Serra Bonita’s Big Year

Serra Bonita continues to reveal new biological secrets. Discoveries made last year in the Atlantic Rainforest reserve have further confirmed its importance both as a research center and a wildlife sanctuary.

Working with Serra Bonita’s Director of Scientific Research, famed lepidopterist, Dr. Vitor Becker, visiting scientists discovered 17 new species in the reserve in 2014. Thirteen of these have already been described in published reports. These include one plant, one amphibian (the Flea Toad, one of the world’s smallest), one snake, and 10 insects.

“Promoting a greater understanding of Atlantic Rainforest biota continues to be a major focus of the work at the reserve,” said Becker.

“This work is greatly facilitated by the presence of scientific facilities inside Serra Bonita. For researchers, lab space and protected forest habitat are within steps of one another.”

For web Serra Bonita Reserve 
© Robin Moore
Joachim S. Muller Harpy Eagle - CopyHarpy Eagle  
© Thomas Muller

The Serra Bonita Reserve was established, and is managed, by Rainforest Trust’s Brazilian partner Instituto Uiraçu.

In 2014, Rainforest Trust helped Instituto Uiraçu expand the Serra Bonita Reserve by 986 acres through the acquisition of six properties.

These properties include low-elevation forests that provide habitat for many bird species not protected in the upper reaches of the reserve. The endangered Banded Cotinga was observed in the area by Rainforest Trust’s Board during a field visit in 2013.

Purchases in 2014 bring the reserve’s total size to 5,258 acres.

Sanctuary for Atlantic Rainforest Wildlife

In February, the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity captured a critically endangered Northern Brown Howler Monkey wandering the streets of Teixeira de Freitas, a city located 130 miles south of the Serra Bonita Reserve.

Under the supervision of a Brazilian primatologist, the primate was transferred to the Serra Bonita Reserve where it was paired with a male already on site.

The howlers, both of which are believed to be captive-raised, were initially kept together in a nursery. Since then they have been released into the reserve’s forest. While the female now lives in the wild, the male remains close the reserve’s facilities and the humans that live there.

With a total population numbering less than 250 individuals, the Northern Brown Howler Monkey is one the 25 most endangered primates in the world. It is hoped that the Serra Bonita Reserve can serve as reintroduction site in the future for more Northern Brown Howlers and help the population begin to rebound.

Harpy Eagles, known as “Uiraçu” in the local Tupi language, are the world’s largest and most powerful raptors. The majestic bird provided Instituto Uiraçu with inspiration for both its name and logo.

For the first time ever, the Harpy Eagle – which was once considered locally extinct – joined the list of species found in the reserve in 2014. A Harpy Eagle has been spotted on several occasions in the highest parts of the reserve last year. This sightings makes Serra Bonita one of the only reserves in the Atlantic Forest to harbor the Harpy Eagle without human reintroduction.

Lost Hummingbird Rediscovered After 69 Years in Colombia


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To see full release visit, click here.

BOGOTÁ, Colombia, March 17, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/

An intense and prolonged dry season in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta combined with fires set by Kogi indigenous people for agricultural purposes has devastated its fragile high-elevation habitat (páramo), home to a suite of endemic plants and animals.

Two conservationists Carlos Julio Rojas and Christian Vasquez who work at ProAves’ “El Dorado” nature reserve in the mountain range, carried out investigations to document the fires. On March 4th 2015, they photographed the spectacular Blue-bearded Helmetcrest – a hummingbird that was last seen in 1946 and feared quite possibly extinct. Unfortunately, the habitat of the three birds they saw is threatened by ongoing fires. A scientific article detailing the rediscovery was published today in the journal Conservación Colombiana and is available online at with further photos.

bird Blue-bearded Helmetcrest © ProAves
firesFires across the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta  © ProAves

Described in 1880, the charismatic Blue-bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon cyanolaemus) was last seen in 1946; thereafter, it disappeared. Restricted to the world’s highest coastal mountain range, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (rising to over 19,000 feet), the Helmetcrest was suspected to be facing severe threats as cattle ranching by indigenous people expanded across the sensitive high-elevation slopes of the mountain range. Each dry season, more of the fragile brush and forest is burned to make way for grasslands for cattle.

The fragile montane forests of the Santa Marta mountains are unique as this isolated mountain range pre-dates the Andes of South America by over 100 million years.

Over the past ten years, searches for the charismatic Blue-bearded Helmetcrest failed. Last year it was pronounced “Critically Endangered” by IUCN and BirdLife International and considered perhaps to be extinct. The species is dependent on stunted forest and bushes amongst natural páramo grasslands – habitat that is highly susceptible to fires during the dry season. The situation is even more difficult because the flowering plant the Helmetcrest depends on – the Santa Marta Frailejon (Libanothamnus occultus) – is itself threatened by persistent fires and has also been declared Critically Endangered. In 2013, according to a WWF report the páramo of the Sierra Nevada was being seriously affected by extensive cattle herds belonging to indigenous communities who repeatedly burn it for pasture.

The highest elevations of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta were declared a National Park in 1964. Fifteen years later, in 1979, the park was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Several indigenous reserves cover the mountain range, and some 50,000 indigenous people, mainly of the ethnic groups Kogi and Arhuacos, live in the area. In 2014, the journal Science published an article that identified the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park as the world’s most important protected area for the conservation of threatened terrestrial species – rated first across over 173,000 protected areas worldwide.

During a prolonged and particularly intense dry season in February 2015, National Park staff informed local conservationists Carlos Julio Rojas and Christian Vasquez, who work for Fundación ProAves at the El Dorado Nature Reserve in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, of an ongoing crisis with fires set by indigenous peoples across the park. Seeking to document the environmental impacts of this burning, Carlos and Christian used their vacation time to explore the higher elevations of the mountain range and recorded multiple fires that were destroying fragile natural habitat.

A scientific article detailing the discovery was published today in the journal Conservación Colombiana and is available online at

Over one million inhabitants in the dry, arid lowlands around the Sierra Nevada depend on the filtration and provision of water from its páramo ecosystems. Further degradation of the páramo for livestock production not only endangers the survival of the Helmetcrest, but could also result in future severe droughts impacting over a million people in the region.

Hopefully, Colombian conservation entities, the National Parks authority, and the Kogi indigenous peoples can work together with Fundación ProAves to better protect the future of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – the planet’s most irreplaceable mountain for both people and biodiversity.


News Release: Extreme Skier Lynsey Dyer Joins Rainforest Trust to Save 20 Million Rainforest Acres by 2020


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Rainforest Trust, a nonprofit conservation organization focused on saving threatened land and endangered species, has announced a multi-year goal to protect a total of 20 million acres of tropical forest by 2020.

To help launch the initiative, Rainforest Trust has teamed up with professional skier Lynsey Dyer to raise awareness about the threats to tropical forests and the ways in which the public can participate in their protection.

To date, the nonprofit has saved nearly eight million acres of critical habitat. By 2020, Rainforest Trust plans to protect an additional 12 million acres by expanding its partner network with other conservation organizations to target projects in countries around the world where tropical biodiversity is most threatened.

coco knudsen Lynsey Dyer © Coco Knudsen 
^A1647A23168A191E40614EB2C62E64FC82FEA7A4F2C064D228^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr Powder Magazine’s “Female Skier of the Year” ©
Regua for web Rainforest Trust has already helped protect 8 million acres of rainforest © REGUA

Lynsey Dyer will partner with Rainforest Trust to help achieve this goal by engaging the public through social media, media interviews and challenging others to get involved. Recognized as Powder Magazine’s 2013 “Female Skier of the Year”, Dyer has skied on six continents and is considered one of the world’s most outstanding freestyle, big mountain skiers. In 2006, Dyer founded SheJumps, a nonprofit organization devoted to increasing girls’ and women’s active participation in the outdoors.

“While it might seem surprising, given my affinity for snow-covered mountains, I’ve had a passion to save the rainforest ever since I was a little girl,” said Lynsey Dyer. “I’m tremendously excited to have discovered Rainforest Trust and to help fulfill our shared vision.”

Currently, rainforests are being destroyed at a rate of 1.5 acres every second and 137 rainforest species go extinct each day. If tropical forest destruction continues at this rate, all rainforests could be destroyed within the next 40 years.

To combat the devastating impacts of deforestation, Rainforest Trust is working with conservation partners to create protected reserves around the world. These efforts include a campaign to raise $2.9 million to create the 5.9 million acre Sierra del Divisor Reserve in the Peruvian rainforest and the Million Acre Jaguar Initiative, a year-long campaign to save one million acres of Jaguar habitat in Brazil, Peru and Colombia.

“We must act to save the earth’s rapidly diminishing rainforests before they’re destroyed forever,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO at Rainforest Trust. “Working with our local, dedicated conservation partners, we will continue to make a real and lasting impact.”

To learn more about Rainforest Trust, visit

About Rainforest Trust

Rainforest Trust is a nonprofit conservation organization focused on saving rainforest and endangered species in partnership with local conservation leaders and indigenous communities. Since its founding in 1988, Rainforest Trust has saved nearly 8 million acres of rainforest and other tropical habitats and has 85 projects across 22 countries.

Media contacts:
Megan McMonagle

Marc Ford, Rainforest Trust

Spreading Fungus Threatens Malagasy Frogs


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The amphibian fungus known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which has caused the precipitous decline of frog populations in Central America, Australia, the western United States, Europe and east Africa, has now been detected in Madagascar, according to a new paper released February 26 in the journal Scientific Reports.

The paper documents the detection of Bd since 2010 in wild Malagasy amphibians and has spurred conservationists to action in a country that is home to about seven percent of the world’s amphibian species.

“We know how bad this could be, but this time we can still make a difference by preventing the kinds of mass die-offs we’ve seen in other countries,” said Reid Harris, co-author on the paper and director of international disease mitigation for the Amphibians Survival Alliance (ASA). “Together the global conservation community is addressing the emergency at its inception, putting into practice what we’ve learned in the midst of—or even after—extinctions in places like Central America.”

Golden Mantella Frank Vassen for web Golden Mantella Frog © Frank Vassen  
Heterixalus punctatus Frank Vassen- for web Heterixalus punctatus © Frank Vassen

An international team of experts screened more than 4,100 amphibians across Madagascar and confirmed the presence of Bd in five locations across Madagascar.

The researchers detected the fungus as early as 2010 in Madagascar’s remote Makay Massif. Now the paper’s authors are working on determining whether the fungus they have detected belongs to the same deadly strain that is threatening to cause the loss of more than 1/3 of the planet’s amphibians.

“Ninety-nine percent of the frogs in Madagascar are only found in Madagascar,” said Falitiana Rabemananjara, coordinator of the Chytrid Emergency Cell in Madagascar and co-author on the paper. “That means that if the Bd presence in Madagascar is lethal or becomes lethal to frogs, we could lose a significant portion of the world’s amphibian diversity. With an integrative, proactive approach, we are going to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.”

Rainforest Trust, an ASA parter, is currently helping create two new amphibian reserves in Madgascar, one in the Mormanga District of eastern Madgascar and the other in Ankaratra Massif, that will protect habitat for some of the island’s rarest amphibians, including the Golden Mantella Frog.

In November of 2014, the ASA provided financial support for ACSAM2 “A Conservation Strategy for the Amphibians of Madagascar,” the second meeting in the last decade to bring together local and international conservationists to address threats to Madagascar’s amphibians.

This year’s meeting focused on developing a plan for this emerging crisis, which includes:

• The development of an emergency response strategy for the amphibians of Madagascar.
• The identification of the Bd lineage(s) and characterization of its virulence.
• The establishment of a national protocol and permit to collect dead frogs from the field.
• Building captive assurance populations of priority species to weather the storm.

“The loss of Malagasy amphibians is not only important for herpetologists and frog researchers,” said Franco Andreone co-chair of the Amphibian Specialist Group-Madagascar of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), organizer of ACSAM2 and co-author on the paper. “It would be a huge loss for the whole world. Everyone has a role to play if this mammoth of a conservation project is going to succeed.”

The ASA is continuing to coordinate funding for the monitoring of Bd in Madagascar and is also supporting the development of disease mitigation tools.

Women in Conservation: Q+A with Julie Hanta Razafimanahaka


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As Director of Madagasikara Voakajy, Julie Hanta Razafimanahaka is responsible for leading conservation efforts to protect some of Madagascar’s most threatened forests and species.

Julie joined Madagasikara Voakajy, a non-profit dedicated to biodiversity conservation in eastern Madagascar, twelve years ago as an intern and has emerged as an energetic voice for wildlife protection in a country known for both its endemic species and the systemic threats they face.

To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, we spoke with Julie about the challenges she faces as a female conservationist, her career, and the role of women in conservation.

Julie - for web Julie Hanta Razafimanahaka ©Madagasikara Voakajy
shutterstock_8465for web Indri Lemur © Shutterstock

How did you become interested in conservation? 

I became specifically interested in conservation when I first encountered Indris, the largest extant lemur, at the age of 13. This was a great experience that I still want to renew.

At the university, I chose to study in the water and forestry department because that would provide me with more opportunities to travel and be out in the wild.

When I joined Madagasikara Voakajy in 2003 as a student, I found I really loved working with the team, which was composed of young passionate researchers. I grew up within this team and the organization of which I am currently Director.

Do you face particular challenges as a woman in this field? If so, can you give an example?

In Madagascar, a Director is generally expected to be a tall man.

People are always surprised when my team introduces me at villages where I haven’t worked before. There have been cases when I have been asked, “Where is your Director? Your colleagues said he would be here.”

I don’t consider this as a challenge, but as an opportunity to make people realize that things can change, and everything is possible – as long as you really want to do it.

Why is it important for women to get involved in the conservation field?

Although women are not generally decision makers in Madagascar, they influence most of the decisions made in households. I also think that women are very good at listening to each other.

So more women should be able to stand up and speak in public about conservation. This will slowly, but certainly, provoke positive changes towards sustainable development and conservation.

Do you have a message for young women interested in conservation?
The challenges that young women sometimes meet in the conservation field can be frightening, but we need to overcome this fear and move forward.

Rainforest Trust is currently working with Madagasikara Voakajy to protect 74,816 acres in Madagascar for endangered species.

Consulting Firm Teams with Rainforest Trust to Save Tropical Forest


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Over the past five years, BTS USA has helped Rainforest Trust protect 500 acres of threatened Colombian rainforest. The firm’s financial donations have helped with the establishment of the Las Tangaras Reserve in the Chocó rainforest of Colombia as well as the proposed El Jaguar Nature Reserve in the central part of the country.

For more than 25 years, BTS has partnered with many of the world’s best companies to turn their strategies into results—by focusing on their people. Bringing exceptional business and industry experience, the company designs fun, powerful experiences that have an enduring impact on individuals and organizations, inspiring new ways of thinking, building critical capabilities, and accelerating results. Though BTS does not have a visible contribution on greenhouse gas emissions, the nature of the firm’s work with clients has an indirect impact.

For web 3 BTS has protected acres in Las Tangaras © ProAves 
For web A spectacular variety of wildlife is protected in the reserves © ProAves
For web2 Reforestation in Colombia © ProAves

In 2010, BTS’s Environmental Committee—devoted to identifying, promoting and enabling sustainable business practices—sought to reduce the organization’s carbon footprint.

The committee recognized that rainforests, some of the largest carbon sinks on the planet, are being deforested at an alarming rate, an action contributing to the millions of tons of carbon dioxide released annually into the atmosphere.

“At BTS USA, we remain committed to reducing our carbon footprint to around zero each year, offsetting the emissions accumulated by consultants’ travel, and we have decided that the best way to achieve this goal is to preserve rainforest acreage each year,” said Christian Solberg, Director at BTS.

Impressed by Rainforest Trust’s operational efficiency and strong record of land protection, BTS USA made its first donation to Rainforest Trust in 2010 to help acquire 100 acres. These first acres helped with the creation of Las Tangaras Reserve. Since then, BTS has annually supported the acquisition of 100 acres of rainforest at Las Tangaras and, more recently, at El Jaguar as part of its efforts to prevent carbon release from tropical deforestation.

In addition to helping reduce global climate change, the standing forests at both Las Tangaras and El Jaguar provide homes to thousands of plant and animal species, many of which are endangered throughout their ranges. Some of the wildlife species include Critically Endangered Colombian Woolly Monkeys, Amazonian River Dolphins, Jaguars, Chocó Vireos, and Gold-ringed Tanagers.

BTS has seen benefits from its relationship with Rainforest Trust from two perspectives – with clients and employees. Both groups are pleased to learn of the company’s sustainability strategy and commitment.

“A critical part of our success as a business is dependent on our ability to attract and retain great talent, and our relationship with Rainforest Trust helps us address environmental issues that are important to many of our people,” added Mr. Solberg.

“Over the last five years, BTS has demonstrated an inspiring commitment to protecting our planet’s most endangered species and the threatened forests that they depend upon for survival. We applaud the strong example BTS USA sets for environmental action in the business community and look forward to continuing our conservation efforts with the company in the years to come,” said Christine Hodgdon, International Conservation Manager for Rainforest Trust.