Supporter Spotlight: Kyle Hughes

11 year old conservationist saves over 2,500 acres!

A supporter of Rainforest Trust since he was eight, Kyle Hughes has been passionate about animals and nature from a young age. Recently, Kyle took an interest in charity, which began one Christmas when his grandfather bought him a goat to donate to an African family in need. This interest in charity eventually led Kyle and his family to Rainforest Trust.

Kyle’s parents, Rob and Rebecca Hughes, wanted to find an organization that addressed issues their son was passionate about, mainly protecting habitats.

“We wanted to make sure that we found a charity that used the money well,” Rob said. “We contacted a family friend, who is an ethnoecologist who was familiar with what Rainforest Trust was doing with the Sierra Del Divisor project in Peru, and were very impressed with the ways [Rainforest Trust] integrated conservation efforts while working with local populations.” At this point, the Hughes’ realized it was a perfect fit.

Learning about Rainforest Trust’s work motivated Kyle and some friends to give a presentation about the Sierra Del Divisor project to his cub scout pack, after which they collected donations. The following year Kyle continued his philanthropic ways by asking Santa for a donation to Rainforest Trust for Christmas. When asked why he chose the rainforest as his main focus of charity, Kyle said,

“…the rainforest is one of the best producers of oxygen because it has lots of trees and plants which turn carbon dioxide into oxygen… so we should protect them.”

While he has been busy raising money for Rainforest Trust, he has also helped out locally in his home state of Texas. His cub scout den worked with a local wildlife sanctuary outside Dallas to restore Blackland Prairie habitat by cutting back invasive plant species, as well as picked up trash along local creeks.

In his free time, Kyle has enjoyed educating others about the importance of conservation. When he was seven, Kyle created a video to encourage others to be more environmentally conscious. The video, which earned him 1st place in a local school district competition, awarded Kyle a chance to compete at a state level contest, which urged youth to create works with the focus of Dream, Believe, Inspire.

“One of my favorite projects was the video international mini documentary film,” said Kyle. “I got to use a camera, I got to show my toys and I actually learned a few things.” Speaking of toys, Kyle has collected over 100 animal figurines and model train scenery pieces. So, instead of playing video games like many children his age, he prefers to set up habitats from different places around the world for his animals.

One of Kyle’s toy replicas of a wildlife habitat. Photo courtesy of the Hughes family


“We have tried to encourage his interests,” said Rob. To reinforce this, the family has gone as far as traveling through Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons and Rocky Mountain National Park this past year, as well as planning future trips to Tanzania’s Serengeti, Alaska and the Yukon Territories, so that Kyle can add to his experiences – especially when it comes to raptors, his favored species. Kyle has attended multiple raptor shows and can’t wait to be old enough to volunteer at a raptor rehabilitation center, so that he can begin to fulfill his aspirations of becoming a zoologist or biologist when he grows up. Until that time, we celebrate Kyle’s continuing support of Rainforest Trust and the over 2,500 acres of vital habitat he has helped save so far!

HEADER IMAGE: Budding Conservationist Kyle learns about his favorite species, raptors. Photo courtesy of the Hughes family


International Conservation Cohort Joins National Tree Planting Event in Panama

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela alongside the Minister of the Environment Emilio Sempris commenced the 3rd annual national tree planting event held at Cerro Galera, Nuevo Arraijan in Panama on June 24. Thousands of volunteers and a variety of conservation groups including Rainforest Trust staff and local partner Asociación Adopta el Bosque Panamá (ADOPTA) joined the government officials in the reforestation efforts.

After giving a speech about the value of forest conservation and regeneration, President Varela spoke exclusively with staff from Rainforest Trust, ADOPTA and Rainforest Trust’s Canadian partner International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) about the importance of watersheds in Panama, especially those around the Panama Canal.

“Protecting the rainforests around the Panama Canal is very important, not just for the functioning of the Panama Canal but also for drinking water for the people of Panama City and Colon,” said President Varela.

The conservation non-profit organizations also had the opportunity to discuss with President Varela another environment in Panama that is a critical watershed for its surrounding villages: the Cerro Chucanti mountain on the border of the Darien region. In addition to providing a year-round supply of fresh water, the forests also contain numerous rare animals and plants found nowhere else on Earth. There have been many discoveries of species new to science at this irreplaceable site, including salamanders, frogs, snakes and numerous vascular plants.

Despite their vital ecosystem services and incredible biodiversity, the rainforests in Cerro Chucantí are under significant threat from deforestation due to cattle ranching. To protect this site, ADOPTA partnered with Rainforest Trust and ICFC to expand the nature reserve by 170 acres earlier this year, bringing its total to about 1,853 acres.




“We are excited to explore the opportunity for the potential designation of a large government protected area to provide permanent refuge for the region’s newly discovered and endangered wildlife,” said Guido Berguido, the Executive Director of ADOPTA.

“Establishing a national reforestation day, and committing to reforest one million acres by 2025, demonstrates a clear political understanding of the importance of forest conservation,” said James Lewis, Director of Conservation Programs at Rainforest Trust.

“It’s very exciting to see this great, countrywide initiative, and we are looking forward to seeing how conservation efforts around Chucantí will progress in the coming years.”


HEADER IMAGE: Panamanian President Varela and Minister of the Environment Sempris (both center) meet with staff from Rainforest Trust, ADOPTA and ICFC. Photo courtesy of Rainforest Trust


Land Purchase Protects Rare Magnolias in the Colombian Andes

The expansion of Selva de Ventanas Natural Reserve safeguards vital habitat in the biodiverse Andes for Critically Endangered and Endangered plant species.

Rainforest Trust and local partner Salvamontes Corporation worked to expand Selva de Ventanas Natural Reserve by 120 acres this June, strategically linking a vital biological corridor in Colombia’s Antioquia district. The purchase and protection of this area prevented the conversion of the site’s forests to pasture land, which has been incredibly detrimental to the region’s biodiversity.

The Alto de Ventanas ecoregion provides habitat for rare magnolias and at least 13 Critically Endangered or Endangered orchid species, at least two of which are considered to be new to science (Lepanthes spp.). The protected expansion contains 32 percent of the global population of the Ventanas Magnolia (Magnolia polyhypsophylla), the most endangered tree species in the region with only 25 adult individuals known in the world. This site is also home to seven endemic bird species, one endemic amphibian species and 26 narrow endemic plant species. The Critically Endangered Handley’s Slender Mouse Opossum is likely to be found in the expansion as well, as it was recently collected less than a mile from the site. It is also suspected that a Critically Endangered frog species (Niceforonia adenobrachia) also occurs in this area.

“Timing was of the essence with this land purchase,” said Dr. George E. Wallace, Chief Conservation Officer of Rainforest Trust.

“The pace of deforestation and conversion of ranch land in this region is so rapid and the value of this area for threatened species, especially plants, is so high that it was critical to bring the land under protection.”

This 120-acre expansion has greatly contributed to the creation of a protected biological corridor, with the goal of safeguarding 2,471 acres by 2020. Salvamontes Corporation will reintroduce plant species such as the Critically Endangered Ventanas Magnolia and Endangered Yarumal Magnolia to the expanded site, and the creation of a commercial nursery of native and ornamental species will help financially support the management of the reserve. In addition, the conservation group will engage in community outreach and environmental education programs to promote the creation of nature reserves and consolidation of biological corridors in the Alto de Ventanas region.

Header photo: A flower of the Ventanas Magnolia tree, of which only 25 individuals remain in the world. Photo courtesty of Salvamontes Corporation.

Rainforest Trust Supports Continued Enhancement of Conservation Skills

A member of Rainforest Trust’s Indonesian conservation partner completes a prestigious training program through financial support from Rainforest Trust.

The Durrell Endangered Species Management Graduate Certificate (DESMAN) is a 12-week training program conducted by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Academy in the Channel Islands that provides conservationists with research, management and conflict resolution skills that can be applied to their field projects. Rainforest Trust helped sponsor the attendance of Tomy Hosni Mubaraq, who is the Manager Assistant of the Security Department from Yayasan Konservasi Ekosistem Hutan Sumatera (KEHUS), one of Rainforest Trust’s partners working in the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem in Sumatra.

“Since my specialization is in tropical jungle survival and land navigation, I train [local people] in the basic skills needed to be a ranger,” said Mubaraq. “In addition to maintaining the security of the area, [KEHUS] has the challenge of raising the awareness of local people and working together on protecting the forest.”

During the conference, participants discussed the conservation of biodiversity, the drivers of species decline, the use of technology in the field, project management and the importance of community engagement. In addition to lectures by management trainers and biologists, the visiting conservationists also engaged in hands-on workshops, such as one where they debated shoot-to-kill policies for poachers and used conflict resolution techniques as they discussed the issue.

Participants also shared some of the current threats to biodiversity in their respective countries, which Mubaraq said for Indonesia includes oil palm plantations, deforestation, pollution, climate change, hunting, mining and illegal logging. Rainforest Trust is currently supporting KEHUS in the protection of Sumatra’s Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem, which is vital habitat for Sumatran Elephants, Tigers and Orangutans.

“Tomy is an impressive conservationist,” said Dr. Bert Harris, Rainforest Trust’s Director of Biodiversity Conservation. “I saw him in action during a site visit to Bukit Tigapuluh.”

“Tomy is learning critical skills at this workshop that I’m sure will further his efforts to defend Bukit Tigapuluh from illegal logging and poaching.”

Header photo: Tomy Mubaraq from Rainforest Trust’s partner KEHUS attending the DESMAN program. Photo courtesy of Tomy Mubaraq.

Rainforest Trust Hosts Inaugural Meeting of IUCN United States National Committee

This June, Rainforest Trust hosted the inaugural meeting of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) United States National Committee. The conference took place at the Airlie Conference Center across the street from Rainforest Trust’s headquarters in Northern Virginia. Attendees included scientists, communicators, policymakers and experts from conservation and environmental organizations across the U.S. and elsewhere. The meeting featured panel discussions, presentations and conversations on the role of IUCN in the U.S. and the new IUCN United States National Committee.

IUCN is a global network of conservation organizations and governmental bodies. Founded in 1948 and based in Gland, Switzerland, IUCN oversees publications including the Red List, facilitates knowledge-sharing and convenes events such as the World Conservation Congress.

Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust, welcomed participants to the meeting, recalling the decades-old relationship between Rainforest Trust and IUCN. “Our roots with IUCN extend back almost 30 years, but as we moved to collaborate with more U.S. organizations, we discovered no platform or avenue for dialogue between like-minded environmental groups in the U.S.,” Dr. Salaman said. “With over 100 U.S. Members, it is apparent that the national committee will provide that path to facilitate dialogue.”

Inger Andersen, the Director General of IUCN, opened the proceedings remotely from IUCN headquarters and noted that IUCN members in the U.S. have been consistent leaders in conservation, highlighted by Hawaii’s hosting of last year’s World Conservation Congress.

Andersen thanked Rainforest Trust for hosting the event and, in her closing remarks at the end of the event, recognized Dr. Salaman for his “tireless effort” to create the committee. In addition, John Robinson, IUCN Councillor for North America, recognized Dr. Salaman’s work to bring in members to IUCN U.S. and host the inaugural meeting with a copy of The Paper Zoo, a book of animal art covering the last 500 years.

Regarding the importance of the meeting, Dr. Salaman said, “We believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts — that as a collective, the IUCN family in the U.S. can have a more effective voice for nature, both domestically and internationally.”

Header photo: The participants of the inaugural meeting of the IUCN US National Committee. Photo by Rainforest Trust.

Supporter Spotlight: David Gallant and Arjun Venkatesh

Two bright middle school students, David Gallant, 11, and Arjun Venkatesh, 12, are going above and beyond to help protect vital rainforest habitat in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After their teacher, Mr. Pepe, assigned them an independent research project to identify a global issue and find a way to solve it, David and Arjun learned about the urgent threat of deforestation.

Over the course of their research, David and Arjun found that the rainforest has great intrinsic value. “The rainforest is important as it provides oxygen to the world, and without this important ecosystem service people would not be able to survive,” Arjun said. David added, “The rainforest also provides valuable medicines that can help save lives.” As both David and Arjun became aware of the numerous threats to the rainforest in the Congo, they knew they had to find a solution to help.

“Even though the rainforest in the Congo is smaller than the Amazon, people are still trying to save it,” said David.

Their solution to saving the rainforest? Sweet, whipped cream pie. Arjun and David came up with a suspenseful challenge to raise money for the rainforest that involves two pies, and, you guessed it, throwing it at someone else. If the thrower hits the other person in the face, then the receiver has to donate. If the thrower misses, then the thrower gets to donate. After the event, the receiver nominates three other people to do the challenge. All of the proceeds are being donated to Rainforest Trust to help save rainforests in the DRC.

“Research the rainforest, and inform people about what is happening,” Arjun advises to other students wanting to save the rainforest.

Both students, it should be noted, have successfully pied their teacher, Mr. Pepe.

Want to learn more about David and Arjun’s challenge? Check out their CrowdRise page.

HEADER IMAGE: David and Arjun speaking at their pie-throwing event. Photo courtesy of Mr. Pepe