First Protection for Endangered Hoge’s Side-necked Turtle

Thanks to Rainforest Trust donors and other supporters, 236 acres of crucial rainforest and wetland habitat for Hoge’s Side-necked Turtle have been purchased in Brazil. Securing this land as a private reserve will help recover the Hoge’s Side-necked Turtle population and may be the best hope of saving it from extinction.

On February 26, 2016, Rainforest Trust supported local Brazilian partner Fundação Biodiversitas in purchasing a critical private property along the Carangola River, establishing the Hoge’s Side-necked Turtle Reserve.

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Restricted to the Paraíba do Sul Basin and adjacent areas in Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest, the Hoge’s Side-necked Turtle is severely threatened due to the destruction and fragmentation of its small range. The species is considered Critically Endangered due to its declining population and lack of protection. One of the last confirmed populations of the turtle is found along this small portion of the Carangola River.

“For years we have talked about the possibility of establishing a reserve along the Carangola River to protect these turtles. At that time, it felt like an impossible dream, but now we feel totally gratified by seeing our dream realized,” said Glaucia Drummond, President of Fundação Biodiversitas. “Thanks to the support and determination of Rainforest Trust and Turtle Survival Alliance, we all agree that those dreams can come true.”

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The recent land purchase is a crucial step forward to establishing a safe refuge for the last stronghold of Hoge’s Side-necked Turtle, allowing it to recover and thrive. The new reserve also protects part of Brazil’s imperiled Atlantic rainforest. While only 7% of the Atlantic Rainforest remains intact today, it continues to be one of the planet’s most important biodiversity hotspots, being a home to some of the planet’s most endangered wildlife.

“While Hoge’s Side-necked Turtle may not be the most charismatic or beautiful of turtle species, it is on the edge of extinction and in dire need of our help. This is exactly the sort of protection Rainforest Trust is committed to providing through partnerships with local organizations like Fundação Biodiversitas,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “We are proud to help create the first-ever protected area for Hoge’s Side-necked Turtle and make a real difference for this rare species.”

Rainforest Trust is very grateful to the other institutions and organizations that supported the land purchase campaign for the new Hoge’s Side-necked Turtle Reserve including Turtle Survival Alliance and Wildlife Conservation Society. Rainforest Trust also wishes to thank all of its supporters who donated to make this project possible.

Notes from the Field: Myanmar’s Mahamyaing Wildlife Sanctuary

Recently Rick Passaro, Rainforest Trust’s Asia Conservation Officer, traveled to Myanmar for a field visit with local partner, Friends of Wildlife. During his visit he spoke with U Myint Aung, one of the directors of Friends of Wildlife, about their conservation efforts to protect the Mahamyaing ecosystem.

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Aung, how did you first become involved in conservation?

I grew up on a lake where our family survived off fishing. When I was a kid I saw a lot of conflict between fishermen in our community over diminishing fish in the lake. The experience was a wake-up call to thinking about the importance of conservation.

All of my uncles chipped in for me to go to college to study zoology. I was trained by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and had the opportunity to work with a lot of scientists and other foreign NGOs.

I went on to get my degree and worked with the Forestry Department in Myanmar for 25 years. Eventually, I left because of corruption in the department that made it hard for me to do my job. With the help of partners, we set up Indo-Myanmar Conservation. Later, when it became possible to start up NGOs in Myanmar, we were able to officially register in Myanmar as Friends of Wildlife.

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Tell us about Mahamyaing and what makes this area such an important place for wildlife.

Mahamyaing is a special place. It is one of the last refuges in Myanmar for the Eastern-Hoolock Gibbon, which is Critically Endangered. There are approximately 60 elephants that live here, along with rare species like Clouded Leopards, Pangolins and many bird species.

Growing up, everyone in Myanmar just knew about it for its large trees and big animals. Because it has always had a history of being a unique place, there has been a desire to make it into a reserve. Now, thanks to Rainforest Trust’s support, that is finally becoming a wish come true.

What are some of the greatest threats to conservation in this area? Can you comment more on how you are trying to get local people involved in your conservation efforts?

The greatest challenge to doing conservation here is poverty, lack of jobs, and education of how the forest benefits local people. Hunting is also an issue for some species. However, new procedures are in place with law enforcement to stop this. In the future, we envision local hunters and villagers being recruited as rangers and guides.

We are getting the local community involved in our work through education and training. In fact, we just did surveys together with local people and the Nature Conservation and Wildlife Division in charge of protected areas to learn about the gibbon’s population and range across Mahamyaing.

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What makes you excited about this partnership with Rainforest Trust?

It’s been great for us all to meet Rick and show him the work we are doing in the field. We’re very grateful for the support Rainforest Trust is providing to make our vision of Mahamyaing finally bear fruit. This support is coming at a critical time for wildlife and gives us all hope that conservation efforts in Myanmar can succeed.

Learn more about Rainforest Trust’s conservation efforts with Friends of Wildlife to protect habitat for Asian Elephants, Gibbons and other Southeast Asian wildlife.

REGUA Educates Local Students with Young Ranger Program

Rainforest Trust’s Brazilian partner celebrates the tenth anniversary of their school-age education program.

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Designed to attract local students aged between 11 and 15 enrolled at nearby schools, REGUA’s Young Ranger Program offers tutorials on biodiversity conservation and social development, including field trips to reserves.

The students gain exposure to the wonders of the Atlantic Rainforest, the biodiversity contained within it, and Rainforest Trust’s work with REGUA to expand the reserve. They are true Rainforest Ambassadors.

In addition to the REGUA reserve, the Young Rangers visit multiple conservation parks in the region including Serra do Órgãos National Park and Três Picos State Park. This hands-on, real world experience instills an understanding of the area’s outstanding natural beauty and REGUA’s mission of long-term protection of the forests and biodiversity within them.

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As urban sprawl from nearby Rio de Janeiro threatens the surrounding area, protecting the crucial rainforest habitat of the Upper Guapiaçu River Basin becomes increasingly difficult. With Rainforest Trust’s support, REGUA currently safeguards 22,000 acres at the reserve and is currently expanding in an attempt to conserve the roughly 7% of Atlantic Rainforest that still exists.

After 12 years of steady growth, REGUA has established itself as one of the most influential conservation organizations in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state. With the support of Rainforest Trust, REGUA is purchasing an additional 455 acres to expand its reserve and provide much needed protection for endemic and endangered species, such as Pumas, Ocelots and the critically endangered Wooly Spider Monkey.

This purchase is part of a larger strategic plan to expand the reserve throughout the entire Guapiaçu Valley and reconnect forest fragments through the creation of new wildlife corridors.

Learn more about Rainforest Trust’s partnership with REGUA and Rainforest Ambassadors.

 

World Wildlife Day: The future of elephants is in our hands

The United Nations established World Wildlife Day on March 3rd to recognize the day that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed in 2013.

This year’s theme, “The future of elephants is in our hands,” is reflected in Rainforest Trust’s work throughout Africa and Asia..

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Working with local partners in Africa and Asia, Rainforest Trust strives to protect threatened forest habitat for endangered elephants. Current conservation plans include protecting Forest Elephants in the Democratic Republic of Congo by establishing the 2.2-million-acre Lomami National Park in 2016. Future efforts will expand the protected area by nearly 1.2 million acres through the creation of a neighboring Balanga Forest Reserve.

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These two reserves in the Congo Basin will provide a critical corridor between areas of rainforest for one of the Congo’s last remaining Forest Elephant populations. Prized on the black market for their tusks, Forest Elephants are now highly threatened by uncontrolled poaching. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that nearly two-thirds of their habitat has been lost within the last thirty years.

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In 2014 alone, over 30,000 African Elephants were killed. Increasing human populations negatively impact African Elephants as deforestation destroys necessary habitat while overgrazing of livestock renders elephant habitat barren. As a result, Forest Elephants struggle as they cling to the last remaining stands of forest that Rainforest Trust is working to protect.

In addition to preserving elephant habitat in Africa, Rainforest Trust has secured vital acres in Borneo and Sumatra where forests are quickly being lost to palm oil plantations. Right now, Rainforest Trust is supporting a local partner in Sumatra to create three protected areas that will safeguard 200,396 acres of lowland forest for Sumatran Elephants.

Much of the island’s remaining forests consist of areas smaller than 100 square miles, which are too small for viable elephant populations. However, the forests in the Bukit Tigapuluh region where Rainforest Trust is working are still large enough to support multiple elephant herds.

Singer-songwriter Julie Gold has provided Rainforest Trust the rights to use her Grammy Award-winning song, “From a Distance”, in a video highlighting the importance of protecting the rainforest. Special thanks to Julie Gold “From A Distance” (BMI), Luc Jacquet & Bonne Pioche Cinema “Once Upon A Forest”.

Learn more about Rainforest Trust’s protection of elephants in Sumatra.

REGUA Reserve Expands in Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest

Rainforest Trust and Brazilian partner REGUA are leading efforts to protect the Atlantic Rainforest – a region of Brazil’s east coast that once spanned over 500,000 square miles.

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As urban sprawl from nearby Rio de Janeiro threatens the surrounding area, protecting the crucial rainforest habitat of the Upper Guapiaçu River Basin becomes increasingly difficult. Rainforest Trust’s local partner currently safeguards 22,000 acres at REGUA reserve, but continuously seeks to expand the area in an attempt to conserve the roughly 7% of Atlantic Rainforest that still exists.

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By strategically purchasing land and establishing protection agreements, REGUA protects vital forest habitat for many of the most threatened animals in the region, ensuring a home for 60 mammal species, including Pumas, Ocelots, Jaguarundis, Three-toed Sloths and South America’s largest primate – the critically endangered Woolly Spider Monkey.

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Rainforest Trust’s GIS & Conservation Officer, Carly Voight, recently visited the reserve to review REGUA’s progress and to discuss future plans. Voight noted that in 2015 alone, Rainforest Trust enabled REGUA to protect nearly 1,000 additional acres.

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“In addition to increasing the size of the reserve, REGUA is always looking ahead,” said Voight. This year, the organization plans to acquire more properties and to reintroduce a group of Black-fronted Piping Guans and Lowland Tapirs.

“REGUA carries out a widespread approach to conservation by reintroducing species and collaborating with local communities,” noted Voight. “This approach ensures the remaining forest and species receive the protection they desperately need.”

For more information about the protection of Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest and Rainforest Trust’s partnership with REGUA, read about the project here.

Notes from the Field: Sumatra’s Bukit Tigapuluh Ecosystem

Recently Dr. Bert Harris, Rainforest Trust’s Director of Biodiversity Conservation, traveled to Sumatra for a field visit with Indonesian partner, Yayasan Konservasi Ekosistem Hutan Sumatera (KEHUS). During his visit he spoke with Leif Cocks, one of the directors of KEHUS about their conservation efforts to protect the spectacular Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem.

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Tell us more about the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem. What makes this place so special?

Bukit Tigapuluh is one of the last places where it is possible to save a viable ecosystem that can support populations of Sumatran Orangutans, Tigers and Elephants. In the last 25 years alone, Sumatran Elephants have lost more than two-thirds of their habitat. Unless we can save lowland forest, they will certainly go extinct. Rainforest Trust’s partnership is vital to protecting the critical habitat of the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem, providing hope for Sumatra’s unique wildlife.

Having just emerged from one of the worst fire seasons in Indonesia’s history, what have been some of the challenges you’ve faced? How did you prevent the landscape from going up in smoke?

In addition to forest destruction, the fires have impacted a lot of forest food productivity. Although the fires are out for now, we will have to deal with loss of food sources for animals and make plans to fight the next burning season. We moved our security rangers to the front lines to fight the fire and worked with local communities to ensure that fires did not enter or start in our protected area.

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Camera traps are helping revolutionize conservation research and monitoring. How are they helping conservation efforts?

We are learning the importance of tracking ranges of key megafauna. In the case of Sumatran Tigers, we are able to develop effective management plans through movement patterns and population numbers. For instance, we’ve been able to photograph three different generations of tigers since the start of camera trap use.

How are you controlling illegal logging along the forest edge?

Our Wildlife Protection Units monitor the forest, identify any potential illegal activity and work with local law authorities to promote enforcement. In addition to forest monitoring, we actively observe key exit points of the area, such as rivers and roads, to ensure that no logging operations are unnoticed.

What are some ways conservation awareness is being spread in the greater community and local people are being involved in this work?

We also run a Mobile Education Unit in local communities. Conservation education is key to reserve safety. Working with these communities provides win-win solutions; they are a crucial part of keeping endangered species from extinction. We are setting up sustainable agroforestry programs. These programs will establish a buffer between settled areas and the reserve and provide a stable income to people living near the forest edge.

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Our Director of Biodiversity Conservation, Dr. Bert Harris, recently visited Bukit Tigapuluh. How important is your relationship with Rainforest Trust and its impact on your conservation efforts?

Rainforest Trust understands what it takes to preserve endangered forests and makes our conservation work possible. Swift, efficient protection is critical in areas like Sumatra, where so little habitat remains for its unique species. Bert’s visit allowed time to review current conservation efforts and to plan for the future. We at KEHUS are so grateful to Rainforest Trust for the crucial financial support.

Learn more about Rainforest Trust’s conservation efforts with KEHUS to protect habitat for tigers, orangutans and elephants in Sumatra.