Supporter Spotlight: Hipsters for Sisters

Sustainable purse company uses fashion to save forests.

Debra Denniston and her daughters Rachel and Kate run a sustainable fashion line of purses, Hipsters for Sisters, in their home city of Los Angeles, California. Honoring the company’s mission to “take into consideration not only design, but also the health and welfare of our planet,” the Dennistons have decided to donate a percentage of their online sales to Rainforest Trust. In only two months, the women were able to help save over 300 acres of Sumatran rainforest.

“We’re so happy to have discovered this wonderful organization that matches our passion for protecting our planet’s resources and the conservation of wildlife,” said Debra. “We love the fact that 100 percent of our donation goes directly to saving acres.”

After many years of lugging around heavy handbags, Debra decided to channel her love of the fanny pack and its functionality to inspire a revolution that would also give voice to her concerns for the environment.

“We honor our responsibility to protect the earth and its resources,” said Debra. “We make it our goal to source only the most innovative and earth-friendly materials available for our bags, which means we do not use leather, skins, fur or PVC (polyvinyl chloride) in any of our products.”

Hipsters for Sisters regularly donates five percent of online sales to various nonprofits, and originally added Rainforest Trust as one of the temporary special projects that they support. Once they saw how their donations made a positive impact in Sumatra, the team decided to make their support more consistent.

The Sumatran jungle is particularly at risk due to the spread of rubber, paper and oil palm plantations that cause deforestation and directly compete for land needed by endangered wildlife such as Sumatran Elephants and Sumatran Orangutans. Rainforest Trust is working with a local partner to help protect critical areas of this threatened land.

“We were so happy to see, in such a tangible way, how much good we can do partnering with Rainforest Trust that we decided to make it one of our permanent primary charitable organizations,” said Debra.

With the support of friends like Hipsters for Sisters, Rainforest Trust can help protect areas like Sumatra and the diverse wildlife they hold.

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Future of now Critically Endangered Bornean Orangutans depends on protected areas

Rainforest Trust’s continued conservation efforts in Borneo protect essential habitat for the critically endangered species.

Last week, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published a new assessment of the Bornean Orangutan, escalating the status from “Endangered” to “Critically Endangered” on its Red List of Threatened Species. According to the assessment, Bornean Orangutan populations have been decreasing due to “habitat loss, habitat degradation and illegal hunting” with a population decline of over 60 percent between 1950 and 2010, and an estimated additional decline of 22 percent by 2025.

The Red List assessment states, “The future of Bornean Orangutans will very much depend on the long-term security of large, strictly-protected forests where illegal logging and hunting will be efficiently controlled,” referencing a 2011 study by Meijaard et al.

Rainforest Trust has been actively working to protect the habitats in Borneo that these apes depend on. Through collaboration with Bornean partners and the state government, the Kuamut Forest Reserve was formally established in 2015. The 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 conserving one of the planet’s last remaining strongholds of biodiversity.

Converted from a former logging concession, the new reserve will regenerate and recover to abundant rainforest again through the dedicated efforts of a well-trained and equipped team of forest guards. Without protection, it was predicted that around 40 percent of the Kuamut Forest Reserve would have been developed into agricultural land within the next five years.

The IUCN indicates that if the region’s forests are not protected from timber extraction, conversion to agriculture and other land uses, more than half of the current orangutan habitat will be lost in the next 50 years.

“Protecting Borneo’s remaining lowland rainforests from logging and expanding oil palm plantations is crucial for endangered wildlife like the Bornean Orangutan,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.

Rainforest Trust is dedicated to safeguarding critical habitats in Borneo for threatened species, with a commitment to protect an additional 100,000 acres across the island. Learn more about Rainforest Trust’s role in establishing the Kuamut Forest Reserve and the ongoing efforts to protect Borneo’s rainforests.

Header photo: Orangutans. Photo by Eric Kilby.

Supporter Spotlight: Beach Elementary School Block Party

Gabriella, Lilly, Mateo and Nina of Beach Elementary School near Oakland, California, have banded together for the past two years to raise money and protect the rainforest.

This past year, the group decided to enlist help from family, friends and neighbors by throwing a block-party style fundraiser. It included baked goods, games and even a chalk art contest! Attendees purchased tickets to participate in the range of activities, shopped for baked goods and perused the yard sales. Imagination and hard work paid off, as the students were able to save 3,811 acres of rainforest in the Sierra del Divisor mountain range of Peru.

The Sierra del Divisor National Park, protected through a collaboration between Rainforest Trust and local Peruvian conservation partner Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon (CEDIA), boasts over three million acres of refuge for 38 medium and large mammal species, including Jaguars, Giant Armadillos and South American Tapirs. Additionally, there are as many as 300 fish species, 365 confirmed bird species, 109 species of amphibians and reptiles and a total of 3,500 plant species thought to exist in the area.

Interested in starting your own grassroots project? Check out our Rainforest Trust Day to see how you can become involved!

First National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo Declared in Over Two Decades: Protects Critical Rainforest Stronghold

Thanks to Rainforest Trust donors and other supporters, the nearly 2.2-million acre Lomami National Park was officially declared by the Conseil de Ministres (Ministers’ Council) of the Democratic Republic of Congo, heralding a major breakthrough in establishing urgently needed rainforest protection with community support in the heart of the Congo.

On July 7, 2016, the Conseil de Ministres (Ministers’ Council) of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) officially established Lomami National Park, the country’s first national park in over two decades. Rainforest Trust supported local partner Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation (LWRF) in working with local communities and governmental institutions to make the national park a reality.

While many parts of the Congo have suffered from decades of disastrous civil war, Lomami Basin has been spared much of this destruction due to its remote location. However, in recent years the area has been ravaged by criminal gangs of ivory poachers terrorizing both wildlife and local people.

The declaration of Lomami National Park not only provides fundamental protection for wildlife, but also brings much-needed security and stability to the region. At the request of indigenous communities and with the backing of the Congolese Army, trained and well-equipped teams of park guards will be deployed around the new park to stop criminal poaching and lawlessness.

“In a country where most funders have turned their backs because of decades of conflict, Rainforest Trust and our local partner have persevered. Countries like DRC are the very ones that need our support the most,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.

“The declaration of Lomami National Park is coming at a crucial time as threats to its spectacular rainforests are rapidly accelerating.”

More than five times the size of Texas, the Congo Basin encompasses a mosaic of hill and lowland tropical forests, swamps and natural savannas that shelter an abundance of rare and endangered species found only in the DRC, including Okapis, Bonobos, Congo Peacocks and a newly discovered monkey, the Lesula. It is also home to African Forest Elephants, whose populations continue to plummet. The new Lomami National Park represents a vitally important refuge for elephants covering nearly 2.2 million acres – 50 times larger than Washington, D.C., and nearly equal in size to Yellowstone National Park.

Despite being the second-largest rainforest in the world, the Congo Basin ranks as the most under-protected rainforest wilderness left on Earth. After identifying mounting threats to the region’s wildlife – from poaching for elephant ivory to deforestation for timber and agricultural expansion – Rainforest Trust launched a massive campaign to support LWRF in the critically needed establishment of the new national park.

“This will be the first protected area in the DRC that was set up in a participatory manner and involved all levels of the community and administration, from village to province to national entity,” said Dr. Terese Hart, who has worked in the Congo’s rainforest for more than three decades and is the national administrator for Rainforest Trust’s local partner.

“It sets a new standard. It also sets a basis for moving toward an even larger protected area.”

Rainforest Trust is committed to establishing a well-trained park guard system to protect the area for decades ahead. Support and involvement of local communities will be crucial to managing buffer areas around the new park.

“Thanks to the bottom-up approach in the establishment of this park, the local community feels a real stake in the protection of this area and its wildlife,” said Salaman. “This strategy is absolutely fundamental for conservation to succeed. It is the only way that major protected areas will stand the test of time, allowing local communities to participate.”

Lomami represents a major step forward for the conservation of central Africa’s rainforest, providing permanent and secure protection for some of the planet’s most imperiled wildlife.

However, the efforts of Rainforest Trust and its partner do not stop there. Presently efforts are underway to create Balanga Forest Reserve beside the new Lomami National Park, ultimately extending protection across an area the size of Connecticut.

Other institutions and organizations that supported the creation of Lomami National Park include Arcus Foundation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Wildcat Foundation and FCF. Rainforest Trust wishes to thank the hundreds of supporters who donated to make this project possible, including Edith McBean, Bernie Han, Hamilton Miller, Mystic Dreamer: Art for the Earth, Partnership for International Birding and an anonymous supporter.

About Rainforest Trust

Rainforest Trust is a nonprofit conservation organization focused on saving rainforests and endangered species in partnership with local conservation leaders and communities. Since its founding in 1988, Rainforest Trust has helped to save nearly 14 million acres of rainforest and other tropical habitats across over 20 countries in more than 100 project sites.

Header photo: Forest Elephants. Photo by CIFOR.