Portage Park Elementary Raises $1191

Student Rainforest ArtworkRainforest artwork by a Portage Park student
Artwork and sign“Help Portage Park Save The Rainforest”
Earth Day T-ShirtT-Shirt sold for Earth Day

For the past seven years, Ewa Shimasaki and the students at Portage Park Elementary have dedicated themselves to saving the rainforest by raising funds for Rainforest Trust through a variety of creative and successful fundraisers. Since 2007, they have raised over $6,000. The 2013-2014 school year, however, proved to be one of their most successful yet: the school raised $1191.55 to save acres in the Peruvian Amazon and on the Indonesian island of Sangihe.

Since 2007, Shimasaki has rallied the students and faculty at Portage Park Elementary to get involved in the effort to save the world’s tropical forests, holding fundraisers each year. “I started getting the students to fundraise,” she explained, “because I stay aware of what is happening in the world and I’ve always wanted to bring that sense of awareness to my students. I wanted to expose them to a need in the Earth whose solution they can contribute to.”

After years of fundraising, Shimasaki said she wanted new ideas for how to get the students engaged, so she turned to her fellow teachers for their collaboration. Beginning last year, Shimasaki spoke with the art teachers at her school about getting their classes involved in the projects. The art teachers soon incorporated the rainforest into their curriculum by having the students create artwork inspired by rainforest animals. The older students were taught how to sew and created felt birds, while the younger students produced water color paintings.

The artwork was then put on display during the school’s parent-teacher conferences, where parents could view and purchase their students’ work. This also provided the opportunity for the public to see the students’ fundraising efforts. The sales at the parent-teacher conferences were encouraging, but the students were determined to raise more.

Soon the fundraising became a truly school-wide project. According to Shimasaki, “The whole school embraced it from top to bottom – from the administrators to the students. The kids were really into it, and tried to help as much as they were able. For instance, the Environmental Club donated their time to our art sale by manning the tables at the conferences.” Teachers and office staff also contributed their time on their day off to help run sales tables and handle the money.

The school’s next idea was to sell t-shirts for Earth Day, which proved to be an effective fundraiser. “The shirts were designed with an Earth Day theme, featuring an owl sitting in a tree,” Shimasaki said. “The students were excited to buy the shirts because they were allowed to wear them instead of their normal school uniforms!”

To close out the year, the students held one last fundraiser: a potted plant and button sale for Mother’s Day. “Mother Earth, Mother’s Day – it tied in very nicely,” Shimasaki said. Thanks to a students’ relative who owns a button-making company, the class was able to get 100 Mother’s Day buttons donated. Students from the Student Council and the Environmental Club helped with the sale of the plants and buttons, giving up their lunch time to run the tables where the items could be purchased.

By the end of the year, Portage Park Elementary had raised a total of $1191. The funds were evenly split between Rainforest Trust’s projects in the Peruvian Amazon and on the Indonesian island of Sangihe.

“We decided to donate to the project in Sierra del Divisor because we knew we could save the greatest number of acres for our donation there. We’re also very interested in birds, so we decided to donate the other half to the project in Sangihe since there are so many threatened bird species there,” Shimasaki said.

Through these fundraisers, Shimasaki thinks the students have learned something valuable: “They’ve learned that there are aspects of this world that need our protection, and that anyone – even young students – can protect it if they are willing to work for it.”

Rainforest Trust Welcomed As New IUCN Member

iucnmember for web
_LCM8483 - forweb Rainforest Trust has conserved nearly 8 million acres  © Luis Marigo
Jaguar, Panthera onca Hundreds of tropical species have benefited from Rainforest Trust’s protection  © Pond5

August 8, 2014

On July 18, Rainforest Trust joined the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), becoming a member of the world’s largest and oldest environmental network.

Founded in 1948, IUCN works with states, government agencies and a diverse range of non-governmental organizations in a world partnership focused on conserving the integrity and diversity of nature on earth.

Joining IUCN will provide Rainforest Trust with improved networking opportunities as well as access to new potential partners and funding sources.

“Rainforest Trust’s long-standing commitment to tropical conservation aligns well with IUCN values and we are pleased to be joining its community,” said Christine Hodgdon, International Conservation Manager for Rainforest Trust. “Being a member will not only help to advance our own work, but it will also provide us with an opportunity to contribute actively to IUCN’s world mission.”

Every four years Rainforest Trust will be eligible to attend the IUCN World Conservation Congress, where the organization will have an opportunity to vote on recommendations and resolutions that shape IUCN’s future strategies and work programs.

Members of Rainforest Trust’s conservation staff will be attending this year’s IUCN World Parks Congress, which will be held in Sydney, Australia, November 12-19.

The Congress, held every ten years, is one of the most important protected area forums in the environmental field. Attending the Congress will allow Rainforest Trust to participate in developing IUCN’s protected area agenda.

Informational resources provided by IUCN play a critical role in guiding conservation action and policy decisions around the world. The IUCN Red List, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species. The list now contains more than 73,600 entries.

“IUCN has led the way in endangered species conservation and has gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s most important conservation organizations,” said Hodgdon.

Rare Primate Sighted in Colombian Reserve

Staring Colombian Spider Monkey
Colombian Spider Monkey © Pond5
C. Spider Monkey for web Individual spotted in Titi Reserve  © Juliett Gonzalez
Mono Titi (14) - for web Cotton-top Tamarin © ProAves

August 7, 2014

A researcher in Colombia’s Titi Nature Reserve has discovered a new population of the critically endangered Colombian Spider Monkey. During a daytime survey last month, Juliett Gonzalez, a project scientist with ProAves, found 21 individuals, including adults, juveniles and infants.

A subspecies of the Black-headed Spider Monkey, the Colombian Spider Monkey is found only in the rainforests of Colombia and Panama. Although there is no consensus on total population size, estimates place the number at 250.

Due to drastic declines in its population, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has added the Colombian Spider Monkey to its Red List of threatened species. In the last five decades total numbers of the rare primate have decreased by 80 percent. Threats include hunting, habitat loss and the illegal pet trade.

“Not only is this sighting fantastic news for one of the rarest New World primates, a species tottering on the brink of extinction, but it’s also confirmation that the Titi Nature Reserve is doing what it was designed to do, principally to provide endangered species with the habitat they need to survive,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.

Financed by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Gonzalez’s study seeks to gather critical information about Colombian Spider Monkeys, one of the least-studied primates in Colombia. Her findings will eventually be incorporated into future conservation efforts at the reserve.

Colombian Spider Monkeys play an important role in the ecosystems they inhabit. They survive primarily on a fruit-based diet and help maintain ecological diversity by dispersing the seeds of nearly 140 different plant and trees species.

Colombian Spider Monkeys are also noteworthy for their size. Weighing up to 22 pounds, they are one of the largest primates in the Western Hemisphere. They also lack thumbs and are highly dependent on their prehensile tails to navigate forest canopies.

The 5,691-acre Titi Reserve was created in 2013 with Rainforest Trust support. In addition to Colombian Spider Monkeys, the reserve protects key populations of the Cotton-top Tamarin, another critically endangered primate endemic to Colombia. Over 272 bird species also depend on the reserve. This includes endangered species such as the Great Curassow, Green Macaw and Recurve-billed Bushbird.

“Successes of this kind are good reminders of the absolutely critical role that protected areas play in wildlife conservation,” said Salaman.