Community Ecoguards Help Secure a Proposed Wildlife Sanctuary in Cameroon

The Lebialem Highlands region of southwest Cameroon is home to diverse endemic and threatened species. To protect this vital habitat, Rainforest Trust is supporting the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) to create the 34,794-acre Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary for endangered wildlife such as the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, the Drill, the African Forest Elephant and the Goliath Frog.

Since the Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary does not yet exist, there is no official protection of the forest. With funding from Rainforest Trust, ERuDeF has recruited local community members to serve as “Ecoguards.” The Ecoguards prevent hunting and agricultural encroachment and contribute to ongoing biodiversity by helping to track wildlife with camera traps and GPS technology. In addition, ERuDeF staff hold “biodiversity sensitization” meetings with community members to discuss the benefits of biodiversity conservation.

“The protection of Mak-Betchou forest is vital for the survival of the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, African Forest Elephants, Drills and other species,” said Allen Tabi Enokenwa, Director of ERuDeF’s Biodiversity and Protected Area Management Programme.

“Community Ecoguards, considered as local conservation leaders, use their acquired skills and extensive knowledge of the area to monitor threatened species and illegal human activities. Their actions are imperative in the long-term protection of the Mak-Betchou forest area.”

Dr. Sally Lahm, Rainforest Trust’s Africa and Madagascar Conservation Officer, said, “The community Ecoguards use their natural knowledge and wisdom of the Mak-Betchou forest and wildlife to protect and monitor their forest assisted by technical training and field equipment. Full community participation in protection and management of this forest is crucial not only to the process of creating the sanctuary, but also for its long-term existence in the Lebialem Highlands.”

After the creation of the Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary, the Ecoguards will work with a government-appointed Conservator and six rangers. This protection, along with the continuous involvement of the local community in conservation management, aims to create a much-needed haven for wildlife in the Lebialem Highlands.

Header photo: Mak-Betchou Ecoguards participate in camera trap training. Photo courtesy of ERuDeF.

Rainforest Trust Partners Receive International Conservation Awards

Two of Rainforest Trust’s local partners were recognized for their continued commitment to safeguarding biodiversity through community engagement.

This May, the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) presented Whitley Awards to two members of Rainforest Trust partner organizations. According to the WFN website, “The Whitley Awards champion effective local conservationists from bio-diversity rich, resource-poor countries, who are spearheading innovative work to save endangered wildlife and benefit local communities.”

Ian Little of Rainforest Trust’s partner Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) was recognized by WFN for his efforts to conserve South Africa’s grassland habitat against the threat of unregulated agricultural encroachment. Little is working with landowners to help them understand how to sustainably manage their grasslands, and aims to establish a corridor of protected areas.

With an emphasis on community engagement, EWT is also partnering with Rainforest Trust to utilize Biodiversity Stewardship Programs in other parts of South Africa. Currently, the conservation organizations are working on two projects that encourage landowners to become active custodians of important amphibian habitats on their own properties, specifically for the Critically Endangered Amathole Toad and Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog.

Another Whitley Award recipient was Indira Lacerna-Widmann, the co-founder of the Philippine conservation organization Katala Foundation. Lacerna-Widmann and her team have worked to protect the Critically Endangered Philippine Cockatoo, which has faced drastic population declines due to the caged bird trade and destruction of its habitat. The reserves that the Katala Foundation supports have helped the Philippine Cockatoo rebound, and Lacerna-Widmann is now working to protect an urban population of cockatoos in Central Palawan that forage over military and private lands.

Rainforest Trust is currently partnering with the Katala Foundation to protect habitat for another species that is also negatively impacted by the wildlife trade and habitat loss: the Critically Endangered Palawan Turtle. This turtle is among the 25 most threatened turtle species in the world, and together the Katala Foundation and Rainforest Trust will secure a key section of its range.

“It is always wonderful to see our partners recognized by such an important international platform,” said James Lewis, Rainforest Trust’s Director of Conservation Programs.

“Like so many of Rainforest Trust’s partners, Ian and Indira are true leaders in conservation, working closely with communities, landowners and governments to ensure that generations to come will be able to share in the amazing biodiversity we all want to see protected.”

Header photo: The 2017 Whitley Award winners. Photo courtesy of the Whitley Fund for Nature.

Rainforest Trust CEO Receives Hero Award

Dr. Paul Salaman is recognized for his dedicated conservation work by Rainforest Trust supporters.

Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman was recently presented with a “Hero Award” by George Jett and Dr. Gwen Brewer, passionate supporters of Rainforest Trust’s conservation work.

“Paul, Gwen and I have always shared a passion for nature, and especially the birds,” said George, who recently retired from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“I have been very impressed with the job Paul has done since taking over Rainforest Trust. The numbers of acres protected and the dedicated team he has assembled is impressive, and we wanted to make some public statement of appreciation.”

The monetary donation given by George and Gwen in Paul’s honor will help support two urgent Rainforest Trust projects that will secure a missing link in the Amazon and protect the last great forests of northern Borneo.

In Peru, Rainforest Trust and local partner Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon (CEDIA) are working to protect the missing link that will create a combined 7.8 million-acre tri-national corridor to safeguard a massive swath of critical Amazon rainforest habitat across Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. This critical missing link will be secured by working to expand the current Airo Pai Community Reserve along with other regional efforts, protecting more than 1.3 million acres of the mega-diverse forests of northwestern Peru from threats such as illegal logging and oil exploitation.

Through a collaboration with local partner South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP), Rainforest Trust is supporting the Carnegie Airborne Observatory to generate high-resolution maps that integrate land use in Borneo with biodiversity information. The resulting data will identify the most critical and strategic areas to protect 920,000 acres for species such as Bornean Orangutans, Sunda Pangolins, Helmeted Hornbills, Borneo Pygmy Elephants and Clouded Leopards.

“It was a total surprise – I was shocked, but most honored to receive this award in front of the Rainforest Trust Board, staff and other supporters,” said Paul. “I’m delighted that this great honor comes with a major gift from our wonderful friends, George and Gwen, that will be dedicated to safeguarding some of the world’s most threatened rainforests and biodiversity on the planet. Thank you.”

The award was given during a dinner hosted by Rainforest Trust centering around a keynote talk titled, “The Lost Forest of Madagascar: Lemurs, Outlaws and Protecting Paradise.” James Lewis, Rainforest Trust’s Director of Conservation Programs, shared photos from a recent expedition into this secluded forest and discussed conservation efforts to protect this incredible site that is home to a plethora of threatened and newly discovered species.

Header photo: Dr. Paul Salaman receives Hero Award from George Jett and Dr. Gwen Brewer. Photo by Austin Harter.

Rainforest Trust Hosts Partner Retreat

Many of Rainforest Trust’s partners participated in a week-long retreat at Rainforest Trust’s headquarters in Virginia.

In May, Rainforest Trust welcomed 15 representatives from our local partner organizations to our headquarters in Virginia for a partner retreat week. The attendees hailed from 13 countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia. Together, they represented projects protecting a variety of landscapes, species and ecosystems.

Throughout the week, the partner representatives participated in training seminars and presentations from Rainforest Trust staff on topics such as management plan development, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, camera trap usage, communications and fundraising. The representatives also shared details on their own projects, their successes and the challenges they’ve faced. Conservationists around the world often face similar obstacles and these presentations and dialogues allowed the representatives to learn about new solutions from each other as well as from Rainforest Trust staff.

“Our partners brought an incredible range of individual and institutional experience to the retreat,” said Dr. George E. Wallace, Chief Conservation Officer of Rainforest Trust.

“But the common denominator was a shared desire to learn from each other and to develop ways of helping all the organizations deliver stronger, more enduring conservation.”

Besides the informative sessions, the partner representatives took the time to record interviews with Rainforest Trust’s staff, sharing stories and expertise. During off-hours, the week included soccer games, barbecues and hiking.

“We witnessed every partner having the same total commitment and passion to saving species, assisting communities and protecting our planet as the Rainforest Trust team,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “And it felt like we were with family!”

“It was wonderful to spend time together with our partners, share our experience and knowledge and make all of our conservation action that much more successful.”

Header photo: Group photo of the partner representatives. Photo by Austin Harter.

Supporter Spotlight: Dr. Edward Aller

A veterinarian combines his passion for helping wildlife with global conservation through his support of Rainforest Trust.

Dr. Edward Aller, a dedicated veterinarian, has been enthralled with wildlife since the very beginning of his life. The son of marine scientists, he spent much of his childhood exploring forests, beaches, mangroves and reefs. He vividly remembers riding his bike down to a small store in his hometown on Long Island, NY to look at gemstones, fossils and other natural treasures.

“I remember they used to have a coin bank for rainforest conservation, and I used to put all my extra change into it,” Edward reflected.

One of the many benefits of having parents in the field of marine science was joining them on sabbatical trips to work with the Australian Institute Of Marine Sciences, where he became a certified diver at age 13 and was fortunate enough to dive in the Great Barrier Reef multiple times.

“I would consider a reef to be the aquatic equivalent of a rainforest,” Edward stated.

Edward’s passion for nature was cemented after a month-long tropical rainforest ecology course in Costa Rica during college. Living and working in a remote village, he learned how to set up a nursery and cultivate plants to reforest degraded areas. During this course he experienced both pristine rainforest and cloud forest, and was “heartbroken to see the level of deforestation and erosion around that region.”

Edward became involved with Rainforest Trust a few years ago, after searching for ways to combat the amount of biodiversity loss, deforestation, pollution and increasing scarcity of resources around the world. He decided the best course of action was to become a Conservation Hero.

“I used the act of supporting and following Rainforest Trust as a way to stay positive and give me hope for the future,” Edward said.

“I also enjoy following the specific projects and dream of having the time and resources to visit them.”

One of the main reasons Edward supports Rainforest Trust is because he believes in the importance of working with local partners and the value of involving communities in conservation initiatives.

By supporting Rainforest Trust as a Conservation Hero, Edward has helped save more than 248 acres– and intends to keep going!

HEADER IMAGE: Rainforest Trust supporter Edward Aller enjoys spending time in nature. Photo courtesy of Edward Aller