Science has identified 137 sites containing the world’s most ‘irreplaceable’ wildlife. Two of the most critical areas cited in the report are sites Rainforest Trust is working to protect.

Scientists analyzed data from 173,000 protected areas along with assessments of 21,500 species on the IUCN’s red list to calculate the ‘irreplaceability’ of individual protected areas. The results were then compared to determine each area’s contribution to the survival of bird, amphibian, and mammal species.

Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Natural National Park, which has the earth’s highest concentration of continental range-restricted bird species, was named the most ‘irreplaceable’ protected area for threatened species in the world.

Many threatened and endangered species found in the park, however, also depend upon the 2,000-acre El Dorado Nature Reserve, which Rainforest Trust CEO helped establish in 2005. The reserve, which lies on the northwestern edge of the park, protects montane cloud forests and is home to a multitude of endemic and endangered bird, plant, and amphibian species. Three of the most threatened bird species found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (the Santa Marta Parakeet, the Santa Marta Bush-tyrant, and the Santa Marta Sabrewing) thrive at El Dorado.

Due to it’s biological importance, the reserve – which grew by 604 acres with our support last year – is an Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) site. A new Screech-owl species was discovered there in 2007, and a long-lost mammal species rediscovered in 2011.

Also mentioned in the study was the Palawan Game Refuge and Bird Sanctuary, located on the island of Palawan in the Philippines. The sanctuary ranked fourth on the list of overall ‘irreplaceable’ protected areas in the world.

Palawan Island, known for its high endemism rates, is also the site of a new Rainforest Trust project. Like the Palawan Game Refuge and Bird Sanctuary, the Cleopatra’s Needle Forest Reserve will save habitat for a large number of endemic species. Thirty-one endangered and threatened species are found on and around Cleopatra’s Needle, including the last significant populations of the Palawan horned frog, the Philippine flat-headed frog, and the Philippine Cockatoo.

“The study’s findings confirm that Rainforest Trust is not just working in important areas – but some of the most critical in the world – to protect and maintain the earth’s biodiversity,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “Our mission points us towards ‘irreplaceable’ areas, and our projects in Colombia and Palawan are good examples of this.”

An international collaboration of conservation organizations contributed to the study. Participants included the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), the IUCN (International Union for Nature Conservation), the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CEFE), and BirdLife International.

Colombian Rancher’s Wildlife Mission

luis Luis Ángel Ramírez
chestnut-capped_piha_proavesChestnut-capped Piha
quebrada que limita los predios de proaves y epm,  (2)Arriertito Antioqueño Nature Reserve

Luis Ángel Ramírez, a shopkeeper in the Colombian village of El Roble, has spent much of the last 13 years as the unofficial voice of conservation in a wilderness of ranchers and loggers quickly destroying the forests of Colombia’s Antioqueño Department.

Ramírez, who grew up on his family’s ranch and still works part-time as a rancher, understands well the urge to expand cattle production. The impulse, however, failed to resonate with him, and he eventually played a central role in setting up a reserve to protect the region’s wildlife.

Ramírez’s first conservation victory came as a boy when, after much pleading, he successfully convinced his father to spare the family’s forested properties from the axe.  After he and his brother inherited the family ranch, Ramírez realized his dream of protecting the forests permanently by converting his inheritance into a nature reserve.

The reserve now forms an important part of a protected area sheltering a multitude of threatened Andean wildlife. The 5,300-acre Arrierito Antioqueño Nature Reserve, which has doubled in size due to Rainforest Trust support, contains tracts of primary rainforest that provide habitat not only for threatened bird and frog species, but also for the rare Spectacled bear.

Since its creation, Ramírez has been persistent in his efforts to support the reserve and ensure its success. “I’ve always assumed the role of caretaker for the reserve, making sure it was protected,” he said.

Another role he has adopted is that of local guide. In 1997, he accompanied a group of researchers (including Rainforest Trust CEO, Dr. Paul Salaman) that discovered the Chestnut-capped Piha (known locally as the Arrierito Antioqueño), an endangered bird species endemic to Colombia’s Central Andes.

Since aiding in its discovery, Ramírez has become a local champion for the Chestnut-capped Piha, advocating for improved protection. “We can’t let its song be lost from the world,” he explained.

With much of its habitat destroyed by mining and logging, the Chestnut-capped Piha is now confined to isolated forest fragments, one of which is protected by the Arrierito Antioqueño Nature Reserve. Due to its importance for the survival of the Chestnut-capped Piha and other species, the reserve has been named as an Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) site.

Rainforest Trust Awards Mapping Grant

Restored forest, REGUA
Encroaching development
REGUA’s protected forest

With development from the nearby city of Rio de Janeiro quickly expanding into the Guapiaçu Valley, Rainforest Trust awarded its Brazilian partner, REGUA, a $10,000 grant to map and study lands surrounding the organization’s rainforest reserve. The two-year grant will allow REGUA to determine vegetation cover and identify property lines within the entire 186-square-mile Guapiaçu Valley. With map-mapping efforts complete, REGUA will be in a position to effectively prioritize land purchases thus improving its ability to create wildlife corridors and protect the Atlantic Rainforest’s vanishing biodiversity.

“The map will be a valuable tool to help us build a portfolio of properties that will support the REGUA master plan, leaving a legacy of 80-85% of protected forest cover [in the Guapiaçu Valley] and contributing towards the perpetual safety of biodiversity in the Atlantic Rainforest,” said Nicholas Locke, REGUA’s project manager.

Construction from the prosperous city of Rio de Janeiro is rapidly moving up the Guapiaçu Valley as the temptation to build second homes in the beautiful valley proves irresistible to the city’s wealthier citizens. In 2011, the already attractive Guapiaçu Valley became even more so with the paving of a dirt road which significantly cut travel time from the city.

The Guapiaçu Valley, home to many threatened rainforest species, extends over an area of 74,000 acres. Locke estimates that 56% of the valley still has good forest cover. To date, REGUA has bought and protected nearly 20,000 acres covering approximately 25% of the Guapiaçu Valley. Since 2007, Rainforest Trust has partnered with REGUA to protect nearly 700 acres of Atlantic rainforest. Projects to protect more are currently underway.

The opportunity for REGUA to expand rainforest protection is due, in large part, to broad economic changes in Brazil. Until recently, the rural economy in the Rio de Janeiro State followed a pattern of destructive development based upon logging and banana production. This model began to falter, however, during the last decades of the 20th century as Brazil became increasingly industrialized and farmers migrated to cities. Simultaneously, banana plantations in the Guapiaçu Valley disappeared as the industry moved on to new, more lucrative areas. Hillside properties abandoned in the wake of these changes have allowed REGUA to continue growing its borders.

“Though REGUA’s acquisitions already contribute to the protection of the Atlantic Rainforest in a significant way, we wish for more,” Locke said. “If it’s possible to achieve 80-85% forest cover, why shouldn’t we continue to try to acquire more land?”

Successful Start for Borneo Appeal

Young Orangutan © HUTAN
Pygmy Elephant © HUTAN
Proboscis Monkey © HUTAN

Rainforest Trust and World Land Trust (based in the UK) kicked off a joint Borneo campaign with a pledge drive that raised a total of $ 1,027,870 to protect habitat for the Pacific island’s endangered orangutan and pygmy elephant populations.

With a generous 1:1 match from donors in the UK, Rainforest Trust supporters provided strong support for the appeal. The impressive response placed Rainforest Trust and World Land Trust close to their collective goal of raising $1.5 million for the campaign. Once complete, the project will create a wildlife corridor between two existing wildlife reserves that will significantly improve habitat for pygmy elephants and orangutans by providing them with a safe riverside passage between protected areas.

“The urgency of this mission resonated strongly with many of our supporters and resulted in a fantastic start to the campaign. In fact, this was one of the most successful matching campaigns we’ve ever had. It’s given us good momentum towards reaching our funding goal in a timely manner, which is important considering the speed at which land is being developed in Borneo” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.

Colombia’s Las Tangaras Reserve Grows

Las Tangaras Reserve Las Tangaras Reserve © ProAves
Black and gold Tanager Black-and-gold Tanager © ProAves
Toucan barbet
Toucan Barbet © ProAves

Working with its Colombian partner ProAves, Rainforest Trust has secured the purchase of two properties totaling 3,117 acres that will be added to the Las Tangaras Reserve. The purchase of these properties will significantly expand the reserve and provide improved protection for the many threatened and endemic species found within its borders.

The Las Tangaras Reserve protects a key portion of Colombia’s Chocó rainforest. Although this rainforest has received only scarce study, findings show it holds some of the highest concentrations of endemic species in the world. This includes not only amphibians, mammals, and plants, but also birds.

For the Gold-ringed Tanager, which is known to inhabit only five locations along the ridge tops of Colombia’s western Andes, Las Tangaras is one of its last strongholds. The reserve also protects habitat for the Black-and-gold Tanager and the Chocó Vireo, which has been found in only three areas.

Despite its impressive biodiversity, the Chocó rainforest is quickly disappearing. Logging, gold-mining, and cattle production have all destroyed large areas of the forest. Compounding the problem is the fact that this rainforest is severely under protected and that there are no controls in place to slow or stop widespread colonization.

As the region’s population has increased, so has the price of land. With prices climbing, the necessity of acting quickly to purchase lands has become imperative. After ProAves identified an area home to 50 Gold-ringed Tanager pairs in 2009, Rainforest Trust helped secure the purchase of the 5,500-acre site the following year, and the Las Tangaras Reserve was officially created in March of 2012. The recent purchase of 3,117 acres, which will help protect a critical watershed in the Chocó, increases the reserve’s total size to 7,977 acres.


Expansion of the Serra Bonita Reserve

Serra Bonita News 3
Serra Bonita Mountain Range
Serra Bonita News 2Yellow-breasted Capuchin
Serra Bonita News 1
Dr. Vitor Becker

October 4, 2013

Rainforest Trust has supported our Brazilian partner, Instituto Uiraçu, to purchase two properties that have expanded Brazil’s Serra Bonita Reserve by 237 acres. The new properties will enlarge the reserve’s total size to 5,737 acres, and will provide protection for six rare bird species, as well as the Yellow-breasted Capuchin, a critically endangered primate known to inhabit only a handful of protected areas.

Located in the Serra Bonita Mountain Range, in the Brazilian state of Bahia, the reserve protects one of the last intact remnants of the Atlantic Rainforest. This rainforest, considered to be second most endangered biome in the world (Madagascar is number one), is also one of the most biodiverse.

“This area has a very high level of diversity, comparable to the Amazon Basin, or maybe even more. At Serra Bonita we’ve counted 350 species of birds, 120 species of orchids, and over 70 species of frogs, some of them new to science,” said Dr. Vitor Becker, Director of Research at Instituto Uiraçu.

“The more we learn about this unique site, the more we realize it’s worth protecting. As the Atlantic Rainforest continues to be destroyed, the importance of acting now to save Serra Bonita grows. Rainforest Trust is proud to work with Instituto Uiraçu to ensure that the Serra Bonita Reserve, and the many endangered species it contains, receives the protection it deserves,” noted Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “In the future, we will continue working with Instituto Uiraçu to strategically expand the reserve even more.”

Despite its spectacular biodiversity, 93% of the Atlantic Rainforest has been destroyed during the last 100 years. The consequences have been devastating for the region’s many endemic species. Populations of the Yellow-breasted capuchin have declined more than 80% in the last 50 years; now only 300 remain in the wild. Northern brown howler monkeys, another critically endangered primate found at Serra Bonita, have fared even worse. Only 40 of these primates survive today.

Much of the forest within the Serra Bonita Reserve remains in a pristine state, and its protection has allowed local wildlife to bounce back. Pumas, among other species, have returned to the area, with frequent sightings reported in recent years.

The resurgence of these species has provided Becker with increased motivation to expand the Serra Bonita Reserve. “We already own one-third of the Serra Bonita Mountain, and my dream, my goal, is to preserve the whole thing. Luckily, a lot of it is still in a good condition to be protected,” Becker said. “There aren’t many institutions that aid in land purchase, so the support of Rainforest Trust is vital to the expansion of the reserve.”

These land purchases were made possible due to the generous support of donors, especially Luanne Lemmer, Eric Veach, and The Orchid Conservation Alliance. Additional support was provided by the American Bird Conservancy.

To see more of Dr. Becker’s interview click here.