Camera Traps Reveal the Hidden Himalayas

Camera traps from Rainforest Trust’s field partners in Myanmar and India have revealed an astonishing array of rare mammals – some captured for the first time ever in the wild. These images are providing biologists with invaluable data on the eastern Himalayas’ elusive wildlife.

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As pressures mount on eastern Himalayan forests, wildlife needs protection more than ever. However, without understanding the biology of many rare species, conservation targets for protecting them remain undefined.

Using battery operated, waterproof cameras with remote sensors and night vision, researchers have collected candid photos of species like the Critically Endangered Myanmar Snub-nosed Monkey – the first such camera trap images ever recorded. Photos of other wildlife species recorded include Red Panda, Golden Cat, Marbled Cat, Takin, Chinese Serow and many more.

By collecting data on species diversity, abundance and dispersal, camera traps are helping scientists gather information on rare mammals in a region known for its remoteness and uncompromising terrain. The data collected will be used to develop conservation strategies tailored to each species.

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In Myanmar, Rainforest Trust’s partners have recorded images of a diverse array of wildlife in the proposed Imawbum National Park. Camera trap photos include a glimpse of the Myanmar Snub-nosed Monkey resting serenely in a mossy ravine at night, a young Chinese Serow wandering across a trail, and the night time flash of a camera trap illuminating the astonished face of a Takin– a shaggy, horned mountain goat with a vague resemblance to the muskox. These images are revealing the private lives of these forests’ wildlife while collecting invaluable data.

Working with local partner Flora & Fauna International along with indigenous communities and local authorities, Rainforest Trust is working to establish the new Imawbum National Park in northeast Myanmar. The new park will protect 380,056 acres and provide the first ever protection for the Critically Endangered Myanmar Snub-nosed Monkey.

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A few hundred miles away, Rainforest Trust’s partners in Arunachal Pradesh, India have also recorded amazing images of wildlife in the proposed Bugun Conservation Area. Photos of Red Pandas scurrying across mountain trails and Golden Cats strolling nonchalantly in the afternoon sun give a glimpse into the lives of these shy creatures and allow further analysis of their behaviors.

Collaborating with local tribe and conservation partner, The Bugun Welfare Society, Rainforest Trust is working to create a Community Conserved Area adjacent to the spectacular Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary. The new area sits within a globally important bird area and serves as a stronghold for the Red Panda and a host of other rare Himalayan species.

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“We’re thrilled to get a glimpse into the secret lives of these incredible animals, “said Christine Hodgdon, International Conservation Manager for Rainforest Trust. “As these project sites are some of the most diverse and understudied intact primary forest in the eastern Himalaya, the photos demonstrate the richness of biodiversity in the area and highlight the importance of conserving it.”

Learn how you can support Rainforest Trust’s efforts to protect the eastern Himalayas’ wildlife through the creation of the new Imawbum National Park in Myanmar and Bugun Conservation Area in northeast India.

Landmark Protection for Borneo’s Endangered Wildlife

Thanks to Rainforest Trust donors, a major logging concession in Sabah, Borneo, has been converted into a 171,625-acre permanent sanctuary for wildlife that links two of the most important reserves in Asia – the Maliau Basin and Danum Valley – saving one of the most critical stretches of lowland rainforest remaining on the island.

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On December 21, 2015, Rainforest Trust received news from its local partner in Borneo that the Sabah State Assembly formally approved the permanent protection of 171,625 acres of the Kuamut logging concession as a Class I Forest Reserve. This status confers the same level of protection as a national park. The new protected area – nearly four times the size of the District of Columbia –strategically links two of Borneo’s largest protected areas, which are vital to protecting one of the planet’s last remaining strongholds of biodiversity.

Rainforest Trust in collaboration with Bornean partners Yayasan Sabah Foundation, the Royal Society South‐East Asia Rainforest Research Program (SEARRP), and Permian Global worked with Sabah’s state government to formally establish the new Kuamut Forest Reserve. Its protection comes after intense pressure to open these forests to repeated logging and oil palm development.

“The Kuamut Forest Reserve is a crucial link in a huge protected area complex extending across more than 77 miles of lowland rainforest and encompassing a wide variety of habitats for wildlife,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “After a struggle against logging and oil palm companies and their desire to open up these forests to development, we have finally secured protection for this exceptional area. The declaration of the Kuamut Forest Reserve is one of the greatest refuges for biodiversity in all of Borneo.”

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The lowland forests in Danum Valley are among the world’s most important – and threatened – biodiversity hotspots. The area supports 340 species of birds, including the Critically Endangered Helmeted Hornbill and numerous endemics. Over 60 species of amphibians, 75 reptile species, and 40 fish species are found in the area.

The valley is also home to Borneo’s Pygmy Elephant. Numbering less than 1,000 total individuals, this is the smallest elephant in the world and it depends upon Kuamut for its survival. Studied for less than a decade, it remains one of the least understood elephant species in the world.

Inhabiting the canopy of these forests are Bornean Orangutans, the world’s largest tree-dwelling mammal. The orangutan population in Danum Valley likely exceeds 700, forming part of the largest continuous population in the state of Sabah. In addition to orangutans, ten other primate species are found in the valley, including Bornean Gibbons and Horsfield’s Tarsiers. Other species like Sun Bears, Bantengs, Clouded Leopards, Bearded Pigs and several species of deer have been recorded as well.

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The future protection of the new reserve is greatly assisted by the fact that no villages or permanent settlements exist within the area and that poaching and hunting is prohibited. With a well trained and equipped team of forest guards, the former logging concession will quickly regenerate and recover to luxuriant rainforests again.

Without protection, it was predicted that around 40% of the Kuamut Forest Reserve would have been converted to agricultural land within the next five years.

“It was time to act,” explained Salaman. “Protecting Borneo’s remaining lowland rainforests from logging and expanding oil palm plantations is crucial for endangered wildlife like the Bornean Orangutan, Pygmy Elephant and a host of other species.”

“We’re thrilled to join our local partners and Sabah’s state government on this momentous victory for the planet by announcing the designation of the new Kuamut Forest Reserve. We will continue to support efforts to protect an additional 113,668 acres of Kuamut’ s forests by 2018, further strengthening this important refuge and corridor for Borneo’s spectacular wildlife.”

Visit Rainforest Trust’s website to read more about the Kuamut Forest Reserve.

This project was made possible thanks to the support of Daniel Maltz, Brett Byers and Leslie Santos, Luanne Lemmer and Eric Veach, Charles Uihlein and many other Rainforest Trust supporters.

The Helmeted Hornbill: Nature’s Dinosaur Bird

Helmeted Hornbills recently became one of the most expensive and sought after animals on the wildlife black market, yet most people know little about these amazing birds or the grave threats they face.

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Found across Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo, the Helmeted Hornbill’s maniacal calls and hoots echo across Southeast Asia’s undisturbed primeval rainforests. With a wingspan over 6 feet, striking white and black feathers and a large patch of bare, reptile-like skin around the throat, Helmeted Hornbills look a little like winged dinosaurs.

What’s most unusual about these bizarre birds though is their enormous helmet-like casque, a solid lump of keratin (a fibrous protein) that extends along the top of the bill and on to the skull.

In all other species of hornbill the casque is hollow, but the Helmeted Hornbill’s casque is solid and can account for up to 11% of the bird’s weight. It is used as a battering ram by males in head-to-head aerial jousting during the breeding season, and as a weighted tool to dig out insects from rotting logs by both sexes.

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For centuries, people have coveted the Helmeted Hornbill’s casque as “red ivory” for carvings, beads, and vanity products. Traditionally, hornbill casques were harvested in low numbers by indigenous peoples for tribal medicine or traded to Chinese craftsmen for carvings. Demand and trade largely died out by the mid-twentieth century.

However, in the last five years the species has come under terrible new pressure from an exploding illegal demand for red ivory. Today its black market price in China is five times higher than elephant ivory, as increasingly affluent clients seek status-enhancing “luxury” products. The trade has resulted in the recent reclassification of the species this year, skipping two whole categories from “Near Threatened” to “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN.

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“If we don’t pay attention, this bird is going to go extinct”, warns Dr. Bert Harris, Rainforest Trust’s Chief Biodiversity Officer and an expert on Southeast Asia’s illegal bird trade. “This species is especially vulnerable because it is slow to reproduce and requires old growth rainforest. As demand for palm oil grows, developers are encroaching on the bird’s last refuges.”

The Helmeted Hornbill is found in Rainforest Trust’s project sites in both Sumatra and Malaysian Borneo. Protecting the old growth rainforests these birds depend on and supporting anti-poaching patrols with conservation partners on the ground offers the best hope to ensure a future for one of Asia’s most spectacular birds and a host of other endangered wildlife in the region.

Learn how you can help protect Helmeted Hornbills and their rainforest habitats in Sumatra and Borneo.

Indonesia Burning

Between July and November of this year, a great tract of Earth went up in smoke.

When it was all said and done, NASA satellites detected more than 130,000 fire hotspots across Indonesia. A long dry season coupled with weather patterns created by the El Niño phenomenon created highly flammable conditions for fires to spread, creating the worst fire season in Indonesia’s history and a global environmental catastrophe.

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It is hard to convey the scale of the inferno. Fires raged across the 3,000 mile length of Indonesia, producing more carbon dioxide than the United States in a year. In three weeks at the height of the fires, more CO2 was released than the annual emissions of Germany and the UK combined.

But that doesn’t really capture it. This catastrophe cannot be measured only in parts per million. Each year, some of the oldest and most biodiverse rainforests on Earth are being burned to make way for oil palm plantations. Not only is this a humanitarian issue, as children die from toxic clouds of smoke, but it is a mounting conservation crisis as thousands of acres of rainforest are lost forever and endangered species already on the brink of extinction – the Bornean Orangutan, Pygmy Elephant, Sumatran Tiger, and Bornean Peacock-pheasant suffer further habitat loss

However, reports from Rainforest Trust’s local partner in Sumatra, Yayasan Konservasi Ekosistem Hutan Sumatera (KEHUS), confirmed that thanks to the efforts of over 50 staff members fighting the fires, minimal forest was lost in the spectacular Bukit Tigapuluh project site. Since the greatest burn risks come from land deforested before the fires, the best prevention is the conservation of large areas of forest.

Rainforest Trust has been working with KEHUS to create three protected areas that will conserve a total of 200,396 acres in Central Sumatra.

Thanks to funds raised from supporters, Rainforest Trust was able to protect two of these properties this summer. With additional support, we can secure the final 90,384-acre property and develop wildlife protection units. These highly trained local forest guards will routinely patrol project sites to prevent illegal activities such as logging and poaching. This would create the single most important protected area in Central Sumatra.

“Sumatra’s magnificent lowland forests are among the most biodiverse in Asia,” said Dr. Bert Harris, Rainforest Trust’s Chief Biodiversity Officer. “This expansion of Bukit Tigapuluh National Park will secure one of the largest remnants of this forest and protect it from the deadly cocktail of threats in the region including rampant forest fires.”

Learn how you can help Rainforest Trust and its partners to protect Indonesia’s imperiled wildlife.

A New Refuge for Isolated Jaguars

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This year, Rainforest Trust supported long-standing Colombian partner, Fundación ProAves, in the strategic purchase of multiple properties, expanding El Jaguar Reserve by 5,421 acres. The new expansion enlarges the protected area to a total of 10,326 acres of Amazon rainforests that were at grave risk of deforestation for oil palm plantations.

El Jaguar Reserve is home to an exceptional diversity and abundance of large mammals.

The reserve’s lakes, rivers and marshes provide habitat for Amazon River Dolphins and Giant River Otters, while its forests are home to Giant Anteaters, Capybaras, South American Tapirs and Brown Woolly Monkeys. The reserve also protects a stronghold population of Jaguars, providing them with renewed opportunities to rebound and reclaim territory.

The forests and waterways of El Jaguar Reserve offer refuge to more than 300 bird species, including the Rose-breasted Chat, Velvet-fronted Grackle, Dot-backed Antbird, Black Curassow, Horned Screamer and Blue-throated Piping Guan.

Increasing growth of oil palm plantations pose serious challenges to the remarkable assortment of Amazonian wildlife found around the reserve and throughout Central Colombia. The expansion of El Jaguar Reserve is a major step forward in ensuring protection for this important wildlife refuge and its diverse inhabitants.

This project was made possible thanks to the generous support of Edith McBean, BTS USA, Global Wildlife Conservation, Larry Thompson and an anonymous supporter.

Endangered Species Chocolate Picks Rainforest Trust as a 10% GiveBack Partner!

The conservation-minded chocolate company, Endangered Species Chocolate (ESC), has selected Rainforest Trust as one of its new partners for its 10% Giveback Program from 2016 to 2018. The program donates 10 percent of ESC’s annual net profits (or a minimum annual donation of $10,000, whichever is greater) to partner organizations, funding projects that are deemed most important to achieving their conservation goals.

In the past three years, ESC’s program has donated more than $1.2 million to its chosen beneficiaries. Partner organizations are carefully selected based on their aggressive and clear missions to effectively achieve species preservation and habitat conservation. The rigorous selection process reflects ESC’s own mission and values, which include using ingredients that meet strict standards for quality, ethical trade and environmental sustainability.

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“In a world where rainforest destruction has been swift and devastating, it is encouraging to see Endangered Species Chocolate take a stand against habitat destruction,” said Will Thomas, Director of Media and Outreach at Rainforest Trust. “We are excited to work with a company that shares our vision for a healthy planet where endangered species can not only survive, but rebound and thrive.”

ESC noted that Rainforest Trust’s passion for conservation and success in saving 11 million acres of tropical forest habitat struck a chord with the company’s staff, who are thrilled to be supporting Rainforest Trust’s goal to protect a total of 20 million acres by the year 2020.

“Aligning with Rainforest Trust is truly a continuation of the great partnerships Endangered Species Chocolate has already had,” noted Curt Vander Meer, CEO, ESC. “We are excited to aid in the missions of these impactful organizations as we welcome them to the ESC family.”

“Rainforest Trust is honored and so very grateful to be chosen by ESC as a partner organization,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “Their support will enable the preservation of thousands of acres of rainforests and tropical habitat for endangered species over the coming years.”

As a partner organization, Rainforest Trust will be spotlighted inside ESC’s chocolate bar wrappers. So next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up your favorite ESC bar and smile knowing that your chocolate indulgence sends support to Rainforest Trust.

Major Expansion of Buenaventura Reserve

Thanks to the generous support of donors, Rainforest Trust expanded protection for Buenaventura Reserve this fall with the purchase of an additional 944 acres of cloud forest.

Leaders from the local and national level, including Ecuador’s Minister of the Environment, were present at the reserve expansion’s inauguration event – celebrating a significant increase in habitat to preserve populations of the endemic birds and other threatened montane species that require higher altitude habitat for their long-term survival.

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With 95 percent of western Ecuador’s forests already lost, Buenaventura Reserve holds tremendous value for conservation. Located in southwestern Ecuador, the Reserve is home to the El Oro Parakeet and El Oro Tapaculo, two endangered and endemic bird species. They are so rare and occupy such small ranges that their future survival depends entirely upon the reserve and its ability to provide sufficient habitat protection.

Discovered forty years ago by Rainforest Trust’s president, Dr. Robert Ridgely, approximately half the global population of El Oro Parakeets reside entirely within Buenaventura Reserve today. Since the reserve was established in 2000, the El Oro Parakeet population has rebounded by 33 percent.

Today, the reserve is home to a diversity of rare and endemic species, even harboring the critically endangered primate, the White-fronted Capuchin. For the El Oro Parakeet and other endangered species in the Chocó cloud forests of southwest Ecuador, Buenaventura Reserve represents their last safe haven.

For this reason, Rainforest Trust is working to help its Ecuadorian partner, Fundación Jocotoco, raise enough funds to acquire another two properties totaling a further 672 acres in the future.

The 944-acre purchase to expand Buenaventura Reserve was made possible thanks to the support of March Conservation Fund, Marybeth Sollins and Andrew Farnsworth, Martin Schaefer, Weeden Foundation, James and Ellen Strauss, Milton Harris and Alice Chenault, Bert Harris, Patience and Tom Chamberlin, Roberta Ashkin, Sally Davidson, Bob and Peg Ridgely, Ken and Sue Ann Berlin, Nigel Simpson and an anonymous donor.

Strategic New Expansion of El Dorado

Five new thatched-roof cabins or “Kogui Habs” constructed at El Dorado.

Over the past decade, Rainforest Trust’s Colombian partner Fundación ProAves has acquired properties around its flagship El Dorado Nature Reserve in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The journal Science named the area the “Most Irreplaceable Site on Earth” of all protected areas worldwide, owing to an extraordinary diversity of plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet.

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With the help of its supporters, Rainforest Trust recently supplied crucially needed funds to purchase properties that provide a vital connection between two separate areas of the reserve, consolidating El Dorado Reserve to 2,972 acres. Boasting the highest concentration of endemic birds in the world, this reserve protects the world’s breeding stronghold of the Santa Marta Parakeet along with a host of other endemic plants, amphibians and birds.

To ensure a long-term revenue stream as a sustainable source of income to manage ProAves’ network of nature reserves, Rainforest Trust also supported the construction of five traditional thatched cabins called “Kogui Habs” that now sit atop one of El Dorado’s ridges, providing incredible contrasting views of the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Range and tropical Caribbean beaches below.

The completion of these beautiful new cabins is a welcome addition to El Dorado Reserve’s ecotourism facilities, giving wildlife enthusiasts and birders from around the world even more reason to visit what has been called one of the Holy Grails of birding in the Americas.

This latest land purchase to expand and consolidate El Dorado Reserve was made possible thanks to Marshall-Reynolds Foundation and an anonymous donor. The construction of the five new ecotourism cabins at the reserve was supported by the Thomas Henry Wilson and Family Foundation.

You can make online reservations at this fabulous reserve by visiting www.conservation.co.

Click here for more information about the El Dorado Reserve.

New paper reveals key to solving global warming: save the rainforest

Bold commentary from Rainforest Trust board director published ahead of Paris Climate Convention

Tropical forest conservation and restoration could constitute half of the global warming solution, according to a peer-reviewed commentary published today in the December issue of Nature Climate Change. The commentary, “A Role for Tropical Forests in Stabilizing Atmospheric CO2” was co-authored by Rainforest Trust Board Director Brett Byers.

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“Tropical forest conservation could provide as much as half of the net carbon dioxide emissions reductions from current levels over the next 50 years,” Byers said. “Tropical forest conservation will be key to the fight against global warming, but it is going to take dramatically increased efforts in the government, charitable and corporate sectors. We’ve protected more than 500 millions acres of tropical forest so far, but the protection of the more than 1 billion remaining acres is urgent.”

Tropical forest destruction and degradation is the second largest source of CO2 emissions, well behind the burning of fossil fuels. The paper shows how rainforest conservation could be as significant to fighting climate change as reducing the use of fossil fuels.

The Nature Climate Change article describes two reasons for the tremendous potential of conservation in mitigating global warming. First, forest conservation can be implemented far faster than the use of fossil fuel can be eliminated in part because industrial capacity will take decades to produce and install alternatives to fossil fuel use. Second, the recovery of hundreds of million of acres of selectively logged tropical forest would absorb massive amounts of CO2 for 50 to 100 or more years.

“This new paper is truly groundbreaking—and potentially game-changing—as it comes just one week before what hopefully will be an historic Paris Climate Convention,” said Dr. Russell A. Mittermeier, Rainforest Trust advisory council member. “Taken together with the many other ecosystem services provided by these forests and the enormous wealth of biodiversity living within them, this paper strongly mandates a greater focus on protecting our remaining tropical forests than ever before.”

According to the article, the reduction and elimination of fossil fuels is not enough to prevent 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, a level generally seen as dangerous. Prompt tropical forest conservation and restoration, on the other hand, will make such a level of warming unlikely. Because of its near-term potential to reduce CO2 emissions and also to absorb vast amounts of CO2, tropical forest conservation and restoration could provide a bridge to a post-fossil fuel planet.

“I am hopeful that this critically important analysis will focus renewed attention on rainforest conservation,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “Peru’s newly created 3.3-million acre Sierra del Divisor National Park alone, for example, supported by Rainforest Trust, sequesters more than 500 million tons of CO2. That’s equivalent to more than half the annual emissions of all the cars in the United States.”

Other land use changes, such as conservation outside the tropics and changes in agricultural practices, could also enhance the likelihood of avoiding dangerous levels of global warming. But the paper indicates that tropical forest conservation is the most significant and timely land-use opportunity available to address global warming.


Additional Information:

Nature Climate Change
http://www.nature.com/nclimate/

A Role for Tropical Forests In Stabilizing Atmospheric CO2
http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v5/n12/full/nclimate2869.html

RainforestTrust.org – Sierra del Divisor National Park
https://www.rainforesttrust.org/news/sierra-del-divisor-created/

Rainforest Trust is a nonprofit conservation organization focused on saving rainforest and endangered species in partnership with local conservation leaders and communities. Since its founding in 1988, Rainforest Trust has preserved over 11 million acres of rainforest and other tropical habitats in Latin America, Africa, and Asia in over 100 project sites across 20 countries.

Creighton’s Corner Elementary School Rocks the Rainforest

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It is truly an exciting time to be a Rainforest Ambassador. Recent efforts by second graders at a Virginia elementary school proved just how effective youth can be at saving wildlife and inspiring others to make a difference.

Rainforest Ambassadors at Creighton’s Corner Elementary School in Ashburn, VA recently raised over $2,000 to protect Forest Elephants, Chimpanzees, and other endangered species. As part of Loudoun County’s One to the World Project, eight second grade classes chose ‘Save the Rainforest’ as the theme for a week-long campaign benefitting Rainforest Trust’s Urgent project in Gola, Liberia. Their campaign directly tied into their habitat unit and 2nd grade state exams, serving to both educate students and celebrate the rainforest.

As teacher Lee Ann Canada said, “We chose Rainforest Trust because of their great work and their high rating among charities.”

With enthusiastic leadership from their teachers, the second graders developed creative ways to protect the rainforest. Students made morning announcements to create awareness of their project and to encourage fellow students to bring “change to make a change.” They also had a spirit week called Rockin’ the Rainforest with themes for each day, including dressing up as their favorite rainforest animal. The second grade challenged the entire school to raise money and held a competition amongst grade levels.

Their principal, Mr. Knott, purchased donuts and coffee that students delivered to teachers for donations. Many students emptied their piggy banks in order to save the rainforest. In total, the second grade raised $2,260, saving nearly 6,000 acres of vital habitat in Liberia.

The second graders were clearly excited about conservation and were curious to know about the animals they were protecting .To show appreciation for Creighton’s Corner’s wonderful efforts, Conservation Outreach Assistant Allie Nelson gave a special presentation on Gola, along with a Q+A session. The students are great Rainforest Ambassadors, proving that no matter what your age, you can make a difference.
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Rainforest Trust would like to thank Creighton’s Corner students and staff, including Mrs. Fishman, Mrs. Creech, Mrs. Snead, Mrs. Haller, Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Braudawa, Ms. Christie, Mrs. Canada, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Herbstritt and Mr.McGuigan.