Flock to Flamingo Day

Flamingo Day, celebrated on June 23, pays tribute to the plastic lawn decoration created by Donald Featherstone.

Vibrant pink. Elongated neck. Stilt-like legs. These features are as recognizable as a flamingo’s one-foot stance, and served as inspiration for Featherstone’s iconic lawn statues. While the plastic versions are native to front yards across America, the less ornamental birds inhabit a much wider domain.

Flamingos are found in tropical and subtropical regions across the world, including South America and Africa. Though generally non-migratory birds, flamingo flocks are not always permanent due to changes in climate, water levels and food sources.

Their diet gives the birds both their unique hue and their name. Flamingos are born with light gray feathers, but the algae and crustaceans that they eat contain pigments that vibrantly affect their plumage. Because there is a spectrum of pigment levels in their food depending on their environment, not all coloring is consistent; flamingos can range from a bright crimson complexion to a pale pink shade. Regardless of the specific hue, the word “flamingo” is appropriately derived from the Latin term for “flame-colored”.

Because they spend so much time in lakes, swamps and lagoons to find food, the primary threats to flamingos are pollution to their water supplies and degradation of their habitats. By protecting wetlands, Rainforest Trust works to help save the ecosystems that these birds call home. Safeguarding these habitats ensures that when future generations think of fabulous flamingos, they picture the ones with feathers, not plastic.

This Flamingo Day, help save these delightful birds by protecting their tropical habitats.

Header photo: Flamingos in Cameroon. Photo by Dr. Sally Lahm.

Supporter Spotlight: Desert Running to Defeat Deforestation

Brothers Eric and Paul Chan raise awareness for conservation through their global running adventure.

Rainforest Trust supporters Eric and Paul Chan are two brothers who love running. To raise awareness for rainforest conservation, they have mounted a challenge to beat the world record for “Most Desert Races Ran in One Year” while raising funds for Rainforest Trust from their friends and family on CrowdRise.

Scheduled to take place from April 2016 to February 2017, their adventure spans six continents and includes eight of the toughest and most extreme ultra marathons on the planet – from the Sahara Desert of Morocco to the Atacama Desert of Chile.The pair hopes their desert journeys will help to highlight how deforestation is destroying the environment.

“What happens to one side of the planet has serious repercussions for the rest of the world,” said Eric. “We must do our part to save tropical rainforests.”

Lifelong environmentalists, Eric and Paul decided to devote their great adventure to helping Rainforest Trust. “We are just two people, but we want to do our part to make a difference,” said Eric.

Dubbing their online campaign “The 8 Deserts Challenge,” this is their first fundraiser and they are doing it in their own unique way. They encourage others to take action as well.

“You can start big or small because anything helps,” said Eric. “If you can donate money, that’s great! If you can start a fundraiser, that’s even better! The key is to raise awareness.”

When deciding which organization to support, Eric and Paul investigated many different charities and found that Rainforest Trust best met their standards of efficiency. “We love that 100 percent of donors’ money goes directly to conservation action,” said Eric. “That means protecting real rainforests and endangered species.”

To start your own online fundraiser for Rainforest Trust, visit our CrowdRise site or contact us for more information.

Header photo: Eric and Paul Chan in the Desert.

Notes from the Field: Borneo

Dr. Glen Reynolds, the Director of the South East Asia Rainforest Research Project (SEARRP), discusses Rainforest Trust’s role in establishing the new Kuamut Forest Reserve and greater efforts to protect Borneo’s rainforests.

In 2012, Dr. Reynolds (bottom left) met with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Borneo’s Danum Valley

How did you first become involved in conservation and come to work in Borneo?

I first went to Borneo as an undergraduate to assist on a field research project, then developed ideas that led to a Ph.D. on forest restoration. Over the course of my studies, I was offered the opportunity to run the field research program in Danum Valley with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP). I haven’t looked back since.

What’s special about Borneo’s rainforest and the Kuamut rainforest in particular?

Borneo’s rainforests are the least disturbed that remain in Southeast Asia.

Most of these trees are dipterocarps – a group of tropical trees that abound in Borneo. In fact, we’ve recently had one of our field researchers discover what appears to be the tallest tropical forest tree ever recorded at one of our sister sites in Sabah. We’ve just measured it at just a shade less than 90 meters, roughly the limit for tropical trees.

For me, as someone interested in trees, the stature of the trees in these forests is incredible. It’s by far the tallest rainforest in the world with the canopy regularly exceeding 70 meters.

What are some innovative ways SEARRP is saving Borneo’s remaining forest and planning for the future?

There is a window of opportunity in Borneo to protect large areas of what’s left of the forest. The timber boom is long over and most of the forests that were not protected have largely been exhausted of the timber they once supported. Also, the optimal areas for oil palm production have largely been planted.

Politicians from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia see logged forests as an already spent resource that can harmlessly be converted to oil palm plantations or agriculture. Now is the time to make a case to protect these remaining forests. 

What is one key conservation message from SEARRP’s work in Sabah?

If there is a single message, it is to demonstrate the enormous importance that even degraded forests play in supporting biodiversity, protecting watersheds, storing carbon and much more. Having so much robust research to draw on has been really important in showing this value. It is not an accident that the protection we have seen in recent years in Sabah has been occurring in the important research sites, such as Kuamut, that Rainforest Trust has been instrumental in supporting.

The easy victories have been won in terms of protected areas. Now it all gets a bit trickier in where to prioritize conservation efforts. That could be in areas of continuous forests. It could be in highly fragmented habitats to decide crucial areas to reconnect and restore. This is where the very best science needs to come into play, such as sophisticated mapping techniques. For example, we have scientists using modeling to learn how species disperse across the landscape and the sorts of connectivity important for this movement. We have scientists looking at changes in climate to learn how it affects different animal and plant distributions, helping to decide what areas to protect as various species’ ranges and distributions shift.

Now is the right time to act in Sabah with a supportive government in place willing to make positive decisions based on scientific evidence.

What makes you excited about working with Rainforest Trust?

What we desperately need in conservation are examples of success. We’ve done that with Rainforest Trust in Sabah. Concrete, on the ground examples of this kind of marriage between scientists, conservation organizations and local governments have really delivered major conservation gains that stick. Now we need to bring in other elements at the landscape level, such as sustainable agriculture and forestry with pragmatic conservation that protects these key areas of forest. If we demonstrate that this works, then there’s no reason this model can’t be rolled out in other areas across Southeast Asia.

Do you have plans for future projects with Rainforest Trust?

We’re really excited by opportunities for expanding protected areas. Roughly 20% of Sabah is fully protected. The state government has committed to increasing that to about a third, but as of yet those areas have not been identified. So we’re really keen to work with Rainforest Trust not just to plan where those protected areas might be based on the best possible science, but also look at how they can be protected, managed, monitored and local communities engaged.

Learn more about Rainforest Trust and SEARRP’s efforts to establish the Kuamut Forest Reserve.

Header photo: The colorful Bornean Bristlehead is one of hundreds of birds found in the Kaumut Forest Reserve. Photo by Chien C. Lee.

Partner Recognized for Passionate Biodiversity Protection Work

Award presented to Rainforest Trust partner for protecting critical habitats in Papua New Guinea.

The conservation strategies manager of Rainforest Trust’s partner Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Karau Kuna, won a prestigious Whitley Award from the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN). The award ceremony recognized Kuna’s efforts to protect key species such as the Endangered Matschie’s Tree-kangaroo in the Huon Peninsula located in eastern PNG.

“It is incredibly exciting when people from the local community are recognized for the work they are doing to protect their own forests and the species therein,” said Rick Passaro, Rainforest Trust’s Asia Conservation Officer.

“We extend a hearty congratulations to Mr. Kuna for this enormous achievement.”

Rainforest Trust is working with TKCP to protect nearly 200,000 acres on the Huon Peninsula by establishing the country’s first Community Conservation Area. This will provide a model that can be replicated by other indigenous groups to protect critical areas across PNG.

With the funds from the Whitley Award, Kuna and TKCP will be able to strengthen biodiversity protection by engaging additional local communities in conservation planning and monitoring.

“The Whitley Award will [allow] communities to become better managers of their resources,” said Kuna in his acceptance speech. “It’s our responsibility as partners, as government [and] as conservation leaders to support their efforts and advocate on their behalf to ensure Tree-kangaroos are here for generations to come.”

Header photo: The Princess Royal and 2016 Whitley Awards recipient Karau Kuna. Photo by James Finlay/ courtesy Whitley Fund for Nature.

Guardians of the Rainforest

Rainforest Trust is joining forces with Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn to give movie fans the chance to win a poster signed by the cast. Proceeds will go directly to rainforest conservation around the world.

Each $5 ticket grants one entry into the poster raffle (multiple entries are encouraged to increase the chance of winning) and ticket proceeds go directly to Rainforest Trust’s critical habitat protection efforts.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 poster, which has been generously donated by Gunn, is signed by Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), David Bautista (Drax), Sean Gunn (Kraglin), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Michael Rooker (Yondu), Kurt Russell (character unconfirmed) and the director himself.

Guardians of the Galaxy’s support of Rainforest Trust dates back to the beginning of the series when Vin Diesel (voice of Groot) sprouted the idea for the “Plant a Tree for Groot” challenge in 2014. Gunn soon upped the ante, saying that he would donate $5,000 dollars if 50 people planted trees in Groot’s honor. Since then, Gunn has been a supporter of multiple Rainforest Trust projects such as the creation of a safe haven for Matschie’s Tree-kangaroos in Papua New Guinea and the My Chocolate Acre campaign with Endangered Species Chocolate. Gunn’s Guardians poster raffle shows that even $5 can have a positive impact on the conservation of rainforests.

World Oceans Day Highlights Shared Connections of Reefs and Rainforests

The United Nations established World Oceans Day on June 8th to celebrate our world’s shared ocean. The occasion raises awareness about the crucial role the ocean plays in our lives and the ways we can all help protect it. This year’s theme, Healthy oceans, healthy planet, is reflected in the relationship between healthy forests and healthy ocean ecosystems.

Last year, Rainforest Trust helped protect 47,328 acres of coastal habitat for the Endangered Maleo – a mound building bird that uses volcanic and solar heated-sand to incubate eggs in large nesting grounds. These coastal beaches are also used by Vulnerable Leatherback and Endangered Green Turtles.

Working with a local partner in Papua New Guinea, Rainforest Trust is helping to expand the country’s first Community Conservation Area by 195,759 acres. Located in eastern Papua New Guinea, the Huon Peninsula is home to one of the highest concentrations of endemic bird and mammal species on mainland New Guinea and adjoins some of the healthiest reef systems in the coral triangle – the most biodiverse coral reef system on earth and the marine equivalent of the Amazon.

These coastal waters are home to the Dugong, a Vulnerable marine mammal similar to a manatee with a tail that is fluked like a whale and the beaches adjoining the peninsula’s forests are used as nesting grounds for Leatherback Sea Turtles.

Leatherbacks are the largest turtles on Earth, growing up to seven feet long and exceeding 2,000 pounds. These ancient reptiles are the only remaining representatives of a family of turtles that trace their evolutionary roots back more than 100 million years. Once prevalent in every ocean except the Arctic and Antarctic, Leatherback Sea Turtle population is rapidly declining in many parts of the world. The breeding population in New Guinea was recently classified as Critically Endangered.

Header photo: Leatherback Sea Turtle. Photo by Jeroen Looyé/CC

Rainforest Trust Expands into Australia

Rainforest Trust-Australia enables donors in Australia to make vital conservation impacts both domestically and abroad.

Rainforest Trust is excited to announce the establishment of its first international affiliate, Rainforest Trust-Australia, allowing our many Australian supporters to receive tax deductions for their generous contributions toward the conservation of tropical areas both on that continent and overseas.

Rainforest Trust-Australia benefits from nearly 50 years of combined conservation expertise as it was created through a partnership between Rainforest Trust and the entity formerly known as Australian Rainforest Foundation, a conservation group historically dedicated to the protection, extension and recovery of Australia’s natural areas with particular focus on rainforests. As a result of the new partnership, today Australian donors can make tax-deductible donations supporting a range of projects from Australia’s Daintree to Peru’s Amazon rainforests.

“Since 1988, Rainforest Trust in the United States has purchased and protected over 12 million acres with a goal of saving 50 million acres of rainforests and tropical habitat around the world by the year 2020,” said Kelvin Davies, Rainforest Trust-Australia’s CEO.

“What’s really exciting is that Australia is now on the radar as part of that bigger picture.”

Rainforest Trust-Australia is currently working on two significant projects locally: the expansion of both Daintree National Park and Barrine Park Nature Refuge. Various habitats make the Daintree one of the most complex rainforest ecosystems on Earth and the growth of Barrine Park will provide a safe haven for many of Australia’s most iconic rainforest wildlife.


Collaboration with Renewable Energy Firm Protects Thousands of Acres

New partnership will help protect threatened rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo by contributing to the establishment of Balanga Forest Reserve.

Rainforest Trust is pleased to announce a new partnership with Renew Financial dedicated to protecting threatened rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by aiding in the establishment of the immense, nearly 1.2-­million-­acre Balanga Forest Reserve containing some of the highest levels of biodiversity on Earth.

“Celebrating 27 years of conservation achievements, Rainforest Trust has permanently protected more than 12.5 million acres of rainforests and tropical habitat all over the world,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.

“With Renew Financial’s partnership, we will continue expanding our efforts in the DRC, saving crucial rainforest habitat for spectacular and imperiled wildlife while ensuring the future of a healthier planet for future generations.”

Each acre of rainforest protected at Balanga Forest Reserve will prevent the emission of about 227 metric tons of CO2, which is equivalent to removing over 47 passenger vehicles from U.S. roads for an entire year. In addition to storing carbon and combating climate change, preserving this land will ensure the protection of crucial habitats for unique and endangered wildlife such as Okapis, Bonobos and a diverse assemblage of birds that find sanctuary in Balanga’s intact old growth rainforests—one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the Congo basin.

“We want to do our part to be good corporate citizens,” said Cisco DeVries, CEO of Renew Financial. “We’re excited to partner with Rainforest Trust to help conservation efforts in the Balanga Forest Reserve. Renew Financial is dedicated to providing homeowners with home improvement solutions that help preserve natural resources, and partnering with Rainforest Trust allows us to extend those efforts more broadly.”

The partnership to protect this area will commence with an initial donation by Renew Financial to preserve approximately 4,000 acres of land. The company will contribute an additional acre for every financed renewable energy project on an ongoing basis.

“Funds from Renew Financial will directly support the creation of Balanga Forest Reserve, an area that would not survive without environmentally responsible companies like Renew Financial,” said Salaman.

Find out more about Rainforest Trust’s work in the Democratic Republic of Congo and help protect the Balanga Forest Reserve.

About Renew Financial

Renew Financial is one of the nation’s leading clean energy financing companies. Founded in 2008 by Cisco DeVries, who created the concept of the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing model, Renew Financial provides multiple financing products across the U.S.

Header photo: Rainforest Trust’s partnership with Renew Financial helps protect critical habitat in the DRC.

Newly Described Tortoise Receives Critical Protection

Earlier this year, scientists described a new species – Goode’s Thornscrub Tortoise (Gopherus evgoodei) – discovered in the Sinaloan Thornscrub Forests of Mexico. Scientists consider the new species to be at grave risk of extinction due to threats of habitat loss and lack of protection.

Rainforest Trust and the Turtle Conservancy acted promptly to assist in the purchase and protection of the surviving population stronghold of the Goode’s Thornscrub Tortoise. An area of 1,000 acres of thornscrub habitat was purchased near Alamos by Mexican partner Naturaleza y Cultura Sierra Madre. The new reserve also protects many other threatened and charismatic species, such as Military Macaws, Black-throated Magpie-jays, Jaguars and Northern Casque-headed Frogs.

The new Goode’s Thornscrub Tortoise Reserve is in close proximity to the existing Reserva Monte Mojino so that a larger conservation landscape will be protected for the tortoise.

Rainforest Trust would like to thank the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, Global Wildlife Conservation, Naturaleza y Cultura Sierra Madre and the Turtle Conservancy for their collaboration on this project.

Header photo: Goode’s Thornscrub Tortoise is considered to be at grave risk of extinction by scientists involved in the discovery Photo by Taylor Edwards.