The Rainforest Trust Board of Directors recently returned from a project visit to Brazil where they toured lands we plan to assist our new Brazilian partner, Instituto Uiraçu, with at Serra Bonita. Site visits are critical to ensuring that consistent conservation takes place in the reserves we support. They also highlight the understanding of Rainforest Trust leaders that our work doesn’t stop just because land has been purchased! Each volunteer Board member covered their own costs for the trip, which was a wonderful way to support our partners who rely on eco-tourism funds to help fuel their conservation work.
The Serra Bonita Reserve, in the heart of the Atlantic Rainforest, was founded and managed by Vitor Becker and Clemira Souza. The couple started to purchase land in 1998, one piece at a time, and today this protected area covers nearly 7,000 acres. Our donors generously supported this project in late 2012 by raising funds to purchase 400 acres – the same lands toured by the Rainforest Trust Board. This area, much of which is well preserved, will be added to the reserve, reforested as needed, and will quickly improve protection for dozens of critically endangered species.
Serra Bonita is teeming with primates, some of which could go extinct without the reserve’s protection. One such species is the Northern brown howler monkey, which is Critically Endangered as less than thirty are thought to exist. A second, also Critically Endangered, is the Yellow-breasted capuchin. The Board was privileged to glimpse both of these primates during their visit. Another rare primate found in the reserve is the Wied’s black-tufted-ear marmoset, classified as Near Threatened, that live in the trees just beyond the lodge. From balconies, visitors can watch these tiny creatures play and jump among the trees.
The reserve boasts a research center composed of six laboratories, two collection rooms, an auditorium, a library, and a preparation room. Science and research are the basis for conservation action at Serra Bonita. Students and scientists alike live and work in the forest, gathering important data to help ensure the future for many species of flora and fauna. The Beckers have accommodations for these researchers, and Vitor, an accomplished scientist himself, is a wonderful mentor and guide. He is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on moths and has amassed one of the largest collections of neotropical moths in the world – rivaling that of the Smithsonian. This collection resides at Serra Bonita, which is appropriate given the reserve is home to more than 5,000 species of moths and butterflies.
The reserve’s eco-lodge is equally impressive, and its non-intrusive design seemlessly blends in with the landscape. It is situated in an ideal area that allows visitors the opportunity to watch marmosets play or snack on bananas. And while the Board was too busy to enjoy them all, the reserve features dozens of hiking trails and spectacular vistas. During their visit the hills were alive with purple and yellow flowers, as the Tibouchina and Chamaecrista trees were in full bloom. In the evenings the Board enjoyed watching hummingbirds and bats feed while giant tarantulas crawled on the grass!
All of our supporters are welcome to visit Serra Bonita, and Rainforest Trust is happy to assist anyone interested in visiting the reserve. It is a great way to see thousands of moths, hundreds of birds, dozens of amphibians, and several species of monkeys. If you can’t travel there in person, you can still explore the reserve through the many pictures our Board took during the trip. These pictures can be viewed here. Check our web site in the future for additional ways you can support Atlantic Rainforest conservation in Brazil, including land and reforestation projects that will be launched throughout the year.