Early Success for Borneo Appeal

 HUTAN-Dzulirwan bin Takasi @Jolirwan2 with Logo Bornean Orangutan © HUTAN
 Borneo pygmy elephant Pygmy Elephant © HUTAN
Borneo monkey Proboscis Monkey © HUTAN

Last October, Rainforest Trust began an urgent project with our UK partner, World Land Trust, and our Malaysian partner to protect an important portion of rainforest on the island of Borneo that provides critical habitat for the island’s endangered Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant populations. Thanks to generous support from Rainforest Trust and World Land Trust supporters, a total of $1,422,690 has been raised for the 1.5 million dollar project.

The timely collection of these funds has already made a critical difference for Borneo’s wildlife. Of the 26 riverine parcels needed to complete this project, 19 have already been bought and saved. Meanwhile, the local partner is currently negotiating the purchase of the remaining seven. Once these riverbank properties –considered to be of the highest conservation value – are acquired, the local partner intends to purchase up to 11  more properties to continue expanding the corridor.

Our joint fundraising efforts have also had a positive influence on the local partner’s governmental partners who have responded enthusiastically to the news. In a show of support, the Sabah Wildlife Department has pledged to provide as much assistance as possible.


Last year, the local partner identified a critical parcel of forest on the island of Borneo destined for destruction by the island’s booming palm oil industry. The 400-acre parcel, however, plays a critically important function for wildlife as it links the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and the Keruak Jungle Reserve. Without this corridor, Orangutan populations in each reserve would be effectively isolated, limiting mating opportunities, and ultimately jeopardizing the possibility of long-term survival of both populations.

Aware of the immediate threats facing the area, Rainforest Trust and World Land Trust took swift action, pledging to raise funds necessary to protect as much of the corridor as possible.

The lowland region surrounding the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is recognized as one of the most biodiverse regions in Southeast Asia. Despite the increased encroachment of oil palm plantations, this unique area hosts more primate species than any other location in Borneo. The ten primates found there include the Bornean Orangutan, Bornean Gibbon and Proboscis Monkey.

Sierra del Divisor Q + A with Dr. Paul Salaman, Rainforest Trust CEO

PAUL - Copy   Dr. Paul Salaman
Sierra del Divisor Sierra del Divisor Range
Red Uakari Monkey Wildlife remains abundant in the Sierra del Divisor

Sierra del Divisor Q + A with Rainforest Trust CEO, Dr. Paul Salaman

In November, 2013, Rainforest Trust announced a new project in the Peruvian Amazon that would protect 5.9 million acres of tropical forest through the creation of three nationally protected areas and a buffer zone of community-owned lands. This area will primarily protect the Sierra del Divisor, an extremely biodiverse mountain range running along the Brazil-Peru border. Rainforest Trust CEO Paul Salaman, who has played a central role in developing this initiative, explains his motivation.

What makes the Sierra del Divisor worth saving in your mind?

The Sierra del Divisor is the whole package; it’s the heart of the Amazon. This is one of the world’s great remaining wildernesses. It’s a largely unexplored, undisturbed area laying in one of the planet’s most biodiverse areas. Wildlife that has disappeared in other parts of the Amazon remains abundant in the Sierra del Divisor; the area hosts one of the highest levels of primate diversity in the Western Amazon, and may provide habitat for up to 570 bird species. The first – and only – scientific study in the Sierra del Divisor resulted in the discovery of dozens of potentially new species. If we protect this area, there is reason to expect some amazing biological discoveries in the years to come.

The Sierra del Divisor is home to at least two indigenous groups that rely on its preservation to continue their traditional lifestyles. Apart from obvious human rights concerns, there are many good reasons to protect these groups. They possess an impressive understanding of Amazonian ecology and pharmacology and, from a practical standpoint, this knowledge is extremely important as it holds the potential to successfully combat life-threatening illnesses.

What threats does the area face?

Plans to extend a highway from Brazil to Pucallpa, Peru, would mean uncontrolled logging and colonization on a massive scale. Carving this road into the Sierra del Divisor would provide loggers, poachers, and other players in the extractive industry exactly the kind of access they need. What happens then is no mystery; the disastrous effects of road construction have been seen throughout the Amazon.

For example, the proposed road to Pucallpa now ends at the Peruvian border, if you look at this area on Google Earth you will immediately notice that the forest for miles on both sides of the road has been decimated. When we talk about the potential destruction from this road, we are talking about millions of acres. If this happens, it would not only mean habitat and species loss, but it could have disastrous effects for local people, as well, which depend upon the environment for their livelihood.

What can you tell us about your Peruvian partner CEDIA?

CEDIA is one of Latin America’s best-kept conservation secrets. In the last 32 years, CEDIA has managed to protect 25 million acres of tropical forest; this is an area larger than the state of Maine. So CEDIA has a fantastic track record of success and they are one of the few conservation organizations in Peru that has gained – and maintained – the trust of both the government, on national and local levels, and indigenous communities.

The organization’s Executive Director, Lelis Rivera, is a passionate conservationist who has dedicated his life to the cause, and it shows. He has an incredible grasp of the Amazon, of its peoples, wildlife, and biological hotspots. To find this project, we scoured maps of the Peruvian Amazon – an area covering thousands of square miles – and there were few places he didn’t know. It was amazing.

The Sierra del Divisor is by far the largest project Rainforest Trust has ever undertaken. What prompted you to adopt such an ambitious project?

As far as large-scale tropical conservation goes, we may be at the beginning of the end. Within decades, or less, opportunities to protect landscape-sized chunks of the Amazon like this will likely be gone. Already these kinds of opportunities rarely happen in other Amazonian countries. While remote areas, like the Sierra del Divisor, were once safe by virtue of their isolated location, this is no longer true; destructive development now reaches even the most remote corners of the Amazon. Knowing this puts pressure on us to act quickly, as there is no question what the future holds for this incredible place it if we fail to act.

Rainforest Trust Announces Largest Conservation Land Purchase in Tropics

Antisana páramo plateau    Volcan Antisana © Henri Leduc
Antisana-condor Condor at Antisana © Larry Wan
antisana cloud forest Antisana’s coud forest © Jocotoco

Ecuadorian governmental agencies, Rainforest Trust and its partners have successfully purchased more than 270,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat in Ecuador.

JANUARY 23, 2014 – Rainforest Trust announced today the successful purchase of the last remaining patch of more than 270,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat now protected in Ecuador. The mammoth property acquisition, which includes the 18,714-foot Antisana Volcano, was done by a consortium of partners. It will create a permanent refuge for the largest population of Andean Condor in the Northern Andes.

The final 6,100 acre property, called Hacienda Antisanilla, was acquired to complete a project by the Ministry of Natural Resources of Ecuador, Fundación Jocotoco the local partner of Rainforest Trust, the Municipality of Quito, and the Quito Water Authority that will both protect endangered species and secure an important source of drinking water for Ecuador’s capital city. The total protected area by this group amounts to approximately 270,000 acres.

“The purchase of multiple properties around Volcan Antisana represents one of the greatest conservation victories ever in the Andes of South America,” said Dr. Robert Ridgely, President of Rainforest Trust and a driving force behind this conservation success. “The final acquisition of Hacienda Antisanilla caps a decade-long effort by Rainforest Trust and our Ecuadorian partner Fundación Jocotoco to protect this fragile and biodiverse ecosystem. We are grateful to all of the partners, organizations and donors who made this possible, including The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the March Foundation, who provided critical support to acquire the Hacienda Antisanilla property.”

“The purchase of Hacienda Antisanilla was critical, as this property held the most important site for roosting and nesting Andean Condors – Ecuador’s National bird and emblazoned on our national flag.” noted Fundación Jocotoco Executive Director Rocio Merino. “So after years of struggling, we were able to purchase and protect the area thanks to the constant support of Rainforest Trust and Quito authorities.”

“The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation supports the important work of conservation to preserve the rich biodiversity of the Northern Andes,” said Susan M. Coliton, vice president of The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “We saw that the Hacienda Antisanilla property was critical to protecting this population of Andean Condors and were encouraged by the effective cooperation between the conversation effort and the local authorities.  We are pleased to have been a part of this successful and important initiative.”

The glaciers of the 3.5 mile high Antisana Volcano give way to unique highland steppe and descend into lush subtropical  forests on the Andean slopes and into Amazonian rainforest. Located just 20 miles from Quito, this enormous but undeveloped area first attracted the attention of conservationists in the 1980s. The Ecuadorian government declared it an ecological reserve in 1993, but the area remained in private hands. Much of the land continued to be farmed, and wildlife was increasingly threatened by over-grazing, fires, and poaching.

Now, the mosaic of alpine grasslands, rugged canyons, and tropical forests has been purchased and will enjoy strict protection with the Antisana Ecological Reserve, forming one of the greatest protected areas remaining in the Tropical Andes.

Home to the largest single population of condors in the Northern Andes, Antisana is also frequented by Pumas, Spectacled Bears, and the endangered Woolly Tapir. Antisana is of critical global importance for biodiversity and highlighted as an Alliance for Zero Extinction site due to the presence of no less than three species of threatened frogs found nowhere else. Sadly, the black andean toad (Atelopus ignescens), once common in Antisana, has already gone extinct.

All the properties purchased will be improved by the removal of cattle from the fragile native grassland called “Páramo,” while park guards will patrol the area to curtail poaching.

“This enormous land protection project is even more significant as not only does it help to protect the most critical source of water for the ever-expanding city of Quito but it also connects to two adjacent protected areas, Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve and Gran Sumaco National Park,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust, “Combined, these protected areas safeguard 1.8 million acres of biologically diverse Andean and Amazonian ecosystems.”

This land purchase project was made possible by the efforts of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Fundación Jocotoco, Rainforest Trust, Ministry of Environment, the Quito Municipality, the Quito Water Authority (EMAAP), the Quito Water Fund (FONAG), EcoFondo, American Bird Conservancy, Blue Moon Foundation, Global Wildlife Conservation, Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, March Foundation, and private donors.

Ridgely, one of Jocotoco’s founders, adds. “I am grateful to one and all.  This surely is the most exciting moment in my conservation career.”

We are very grateful for the support of many Ecuadorian and international organizations and donors to make this dream a reality, including the Anadel Law; Andrew Farnsworth; Amphibian Survival Alliance; American Bird Conservancy; Andrew Sabin Family Foundation; BirdLife International; Blue Moon Fund; Butler Foundation; Cabañas San Isidro; Centro de Rescate Ilitio; Conservation International; EcoFondo; Empresa Municipal de Alcantarillado Agua Potable; Estación Científica Yanayacu; Estudio Jurídico Gallegos y Asociados ; Familia Vallejo, Hacienda Guáytara; Fundación Jocotoco; James & Ellen Strauss; Juan Kohn; Global Wildlife Conservation; Grupo Nacional de Trabajo del Condor Andino; Larry Thompson; Leapfrog Conservation Initiative; Marybeth Sollins; March Foundation; Ministerio del Ambiente, Government of Ecuador; Ministerio del Turismo, Government of Ecuador; Municipio de Quito; Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales; Nature and Culture International; Parque Zoólogico de Guayllabamba; Paul G. Allen Foundation; Rainforest Trust; Robert & Peg Ridgely; Sally Davidson; The Butler Foundation; The Bobolink Foundation; The March Foundation; The Nature Conservancy ; The Peregrine Fund; The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, and many more supporters.

Rainforest Trust, Partners Start Leapfrog Amphibian Fund

Honorable mention, FotoWeek DC 2011 Natural History Portfolio, Finalist Smithsonian Photo Awards. Masked treefrog, Smilisca phaeota, in ColombiaSmilisca phaeota © Robin Moore
An Andes poison dart frog, Ranitomeya opisthomelas, in the Chocó rainforest.Ranitomeya opisthomelas © Robin Moore
Canal zone treefrog, Hypsiboas rufitelus, in the Choco department of ColombiaHypsiboas rufitelus © Robin Moore

Rainforest Trust, the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA), Global Wildlife Conservation and Andrew Sabin Family Foundation are taking a bold step in the fight to save amphibians by committing one million dollars to protect key habitats worldwide over the coming year. The fund, which has been named the Leapfrog Conservation Fund, will be dispersed through the ASA – the world’s largest partnership for amphibian conservation – to strategically protect and manage key habitats for frogs, salamanders, caecilians and other species for the benefit of current and future generations.

“Habitat loss is the single biggest threat to the survival of amphibians worldwide” said Don Church, Executive Director of the ASA, adding “this million dollar commitment represents a landmark in the battle to stem the alarming loss of frogs, salamanders and caecilians. We hope that it will encourage others to step forward and make a commitment to protecting amphibians and habitats.”

The Leapfrog Conservation Fund will strategically and collaboratively target the most threatened habitats for protection. “Partnerships are the key to success” said Robin Moore, Conservation Officer with the ASA, Rainforest Trust and Global Wildlife Conservation, “we all have a stake in the future of our environment, and what is truly exciting about the Leapfrog Conservation Fund is that it represents an opportunity for unique collaborations to achieve a common goal – saving amphibians and the habitats upon which we all depend.”

Dr Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust, said “amphibians represent an opportunity to stem biodiversity loss through relatively modest investments. We can literally save entire species through strategic habitat protection. We are thrilled to be able to make this commitment to protecting the most threatened vertebrate group in priority sites worldwide.”

Amphibians are at the forefront of what is being widely referred to as the sixth mass extinction event on earth. Around a half of over 7,000 amphibian species are in decline, a third are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened species, and more than 120 species are thought to have been lost in recent years. Disease and climate change have been implicated in the sudden and rapid disappearance of species from South, Central and North America, Europe and Australia – but the primary threat to the survival of many amphibian species is the rampant loss and degradation of habitats, such as rainforests. In the tropics, where the entire range of a species may be as small as a single stream, amphibians often fall through the cracks in protected area coverage and a recent study revealed that 940 amphibian species worldwide occur in unprotected habitat.

The Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) is the world’s largest partnership for amphibian conservation, formed in response to the decline of frogs, salamanders and caecilians worldwide. Without immediate and coordinated action we stand to lose half of some 7,000 species of amphibians in our lifetimes. The ASA draws on cutting-edge research to protect amphibians and key habitats worldwide, in addition to educating and inspiring the global community to become a part of the amphibian conservation movement. www.amphibians.org

Global Wildlife Conservation
Global Wildlife Conservation works on conservation and research projects related to biodiversity. Three major themes are Exploration – conducting field expeditions to the world’s most biologically important and threatened areas; Research – implementing conservation studies on threatened species and habitats; and Conservation – translating science to action so that wildlife and wild lands are effectively protected. www.globalwildlife.org