Expanded Protection for Colombia’s Endangered Wildlife

Magdalena rainforest Blue-billed Curassow2 - Copy (2) Blue-billed Curassow © ProAves
13987999220_6fdff43b22_b - Copy Marking boundary of new acquisition © ProAves
5-14 Paujil purchase - Copy Lowland rainforest protected in the El Paujíl Reserve © ProAves

May 30, 2014

Rainforest Trust’s Colombian partner ProAves successfully completed the purchase of 494 acres that will provide critical protection for the Blue-billed Curassow and other endangered species by expanding the El Paujíl Reserve. The reserve, located in Central Colombia, now totals more than 8,400 acres.

The new acquisition, which conserves pristine lowland rainforest, contains populations of such threatened species as the Spectacled Bear, Brown Spider Monkey, Magdalena Tapir, and Blue-billed Curassow.

With as few as 150 mature individuals remaining, the critically endangered Blue-billed Curassow is considered one of the most endangered birds on the planet. The reserve protects the only viable population of the species known to exist.

“This new property is definitely one of the most important areas for the Blue-billed Curassow in Colombia,” said Alonso Quevedo, executive director of ProAves. “And the recent discovery of large mammals like the Magdalena Tapir and Spectacled Bear within the reserve has added new urgency to our expansion efforts. These mammals need big undisturbed areas to thrive and this land purchase is part of a larger, ongoing effort to provide that space.”

ProAves created the El Paujíl Nature Reserve in 2003 with the support of Rainforest Trust to protect an important segment of Colombia’s Magdalena Valley, one of the planet’s most vulnerable rainforest regions. Rainforest Trust has continued to support the reserve’s expansion in subsequent years.

Although the forest supports an impressive array of endemic species, it is being rapidly cleared. Uncontrolled colonization and logging have caused the destruction of more than 16 million acres, accounting for nearly 98% of the Magdalena rainforest. Combined with illegal hunting, such habitat loss has had catastrophic effects on the local fauna.

Despite these threats, the Blue-billed Curassow population in the El Paujíl Reserve has increased 23% annually. The new acquisition will ensure that sufficient space exists for this population to continue expanding.

Complementing its conservation work, ProAves launched an educational outreach campaign in 2009 to engage local communities. Over 200 community and school workshops have been conducted, and the Blue-billed Curassow is now celebrated in an annual festival. ProAves is also working with local communities to develop sustainable ecotourism activities.

This project was made possible thanks to the generous support of Luanne Lemmer and Eric Veach, Larry Thompson, George Jett, Ted and Kay Reissing, Shayde Christian, and Rainforest Trust Board member Brett Byers.


Student Conservationists Save Over 2,000 Acres of Rainforest

Regency Park 2nd GradersMs. Harvey’s second grade class
Regency Park 2nd GradersRegency Park Elementary students
Regency Park 2nd GradersStudents with Rainforest Trust Hero certificates

May 27, 2014

A second grade class from Sacramento, CA, motivated their school to raise $1,368 to save acres of rainforest in Palawan and the Amazon.

Alarmed by the negative impacts of rainforest destruction around the world, the second graders in Rochelle Harvey’s class at Regency Park Elementary School in Sacramento, CA, decided to take action and raise funds to help Rainforest Trust in its mission to protect threatened rainforests and the species that call them home.

Harvey first learned of Rainforest Trust while searching the internet for websites where children could learn about the rainforest and was inspired by stories of classes raising money to help Rainforest Trust. “I saw the inspirational stories from other classes and decided that we could help as well,” she said. Harvey added that another deciding factor was that a majority of their donation to Rainforest Trust would go directly to the field.

“With our learning unit focused on the life cycle of frogs, I decided it would be beneficial for my kids to know more about the habitat where most frog species live: the rainforest,” said Harvey. “The more we learned, the more we knew we had to do something,” Harvey added.

The students set a fundraising goal of $1,000 to save at least 2,000 acres of rainforest. After some brainstorming, the students decided to raise money by selling used books, as nearly everyone in the class had books they were willing to sell. After doing so, they announced the sale to the rest of the school. “We have almost 900 students in our school, so that turned out to be a lot of books!” Harvey said.

They also held a “Money for Monkeys” classroom donation competition, in which all kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms competed for a pizza party, funded by the school’s Student Service Committee.

To help the students reach their goal, the school’s Parent Teacher Association helped host a “Save the Rainforest Movie Night / Art Show & Bake Sale” to sell rainforest animal art made by the students. Parents and teachers also contributed baked goods to sell during a screening of the movie “Rio.” The event was attended by about 300 people, making it a successful night.

Harvey’s students surpassed their goal by raising a total of $1,368.57. With this money, the students chose to save 784 acres of rainforest on the island of Palawan in the Philippines and 1,710 acres of the Amazon rainforest in Peru. Both of these regions are recognized as critically important hotspots for global biodiversity, providing habitat for species such as the Palawan Bearcat, the Jaguar, and many more.

Through their efforts, the students learned of the many reasons rainforests need protection. Renzo, a student in Harvey’s class, said, “I learned that the rainforest gives us clean air to breath, food, medicine, and fresh water.” Chloe, another student, added, “I learned that rainforests used to cover 16% of the land on Earth, and now it covers only about 6%. We need to start saving more of it so we have the things we need.”

Rainforest Trust Partner Initiates Plan for New Amazon Reserve

DSCN2681 Team members discuss plans © CEDIA
DSCN32331 Community meeting © CEDIA
DSCN33191 Traveling to Amazon communities © CEDIA

May 22, 2014

With Rainforest Trust backing, Peruvian partner CEDIA (Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon) is working with Peru’s National Park Service (SERNANP) to create a new 740,000-acre reserve protecting fragile Amazonian ecosystems.

Traveling on Peru’s Tapiche and Blanco rivers, a conservation team composed of CEDIA employees, Peru’s National Park Service, the Chicago Field Museum, and regional authorities spent three weeks last month visiting remote Amazonian villages with the goal of meeting local people and introducing a new conservation initiative. The plan they offered will not only title community lands, but protect the threatened forests that surround them.

“We didn’t see much interest in commercial or exploitative enterprises within the local population. On the contrary, we discovered that people were interested in the possibilities conservation held for protecting their ecosystem,” said David Rivera, a CEDIA anthropologist that took part on the trip.

The new project will protect a vast stretch of rainforest habitat composed of white sand forests, known locally as varillales, through the creation of the Tapiche-Blanco White Sand National Reserve. The reserve will connect the Sierra del Divisor National Park (another CEDIA/Rainforest Trust project currently underway) with the Matsés National Reserve. It will also be a major addition to a binational biological corridor on the Peruvian-Brazilian border that will total more than ten million acres.

Due to the sandy soils they grow upon, white sand forests form a unique ecological niche in the Amazon. Although lacking adequate study, the ecosystem has already been identified as a conservation priority due to the numerous endemic species it contains. In recent years, ten new species – five birds and five plants – have been discovered in Peru’s white sand forests.

Though white sand forests are composed of smaller trees and are not highly valued by loggers, their unprotected status continues to indirectly facilitate illegal logging. Legal white sand forest concessions have been used as a screen by logging companies to mask criminal operations in larger adjacent forests. Construction of logging roads to these areas also poses a serious threat, as existing roads have proved disastrous to the area’s fragile soils.

Community titled lands will surround much of the reserve, providing an added layer of protection against illegal colonization and resource extraction. Titling these lands will provide the local population with a chance to participate in conservation efforts, and community members will work with CEDIA and SERNANP to draft management plans for the Tapiche-Blanco White Sand National Reserve. CEDIA has also signed an agreement with SERNANP to support the training of park guards, as well as teaching monitoring techniques to communities to improve reporting and detection of illegal intrusions.

To facilitate the land titling process, CEDIA is partnering with the agrarian bureau of Peru’s Loreto region, which has already been involved in the titling of more than 60 native and peasant communities in the area.

During the trip, representatives of the Chicago Field Museum met with local communities to obtain permission to conduct a rapid biological survey that is planned for later this year. The three week survey will take place in four locations, and will include biological, botanical and geologic investigations. The findings will be included in a formal reserve proposal for the Tapiche-Blanco White Sand Reserve.

Guatemalan Gov’t Creates 47,000-acre Sierra Caral Protected Area

Blue snake from Sierra Caral, Guatemala Merendon palm-pitviper © Robin Moore
Ollotis valliceps Gulf Coast Toad © Robin Moore
Arboreal salamander, Bolitoglossa dofleini Doflein’s Salamander © Robin Moore

May 14, 2014

Guatemala’s National Congress created the Sierra Caral National Protected Area on May 13, making it the nation’s first federally protected area to be established in seven years. The core of the new 47,000-acre protected area is the Sierra Caral Amphibian Conservation Reserve, which local conservation partner FUNDAECO created with Rainforest Trust’s support in 2012.

“This area will fill an important conservation gap in the Guatemalan system of protected areas, and will ensure the conservation of many endemic and endangered amphibians in this globally recognized AZE [Alliance for Zero Extinction] site,” said Marco Cerezo, CEO of FUNDAECO.

The Sierra Caral National Protected Area was created with the overwhelming support of Guatemala’s National Congress, with eighty-four percent of Congress voting in favor. The new protected area, which is nearly eight times the size of the original reserve, will provide additional legal protection and long-term sustainability for the reserve.

“This accomplishment highlights the fact that our work doesn’t end with land purchase, rather it is the beginning of a process to ensure the land is permanently protected” noted Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “Our Guatemalan partner FUNDAECO has achieved an outstanding success that will securely protect one of our planet’s most biodiverse areas.”

The Sierra Caral, an isolated mountain range near Guatemala’s Caribbean coast, is not only home to many endemic species, but is also a natural corridor and meeting place for many North and South American species.

The protected area provides habitat for a dozen globally threatened amphibians – five found nowhere else in the world – and three species of threatened birds. Scientific explorations in the Sierra Caral have resulted in discoveries of new beetle, salamander, frog, and snake species.

Over the last 20 years, however, rampant clearcutting has led to the loss of critical wildlife habitat in the Sierra Caral and reduced populations of local species. The protected area, which contains the last stands of primary forest found in the Sierra Caral, will protect some of the best remaining habitat in eastern Guatemala for jaguars, pumas, and other threatened species.

In a letter to FUNDAECO’s partners, Cerezo wrote, “I sincerely thank you for all the support that you have given us over the past few years, in order to achieve this exciting conservation outcome for Guatemala, Central America, and the whole planet!”

A consortium of fifteen international conservation groups, led by Global Wildlife Conservation, partnered with FUNDAECO to raise the funds needed to purchase the original amphibian reserve. Critical support also came from the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, Rainforest Trust, International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC), American Bird Conservancy, and Conservation International, among others.

Rainforest Trust, Partners Meet Funding Goal to Protect Orangutans

Lip Kee Orangutan Orangutan © Lip Kee
Borneo pygmy elephant - Copy Pygmy Elephant © HUTAN
HUTAN-Jamil Sinyor12 Proboscis Monkey © Jamil Sinyor/HUTAN

May 8, 2014: Rainforest Trust, together with its UK partner World Land Trust (WLT), raised $1.7 million to save critical rainforest habitat for the endangered Bornean Orangutan and other wildlife in the Lower Kinabatangan floodplain of Sabah, Borneo.

In collaboration with WLT, Rainforest Trust organized the project with a Malaysian conservation partner based in the Bornean state of Sabah. Sabah is one of the few remaining Orangutan strongholds, and there are thought to be only 1,000 Orangutans remaining in the region.

Rainforest Trust received an incredible outpouring of support from its donors, and from thousands of generous members of the global civic movement Avaaz.

Funds raised for this project will be used to purchase rainforest acres and secure protection of the Keruak Corridor. This critically important strip of rainforest, situated along the north bank of the Kinabatangan River, will link two existing forest reserves. The corridor will enable isolated groups of Orangutans to travel over larger distances and form more viable populations. Many other endangered species will also benefit from this project, including the Pygmy Elephant and Proboscis Monkey.

“The rapid expansion of palm oil plantations in Borneo has resulted in an unprecedented destruction of the island’s unique and rich tropical rainforests, putting the future of the Bornean Orangutan in serious jeopardy. Thanks to the help of Avaaz, Daniel Maltz, and thousands of other donors, this appeal will help ensure the survival of the island’s Orangutan and Pygmy Elephant populations,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.

Largest Known Population of Endangered Bird Species Found

Tapaculo_1 - Copy El Oro Tapaculo © Claudia Hermes
Ramirez Property Forest near discovery site © Claudia Hermes
capuchin monkey Reintroduced Capuchin monkeys were also spotted recently in the reserve © Michael Bauer


Researchers from the University of Freiburg announced May 6 that they have found the largest population of El Oro Tapaculos known to date. The discovery of approximately 20 pairs occurred in southwest Ecuador on land recently purchased to expand Fundación Jocotoco’s Buenaventura Reserve.

The expansion, which significantly increases protection of the species, was completed with Rainforest Trust’s support in 2013.

“The density of the El Oro Tapaculo population in the newly purchased area is much higher than in any other part of Buenaventura Reserve. That means it is much higher than in any other part of the world studied,” said Dr. Martin Schaefer, senior scientist at the University of Freiburg, supervisor of the El Oro Tapaculo Project, and president of Fundación Jocotoco.

Little is known of the endangered El Oro Tapaculo. Field observation is made difficult due to the fact the bird is found only in the densest cloud forests, and its population size and ecology remain mysteries.

Without a confirmed sighting in recent years, scientists feared that the El Oro Tapaculo might have gone extinct.

“This discovery is not only great news for an endangered bird species, but also confirmation that Buenaventura is one of the most important reserves for avifauna in Ecuador,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.

The Buenaventura Reserve was created in 1999 to protect habitat for the El Oro Parakeet. Since its creation, the reserve has steadily grown in size and now totals 4,600 acres. Rainforest Trust has aided in the purchase of 4,025 acres during the last 15 years.

“Buenaventura’s most famous endangered bird is obviously the El Oro Parakeet, the species for which the reserve was established originally. But it’s turned out that the El Oro Tapaculo is far rarer! Recent research has shown that the property purchased in 2013 contains by far the best habitat for the admittedly obscure tapaculo, so now its future is far more secure,” said Dr. Robert S. Ridgely, president of Rainforest Trust.

More than 330 species of birds have been recorded at the Buenaventura Reserve; 12 species are classified as globally threatened, 34 as local endemics.

The reserve protects one of the largest tracts of cloud forest remaining in southwestern Ecuador. Combining characteristics of the Tumbesian forest of southern Ecuador and northwestern Peru with the wet Chocó rainforest of northwestern Ecuador, this rainforest is one of the most threatened in the world. Estimates indicate that less than 10% of the original forest remains.




Painting a Future for Wildlife: An Interview with Artist Kitty Harvill

P1090976 - Copy Harvill in the field © Kitty Harvill
Xuxa - Copy Female Howler at Serra Bonita © Leandro Muriqui
Kitty and Howler Harvill with Howler at Serra Bonita © Kitty Harvill


Based in Paraná, Brazil, Kitty Harvill is an award-winning wildlife artist and illustrator. Last year, Harvill supported Rainforest Trust’s efforts to expand Bolivia’s Barba Azul (Blue-throated Macaw) Reserve by auctioning a Maned Wolf portrait. She is currently working on a project to paint the critically endangered Northern Brown Howler, a primate species facing extinction in Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest. Reintroduction efforts are now underway at the Serra Bonita Reserve, managed by Rainforest Trust’s Brazilian partner Instituto Uiraçu, to help save the Northern Brown Howler.

You often choose endangered species as subjects. What makes them appeal to you?

All my art is done to raise awareness. Wildlife is rapidly going extinct around the world and it’s not happening for natural reasons. It’s happening because of us. If you focus on saving an endangered species, you are essentially committed to saving its habitat and by doing so you are going to provide refuge for all the species found within the area it occupies.

A lot of your art focuses on the Atlantic Rainforest. Why is that?

I have a deep connection to the Atlantic Rainforest, and with it a sense of responsibility to care for it. Ninety-three percent of the Atlantic Rainforest is already destroyed, and 70% of Brazil’s population lives in what used to be this forest. Not only does it provide habitat for many species, but it’s also an absolutely essential source of water for Brazil’s human population.

In some ways, the Atlantic Rainforest is Brazil’s other, forgotten rainforest. It’s often overshadowed by the Amazon, and a lot of my friends have never even heard of it. This forest is just as important as the Amazon, but it lacks the same kind of conservation support.

How did you learn about the Northern Brown Howler Monkey? And what made you want to use it as a subject?

For a long time, I’ve wanted to do a series of paintings featuring Brazil’s endangered primates. So when I received a mailing from Rainforest Trust recently with photos of the Northern Brown Howler, I knew right away I wanted to do a portrait of it.

Lecturing about threats to the Atlantic Rainforest will only take you so far. I’m hopeful that if I can capture the spirit of the Northern Brown Howler in my paintings it will resonate with people in a way that words can’t. When you look into the eyes of the Northern Brown Howler – a species on the edge of extinction – it’s hard to think, “I don’t care if its forest is destroyed.”

Can you describe your artistic process?

I like to have an in-person experience with the animal before painting it. If I take the time to absorb an animal’s individual energy, it comes through in my artwork. If I’m successful, the finished product is not just pastel on paper, or oil on canvas, it’s something more. The spirit of the subject comes through evoking an emotional response.

To paint the Northern Brown Howler, I traveled to the Serra Bonita Reserve several weeks ago to photograph and spend time with the young male and female that live there.

Before painting, I like to do smaller works in pastel so I can get a feel for the subject and its features. I’ve done one, so far, of the female howler and plan on doing another of the male. Rainforest Trust will be posting updates of this process on its Facebook page. I will also be posting updates on my Facebook Page, and there is more about my work on my Artists for Conservation site.

Once finished with these, I will be starting a larger work with oils that will depict Northern Brown Howlers together and I also plan to create a watercolor showing the Howlers within their natural habitat at Serra Bonita.

What will you do with your work when you are finished?

A portion of the proceeds from my work will go directly towards efforts to protect Northern Brown Howlers and their habitat. I will also be giving reproduction rights to Rainforest Trust to help promote future campaigns aimed to expand the Serra Bonita Reserve.

Earth Day Campaign a Success for Rainforest Trust

Sierra del Divisor river Sierra del Divisor rainforest © Thomas Muller
Sierra del divisor people Local communities will help protect rainforest © Thomas Müller
wikipedia jaguar Jaguars, among other wildlife, are found in the area © Wikipedia

May 2, 2014

Thanks to the generous aid of its supporters, Rainforest Trust met and exceeded its 100,000-acre Earth Day goal. The funds received will protect 102,616 acres of Amazon rainforest.

The rainforest to be protected is located in Peru’s Sierra del Divisor range and will provide much needed sanctuary for some of the Amazon’s most endangered species. Jaguars, Giant River Otters, Giant Armadillos, and South American Tapirs are all found in the area. In total, the Sierra del Divisor is home to 20 threatened mammals.

To reach its goal, Rainforest Trust collaborated with The Rainforest Site and its non-profit partner Greatergood.org.  Greatergood.org and The Rainforest Site organized a pledge drive in support of the goal and donated funds to protect an acre for each signature gathered. Together, they succeeded in collecting 13,680 signatures and raised additional donations to protect over 33,000 acres of the 100,000-acre goal.

“Greatergood.org does a fantastic job of connecting people with worthy causes, and it did so impressively with the Earth Day campaign,” said Joe Lowe, Communications Director for Rainforest Trust.

“We are honored to help Rainforest Trust protect some of the most biologically diverse and species rich parts of the world.  I’ve visited the Peruvian Amazon, and have been astounded by its beauty and biological richness. It truly is magical,” said Tim Kunin, CEO of GreaterGood.org.

Support from key supporters and Rainforest Trust board members allowed Rainforest Trust to offer a matching donation for the last week of the campaign.

“This achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the overwhelming support of the Rainforest Trust community. The generosity and enthusiasm of our supporters was the driving force behind this success,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.

Rainforest Trust received help from Guns N’ Roses on April 7, when the rock group advertised the campaign on its social media channels. One Percent for the Planet and One Green Planet also featured the Earth Day initiative online.

Rainforest Trust’s Earth Day campaign is part of a larger ongoing effort to protect 5.9 million acres of rainforest in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. This area will be conserved through the creation of two nationally protected areas along with a buffer zone of 57 indigenous territories.

“We know that what happens in the Amazon affects us here in the US, so in this case acting globally and acting locally are one and the same. The success of our Earth Day initiative is a clear message that we can play an important part in deciding how much of this critical ecosystem remains intact,” said Salaman.

Rainforest Trust, formerly World Land Trust-US, is a nonprofit conservation organization focused on saving rainforest and endangered species. Since its founding in 1988, Rainforest Trust has saved more than 7.7 million acres of rainforests and other tropical habitats in 67 projects across 17 tropical countries. The nonprofit purchases and protects 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.

GreaterGood.org is an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization devoted to improving the health and well-being of people, pets, and the planet. Since 2006, it has given more than $30 million to charity partners and programs worldwide that work toward our mission. GreaterGood.org raises funds through a suite of 9 cause related websites including The Rainforest Site.

The Rainforest Site is dedicated to protecting rainforest ecosystems and endangered species by connecting conscious-minded consumers with conservation projects from around the world. The site, which features environmentally-friendly gifts, uses innovative means to protect rainforest such as sponsored click-to-conserve buttons that allow visitors to preserve threatened lands for free.

Media contact:
Marc Ford, Rainforest Trust