News Release: Rainforest Trust Announces Plan to Create Forest Reserve in the Philippines

Palawan project will protect habitat for critically endangered species in one of the oldest, most diverse forests in Southeast Asia

WARRENTON, VA – FEBRUARY 13, 2014 – Rainforest Trust, a nonprofit conservation organization focused on protecting threatened tropical lands and saving endangered species, has announced a new project to create an 80,000-acre reserve on Palawan Island in the Philippines. Rainforest Trust and its local partner, the Center for Sustainability, a Palawan-based NGO, will collaborate with the Puerto Princesa city government to develop the new Cleopatra’s Needle Forest Reserve.

Over the past 50 years, the forests of the Philippines have been dramatically reduced by logging, mining, and land conversion. Yet 52 percent of the forests of Palawan remain intact – and are in urgent need of protection.

The site of the new reserve – adjacent to the existing Puerto Princesa Underground River National Park – is a biodiversity hotspot which is home to endemic species such as the Palawan bearcat, Palawan pangolin, and key populations of the Palawan horned frog, Philippine flat-headed frog, and Philippine cockatoo. In November 2013, a study published in the journal Science identified Palawan as the world’s fourth most “irreplaceable” area for unique and threatened wildlife.

“Rainforests, including those in Palawan, are the richest places on earth, holding the majority of the planet’s biodiversity, yet 100 acres of rainforests around the world are cleared every minute,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, chief executive officer of Rainforest Trust. “Our new project in the Philippines is an extraordinary opportunity to save a vast area of unprotected rainforest near an important UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Center for Sustainability, our local partner, has been laying the groundwork for this project for five years. The support of the city government of Puerto Princesa, recognized for its excellent conservation track record, has been critical. As a result, the new reserve is going to safeguard many rare endemic species.”

Rainforest Trust has already raised over $160,000 and requires an additional $40,000 to fund the development and protection of the reserve. This includes creating a management plan, increasing the number of wardens to enhance law enforcement, and providing sustainable livelihoods for the local Batak tribe.

To donate or learn more about Rainforest Trust, visit

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 contact:
Marc Ford, Rainforest Trust

With Start-up Funding Complete, Amazon Project Yields Early Impact

Sierra del divisor mountains  Sierra del Divisor © Diego Perez/CEDIA
Goeldis_monkey- small Sierra del Divisor Wildlife © Wikipedia
Phase One Supporters © Alison Gavin

Feb. 24, 2014

An enormous piece of the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest is now closer to protection thanks to the generous support of Rainforest Trust friends and contributors. On February 21st, Rainforest Trust reached its goal of $646,000, ending the initial fundraising campaign of its 5.9-million-acre Sierra del Divisor project.

This funding, which will be used to protect rainforest through the creation of protected areas and titled indigenous lands, has already yielded significant impact on the ground.

Since project launch in November, our Peruvian partner CEDIA (Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon) held three large meetings with local communities and Peru’s National Park Service (SENANP) to build support for the creation of a Sierra del Divisor National Park.

“The meetings have been a fantastic success. When local communities and indigenous groups realized the benefits that come with living beside a healthy ecosystem protected as a national park they threw their support wholeheartedly behind the project,” said Lelis Rivera, executive director of CEDIA. “Together with SERNANP, they have made a firm commitment to see this project through.”

The rapid support of Rainforest Trust has been critical in making these meetings happen.

“The Sierra del Divisor faces imminent threats, so setting an initial fundraising goal was an important way for us to get the project off the ground as quickly as possible,” said Malissa Cadwallader, Development Director for Rainforest Trust. “We received donations from around the world – from students, boy scouts, artists, celebrities, and travel companies. It was incredible to watch people come together in an effort to save this amazing region.”

“In only three months CEDIA has taken impressive steps towards making this project a reality,” said Rainforest Trust CEO, Dr. Paul Salaman. “Working with SERNANP and local communities they’ve developed a shared vision of why this area needs to be protected and what it means for the future of local communities. There is a real dedication from everyone involved and from this we can expect great things in the ways of conservation.”

With community approval now established, SERNANP will begin the administrative tasks required to establish the Sierra del Divisor National Park.

With the first fundraising phase finished, Rainforest Trust will begin raising the $2.2 million dollars remaining to complete the four-year project.

“We’re determined to make sure that every acre declared ‘protected’ really is protected,” said Dr. Salaman. “Real conservation work takes place after parks are created. Doing so requires time and effort, but we’re committed to ensuring that the Sierra del Divisor and adjoining areas remain in the wonderfully biodiverse state they are in today.”

Thanks to a matching donation offered by Rainforest Trust board members, and Luanne Lemmer and Eric Veach, all donations for the first phase of this project were quadrupled.

Because this area will be protected by national decrees and indigenous land titles rather than land purchase, rainforest acres can be saved for only 50¢.

New Hope for Critically Endangered Brazilian Primate

Xuxa3.2 Xuxa © CETAS Porto Seguro
Pele Pele © Luis Claudio Marigo
Leonardo Neves Leonardo Neves © CETAS Porto Seguro

With only 40 Northern brown howler monkeys left in the world, the rare primate species, found only in Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest, faces a long road to recovery. The possibility of this happening improved February 14th with news that a breeding project for the species was off to a promising start.

A female howler monkey, known as Xuxa, was transported to the Serra Bonita Reserve where she will shortly be released into the company of the reserve’s sole male howler monkey.

In December, Xuxa was found alone near the city of Teixeira de Freitas in Brazil’s Bahia state where she was taken into care by employees of IBAMA (Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), the administrative branch of Brazil’s Ministry of Environment. After discovery, Xuxa was transported by officials to a wild animal facility in Porto Seguro.

One of the first to visit Xuxa was primatologist Leonardo Neves, an employee of Brazil’s National Center for Research and Conservation of Brazilian Primates, who is part of a multidisciplinary team spearheading recovery efforts for the Northern brown howler.

With financial support from Rainforest Trust, Neves has spent the last six months searching the Atlantic Rainforest for a female howler monkey to breed with the male at Serra Bonita. The monkey, named Pele, was given to Dr. Vitor Becker, the reserve’s director, after being released from captivity.

Neves found Xuxa’s relatively dark fur – which is typically a bright orange color – likely evidence that she fled or was released from captivity. After determining her to be in good health, he arranged for her transport to Serra Bonita, 125 miles away.

There, Xuxa was installed in an outdoor caging unit, located in the forest, where she will spend three weeks adjusting to the new environment and socializing with Pele through her cage. Following release, Xuxa will be temporarily fed until she has successfully adjusted to the natural environment and is able to forage herself.

The recovery process for the Northern brown howler monkey is hindered by the fact that human development has fragmented remaining howler monkey populations. It’s unlikely that groups containing more than a dozen mature howler monkeys now exist.

“It’s clear that translocation is the only conservation measure to prevent local extinction of some groups. The experience we’ll have with Xuxa and Pele will be very valuable in the future,” said Neves. “Serra Bonita is an ideal place to release other howlers and I hope we can continue to do so.”

“With the population of Northern brown howler monkeys so critically low, the role Serra Bonita plays in this breeding program is of absolute importance for the survival of this species,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.

To expand the Serra Bonita Reserve and provide improved protection for the Northern brown howler monkey, Rainforest Trust has embarked on a new campaign to purchase 271 acres of Atlantic Rainforest.

Plagued by overwhelming habitat destruction and the demands of the illegal animal trade, populations of the Northern brown howler monkey have declined precipitously in recent decades. In 2012, the species was ranked by the IUCN as one of the world’s 25 most endangered primate species.

“The search for more Northern brown howler monkeys continues. I want to identify all remaining populations and create a management plan for the species,” said Neves, who hopes to continue working on the project as long as necessary.

Recovery efforts were made possible with support from Conservation International (Primate Action Fund), Rainforest Trust, IESB (Institute of Social and Environmental Studies of Southern Bahia), Instituto Uiraçu, PRNP Serra Bonita, CPB ICMBio (Brazilian National Primate Center).

Rainforest Trust would like to give a special thanks to Board member Edith McBean who generously donated to support this project.


Rainforest Ambassadors Project Saves 3,568 Amazonian Acres

photo2.1 Alison Gavin and students
Gavin's class2 Participating social study class
Sierra del Divisor River Amazon Rainforest, Peru © Diego Perez/CEDIA

This past December, seventh grade students at Wilmette Junior High School in Wilmette, Illinois, took to the Internet to inquire about land use in the Amazon Rainforest.  Students in Alison Gavin’s social study class looked at the roles that environmentalists, loggers, native Amazonians, rubber tappers, ranchers, and oil companies play in protecting, sustaining, or destroying the rainforest.

“The more students inquired and learned about the situation, the more they wanted to do something with their knowledge to make a difference and protect the rainforest,” Gavin said.

While conducting research, students came across Rainforest Trust’s website and learned about current efforts to protect the Sierra del Divisor. Excited by the possibility of taking action to save the rainforest, students organized a week-long change drive with Gavin’s help. The drive was conducted as a “class against class” competition with all five of Gavin’s social study classes participating.

“After hearing about Rainforest Trust, I went home and checked out the website on my own and was impressed by the fact that people from all over the world were helping preserve the rainforest.  I had $100 from winning a violin solo competition in Chicago and I decided to donate half of it for the rainforest because I wanted to help preserve the beautiful forest and the animals who make their home in it,” said Rachel, one of Gavin’s students. “I thought my donation might excite the rest of my class and encourage more students to contribute so we could save more acres.  It worked! My class raised over $100!”

The coins (and bills) brought in by Gavin’s 139 students ended up totaling $446.00. Their donation will protect 3,568 acres of Amazonian rainforest.

According to Josie, another of Gavin’s students, the experience “helped us understand that, even though we are on the other side of the world, we can still make an impact.”

“This was an absolutely positive experience for the students. We want to help in any way we can, and if we can spur more schools to do similar fundraising drives, that would be an added bonus!” said Gavin.

Birding Tour Group Joins Effort to Protect Peru’s Sierra del Divisor

PIB final Logo color2
rufous potoo closee-up Rufous Potoo © Marcel Holyoak
El cono DiegoPerez - Copy (3) Sierra del Divisor, Peru © Diego Perez

In December of 2013, the Partnership for International Birding (PIB), a leader in the birding tour industry, joined Rainforest Trust’s efforts to protect Peru’s threatened Sierra del Divisor region. In a gesture of support, the company, which specializes in green and sustainable travel, began offering its clients a $100 tour discount for each $100 donated to Rainforest Trust’s Sierra del Divisor project.

“As birders, we’re indebted to forward-thinking governments and conservation organizations that establish reserves for birds to live and thrive in. Our partnership with Rainforest Trust offers clients an opportunity to get out and go birdwatching, while giving back at the same time,” said Charles Thornton-Kolbe, Executive Partner of PIB.

Thanks to a matching gift offer, each $100 donation from PIB clients protects 800 acres of rainforest. PIB and its clients have helped save nearly 50,000 acres during the last three months through the organization’s “Save an Acre” program.

“This project simply knocks the socks off our customers. It’s hard to believe that we can protect this much land for so many birds,” Thornton-Kolbe said. “Our goal at the Partnership for International Birding is to help protect at least 100,000 acres by the end of the year.”

Thornton-Kolbe’s enthusiasm for the Sierra del Divisor project is due, in part, to the results of a 2005 field study conducted by the Chicago Field Museum. Field Museum scientists identified 365 birds in the Sierra del Divisor, although they estimate the actual number may be closer to 570. Among notable birds found in the area are the Fiery Topaz, a brilliantly colored hummingbird, and the Acre Antshrike, a species previously known to inhabit a single ridge in Brazil.

“Protecting the Sierra del Divisor is a huge, multi-year effort, so receiving support from organizations that share our goals, like the Partnership for International Birding, is an important step towards permanently protecting this fantastically rich and biodiverse area,” said Malissa Cadwallader, Development Director at Rainforest Trust.

About the Partnership for International Birding
The Partnership for International Birding (PIB), with offices in the U.S. and U.K., has been offering birding tours for over a decade.  The organization, which offers over 150 birding trips each year on six continents, works with premier local bird-watching guides to offer sustainable birding travel. PIB typically leads small birding groups (usually 6 to 8 participants) on four to 12-day tours. To learn about upcoming PIB expeditions, click here.