Student Rainforest Champions Raise $1,200 to Protect Endangered Species

Students at MAM
This year's MAMS winner!

They’ve done it again. In one week, enthusiastic sixth-graders attending Middletown Area Middle School (MAMS) near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, raised more than $1,200 to protect rainforests by selling paper trees and root beer floats. This success comes on the heels of three previous campaigns in which Middletown students raised funds to save forty-two acres of South American rainforests.

Middletown’s involvement began in 2011, when a geography teacher, Llellewyn Skees, started looking for ways to bring geography to life and further engage his students. “In my search for ideas concerning South America, I came across the Rainforest Trust web site,” said Skees. “I showed a colleague the site and we both saw the possibilities it offered for the geography classroom.”

Skees found that his students were not only eager to learn about rainforests, but were motivated to make a difference. When approached with the idea of fundraising to buy acres and protect endangered species, they embraced the challenge with little hesitation. “We came up with ideas, tweaked them, and then put them into production, creating the root beer floats and trees we use today,” Skees said.

“Our original goal was to get the kids to raise enough money to purchase one or two acres,” he added. “Little did we know they would raise enough money to save ten acres that year.” Consequently, Middletown students have adopted an annual goal of raising at least $1,000 for Rainforest Trust projects.

Although the idea of using rainforests as a teaching tool began in geography classes, it quickly spread throughout the school as other teachers learned of its popularity. Its success can be judged by the fact that measuring stations were set up in math classes to compare tree heights, model rainforest canopies, and teach students about rainforest dynamics. Likewise, language art students read stories about rainforests and wrote poems and tales describing imaginary animals.

Students, who have participated in every step of the land-purchase project, choose the Rainforest Trust appeals they liked best after Skees and fellow teacher, Lyle Ressler, showed them options on an overhead projector. After consideration, they voted to buy six acres of Colombian rainforest to protect the Cotton-top tamarin as well as purchase over 145 trees to reforest Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest, which contains habitat for the Woolly spider monkey and Red-billed Currasow.

Of all the emerging rainforest advocates at Middletown, few displayed more enthusiasm for Rainforest Trust’ mission than Marley Kinsey. As Middletown’s top fundraiser, she will have the honor of presenting our “Rainforest Champion” certificate to MAMS Principal Mr. Kevin E. Cook.

To learn more about Middletown’s efforts, you can read a summary of the rainforest curriculum plans developed by the school’s teachers.

Read more about the success of Rainforest Ambassadors (formerly, Kids 4 Rainforest).


Rainforest Trust President Receives Arthur A. Allen Award

Rainforest Trust Honorary President Honored with Arthur A. Allen Award
Rainforest Trust Honorary President Honored with Arthur A. Allen Award

On May 14, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology presented Rainforest Trust President Robert Ridgely with its prestigious Arthur A. Allen Award. The ceremony took place Tuesday evening at the New York Historical Society Museum and Library in New York City.

Ridgely is a leading authority on neo-tropical birds and has authored and co-authored many books on the subject, including classics such as Birds of South America, Birds of Ecuador, and Birds of Panama, which set a new standard for birding field guides. His extensive field work also led to the discovery of seven news species; perhaps the best known being the discovery of the Jocotoco Antpitta, which Ridgely found in Ecuador in 1997.

Established in 1967, the Arthur A. Allen Award is given to pioneers in the field of ornithology that have made significant contributions towards making the subject accessible to the public at large. The award has been given only three times in the last twenty years.

“We are extremely pleased to be honoring Bob’s achievements and contributions at the interface between professional and amateur ornithology with the 2013 Arthur Allen Award,” said Dr. John Fitzpatrick, Cornell Lab director.

Speaking to a packed room, Ridgely recounted his fortuitous introduction to neo-tropical birds, which took place during the late 1960s. Expecting a Vietnam deployment after enlisting in the U.S. Army, Ridgely was surprised to be stationed instead in Panama. It was there that his passion for birding caught fire and he decided to become an ornithologist. Ridgely went on to earn an MS in Zoology from Duke University, and a PhD in Forestry and Environmental Studies from Yale University.

“As a fellow ornithologist and conservationist, I am proud to walk in the footsteps of Robert Ridgely,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “Bob’s no nonsense attitude towards conservation is borne from decades of field experience and observations. His work provides strong proof that protected areas are the bedrock upon which the protection of birds and their environment depends.”

“It’s hard to overestimate Bob’s achievement. He has successfully bridged the gap between the academic and conservation worlds and in the process has inspired a whole generation of conservationists and birders,” Salaman said.

Ridgely has previously been awarded the Eisenmann Medal by the Linnaean Society of New York (2001); the Chandler Robbins Award from the American Birding Association (2006); and the Ralph W. Schreiber Conservation Award by the American Ornithologists’ Union (2011).

In addition to his position at Rainforest Trust, Ridgely is also co-founder and president of the Ecuadorian nonprofit Fundación Jocotoco. His work with Jocotoco has led to the establishment of ten nature reserves, which protect some of the Ecuador’s most threatened bird species.

To see more photos of the award ceremony, you can visit our flickr page.

Read more about Dr. Robert Ridgely on our Staff page.

Rainforest Trust Doubles Size of Ecuador’s Ayampe Reserve

Chaetocercus berlepschii by  Macho  Francisco Sornoza
Ayampe Reserve by Francisco Sornoza
Ayampe Reserve

In late March 2013, Rainforest Trust partner Jocotoco acquired rights to a 57-acre property adjacent to the Ayampe Reserve. This strategic purchase more than doubles the size of the existing reserve and provides critical protection for the Esmereldas Woodstar, one of the most endangered hummingbirds on the planet.

Not only does the property contain one of the last forest remnants found in the area, but its importance as a nesting site for the Esmereldas Woodstar has also been confirmed: Jocotoco staff members discovered an active nest within its borders in March.

“With this acquisition it’s going to be possible to extend our relationship with the local community of Tunas,” said Carolina Arroyo, a Reserve Director for Jocotoco. “We’ve been working with this community to actively promote conservation and habitat restoration. Through these efforts Jocotoco has strengthened its protection of the Esmereldas Woodstar and the endemic flora and fauna found in the area.”

Little about the thumb-sized Esmereldas Woodstar – which ranks as the second smallest bird in the world – has been known until recently. The very existence of this bright emerald-colored bird was in doubt until 1990, when it was rediscovered in Ecuador’s semi-deciduous coastal forest after a seventy-eight year disappearance.

Unfortunately, not much of what scientists have learned about the current state of this fascinating hummingbird, locally known as the “little star,” is reassuring. It’s estimated that as few as 1,000 individuals remain. There is little doubt that habitat destruction in the form of logging, agricultural expansion, and most recently, development of tourism infrastructure, accounts for such low numbers.

Hope for the Esmereldas Woodstar has come in the form of the Ayampe Reserve, which was created last year with Rainforest Trust support and protects a vital piece of remaining habitat for the hummingbird. Working with local communities, Jocotoco has begun reforestation projects to repair and regrow the lowland forests found along Ecuador’s Pacific Coast in which the hummingbird thrives.

This purchase, made possible with the generous support of Rainforest Trust donors, signals a major step towards permanently protecting the Esermerldas Woodstar. The newly acquired land not only fosters community participation – a key element in determining the reserve’s long-term sustainability – it also builds momentum towards Jocotoco’s eventual goal of establishing a six-hundred-acre reserve, which will protect a core population of the Esmereldas Woodstar.

Help Rainforest Trust protect the Esmereldas Woodstar.


Golden-headed Lion Tamarin Rediscovered at the Serra Bonita Reserve

Golden-headed lion tamarins
Golden-headed lion tamarin
Serra Bonita Reserve

For primatologist Leo Neves, who studies one of the rarest primate species on the planet in Brazil’s Serra Bonita Reserve, work provides few complaints. Last week, though, a series of unforgettable distractions not only offered him a break from the routine, but also provided good evidence of the reserve’s importance.

While on the trail of the Northern brown howler monkey – whose entire population is believed to number less than thirty individuals – Neves was surprised to hear an unusual set of primate vocalizations coming from deeper in the forest. Following the clucking sounds, Neves discovered two groups of Golden-headed lion tamarins meeting near a spring in the jungle. Amazed at the sight of these endangered primates, which had only been observed once before in the reserve, Neves slowly pulled out his audio recorder and camera to capture the occasion.

While absorbed in watching the two groups interact from a careful distance, Neves was startled by the chirping call of a White-necked hawk – another threatened species – which promptly settled on a nearby branch. An opportunistic predator, White-necked hawks typically feed on prey scattered by the presence of other animals; in this case, it was most likely the tamarin’s activity that proved a draw. Astonished by his good luck, Neves next turned his camera on the hawk.

However, he was not the only one to take notice of the arrival: the tamarins immediately scattered into the forest leaving him alone with the snow-colored hawk at the spring.

“Golden-headed lion tamarins were spotted only once at our reserves, many years ago, and never seen again,” said Dr. Vitor Becker, who is Research Director for Instituto Uiraçu, the organization responsible for managing the Serra Bonita Reserve. “So there was some doubts about their presence at Serra Bonita. This record confirms that they are doing well here.”

The Serra Bonita Reserve is an innovative conservation model comprising a group of private properties totaling 4,400 acres and located in the Serra Bonita Mountain Range. Instituto Uiracu was created to manage and expand this reserve with the long-term goal of protecting the whole Serra Bonita Mountain Range. In addition, the area is home to twleve primate species including the Critically Endangered Yellow-breasted Capuchin.

Rainforest Trust is assisting Instituto Uiracu to expand the existing protected areas to a total of 5,000 acres. Through the incorporation of these new lands, this reserve will prevent the further destruction of this unique habitat, which contains the highest levels of biological diversity and endemism in Brazil. As part of one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world – the Atlantic Rainforest – it is  considered as one of the highest priorities for global conservation efforts.

The lush rainforest carpeting the Serra Bonita mountain range in eastern Brazil represents the last significant example of a unique habitat that supports rare and endemic flora and fauna. The area is at the heart of an urgent conservation initiative by our Brazilian partner, Instituto Uiracu, – See more at:
The lush rainforest carpeting the Serra Bonita mountain range in eastern Brazil represents the last significant example of a unique habitat that supports rare and endemic flora and fauna. The area is at the heart of an urgent conservation initiative by our Brazilian partner, Instituto Uiracu, – See more at:

Serra Bonita’s distribution of protected native forests provides an important refuge to many animal species that have benefited since conservation efforts began in 2003. Prior to that time, logging and hunting were commonplace and had been for decades. This situation has been reversed over the past nine years of active conservation, and many threatened species have returned to the Serra Bonita.

Learn more about conservation efforts currently underway at Serra Bonita.

Interested in visiting Serra Bonita with Rainforest Trust? Check out our Eco-Travel Conservation Tour to Brazil!


Rainforest Trust Raises Funds to Protect 616,263 Acres in Peruvian Amazon


On April 17, 2013, Rainforest Trust reached the $90,000 donation goal set for our Amazonian project with Peruvian partner, CEDIA. This major achievement will permanently protect a vast expanse of unspoiled rainforest habitat in Peru’s Amazon Region from mining and logging interests.

Thanks to our financial support, CEDIA (Center of Development for the Amazon’s Indigenous People) responded quickly to meet threats posed by mining and logging claims made on untitled indigenous lands. Working closely with sixteen indigenous villages located in Northeastern Peru, CEDIA successfully prepared the maps and technical documentation necessary to establish land rights for participating communities.

These areas, which are among the most bio-diverse in the Amazon, remain well-preserved and support populations of jaguars, tapirs, Amazonian manatees, and Giant river otters.

Despite the success of this project, much work remains to be done in the Peruvian Amazon. Previously unclaimed governmental lands are subject to frequent disputes between indigenous communities and extractive industries hoping to develop lucrative concessions. To address these concerns, Rainforest Trust CEO, Dr. Paul Salaman, will be traveling to Iquitos, Peru, in June to meet with CEDIA officials, review project work, and explore possibilities for future collaborations.

“Working in the Peruvian Amazon is a great challenge, but it also offers huge benefits. Incredibly pristine places can still be protected for low costs,” said Salaman. “We’ve been working with sixteen native communities so far, but there are hundreds more that need our help to establish legal land rights and overturn concessions granted to mining companies, which could destroy otherwise healthy habitats. Doing so is a way of providing some of the Amazon’s most threatened ecosystem with lasting environmental protection.”


Founded in 1982, CEDIA is committed to protecting the rights and lands of indigenous peoples in Peru’s Amazonian Region. In particular, CEDIA has been successful in providing legal defenses for native tribes in cases concerning traditional property rights and natural resource management. In these cases, indigenous lands have been saved from petroleum and logging exploitation, as well as illegal colonization. To date, CEDIA has aided over 300 native communities to gain land titles and has protected an area totaling almost ten million acres – larger than four Yellowstone Parks.

Read more about how Rainforest Trust helped CEDIA protect Peru’s Amazon.