Rainforest Trust Board Visits Serra Bonita Reserve in Brazil

Board of Directors 2013

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.

Rainforest Ambassadors Program and Earth Day Art Contest

1st Place
2nd place
3rd place

Students and schools have made amazing contributions to the environment in partnership with Rainforest Trust. In the last five years more than $10,000 has been raised for Rainforest Trust by students and school groups. To foster the spirit of giving and highlight all that schools do for conservation, we have launched a new program, Rainforest Ambassadors (formerly, Kids 4 Rainforest). In addition, we will also offer student projects throughout the year, such as an art contest for Earth Day 2013.

Our Rainforest Ambassadors program offers ideas, support, and recognition for school projects. We are proud of our young contributor’s achievements, and as a means of showcasing the ways students raise money to save rainforest we will be publishing their stories on our site. In addition, students will receive a customized certificate recognizing their efforts.

Rainforest Trust will be celebrating Earth Day 2013 with a student art contest. We would like students to create art demonstrating what Earth Day means to them. Our Earth Day 2013 art contest is open to students in grades nine through tweleve. Artwork must be done on paper and mailed or delivered to the Rainforest Trust office by April 15, 2013. Entries will be judged in a blind process by Nikki Whipkey, Professor of Art at George Mason University. Pieces chosen by Whipkey will be awarded and put on display in our office and on our web site.

Click to download the Earth Day 2013 Art Contest Flyer and release form.

Find out more about Rainforest Ambassadors here.


Shocking Deforestation in Paraguay


Rainforest Trust partner, Guyra Paraguay, reported shocking deforestation in areas of the Chaco that just recently had been lush with forest. The deforestation was viewed and photographed March 4, 2013, during a 5-hour flight in the Department of Boqueron to check on sites of deforestation. In December these areas were forest and by January had lost almost all tree cover.

Dr. Alberto Yanosky, CEO of Guyra Paraguay, said of the deforestation, it’s “really sad and shocking.”

Rainforest Trust aims to purchase and protect rainforest land outright so that deforestation is forever prevented. In 2012, Rainforest Trust partnered with Guyra Paraguay to expand the San Rafael Reserve by 677 acres. This parcel of land purchased comprised one of the last great stands of Atlantic Rainforest in Paraguay and is also home to the indigenous Mbyá People.

Read more about the San Rafael project.

Watch a video about the deforestation of Paraguay

flickr Check out more photos on flickr

Eco-Tourism Expanding at the Sierra Caral Amphibian Reserve in Guatemala

waterfall discovered at Sierra Caral Amphibian Reserve
Stream habitat in Sierra Caral Reserve by Robin Moore
Meredon Palm-pit viper found in Sierra Caral Amphibian Reserve

In May 2012 the 6,000-acre Sierra Caral Amphibian Reserve in Guatemala was established to protect some of the country’s most endangered wildlife. The reserve is home to a dozen globally threatened frogs and salamanders- five found nowhere else in the world,  three species of threatened birds, and the recently discovered Merendon Palm-pit viper (Bothriechis thalassinus) which is classified as  arboreal and blue-toned.

Rainforest Trust, along with a consortium of fifteen international conservation groups, worked together to raise the funds needed to purchase the last remains of primary forest in the Sierra Caral. “This is a real triumph for the planet–conservationists across North and Central America banded together to save the last stand of this unique rainforest,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.

As part of the ongoing development efforts for the Sierra Caral Reserve, tours and activities were  added and enhanced for guests. The newest attraction for visitors is a hike to a beautiful cascading waterfall found during the creation of a  tourist path. The two-mile roundtrip hike takes visitors along the Las Animas River then reaching an open forest along a mountain slope before following a perennial stream to the waterfall. With a medium difficulty level, this hike will be a popular one for guests visiting the reserve.

Guatemalan biologist Carlos Vasquez Almazan, one of the few individuals to find a Merendon Palm-pit viper in the wild, drew international scientific attention to the conservation importance of the Sierra Caral in recent years. In 2012 he was awarded the prestigious Whitley Award for Conservation that recognizes outstanding nature conservationists around the world.

Speaking to the accomplishments of Carlos Vasquez Almazan, WLT patron Sir David Attenborough noted, “Surveys of the area uncovered not only species new to science, but also led to the rediscovery of several previously thought to have become extinct.”

If you are interested in learning more about the reserve check out this video showcasing efforts to save biodiversity in Sierra Caral.