Rainforest Trust Makes Strategic Land Purchases to Expand Daintree National Park

The Daintree Rainforest is among the oldest rainforests on Earth and the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest remaining in Australia. Encompassing striking landscape diversity, Daintree National Park holds mountain ranges, fast flowing streams and waterfalls, deep gorges and dense rainforest that in some places runs straight down to the sea. The Daintree’s complex evolutionary history, flora and fauna are widely acknowledged, and this irreplaceable rainforest is a focal point for conservation efforts within the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage site. Although the majority of the Daintree rainforest is now formally protected, encroaching housing development around the park’s borders threatens to fragment forests and disrupt wildlife through road building efforts and the introduction of exotic plants.

To expand the Daintree National Park for unique species such as Bennett’s Tree-kangaroo and the Southern Cassowary, Rainforest Trust Australia has so far this year purchased 20.24 acres of strategic properties and is in the process of transferring them to the Queensland government. Securing these properties helps reduce the risk of habitat fragmentation and consolidates protected areas within the Daintree.

Thank you to the support of our generous friends around the world who contributed to this project. Every gift was matched through the SAVES Challenge.

If you would like to help protect this ancient and iconic rainforest, please visit our project page for more information.
 

HEADER IMAGE: One of the recently purchased properties. Photo courtesy of Rainforest Trust Australia

 

Recycling is for Monkeys

The phrase “killing two birds with one stone” feels antithetical to wildlife conservation. But I wanted to begin this article with that sentiment. So I went out looking for another idiom conveying the same idea and settled on using “one fell swoop.”

I then found out the phrase “one fell swoop” is also about bird death. Apparently, Shakespeare coined the phrase in Macbeth when describing how a kite — a bird of prey — might kill many chickens in one go.

Finally, I found a Latin version of the phrase “killing two birds with one stone.” Apparently, Cicero once said “Duo parietes de eadem fidelia dealbare,” which translates to “whitewashing two walls out of the same bucket.” While non-sequiturial, it captures the sentiment I’m looking for and doesn’t involve dying birds. So here goes:

For solving environmental problems, there’s nothing better than whitewashing two walls out of the same bucket.

To dive into the bucket I want to tell you about, you need to meet Proyecto Tití. Proyecto Tití is one of Rainforest Trust’s partner organizations in Colombia. Their aim? To save a Critically Endangered monkey, the Cotton-top Tamarin.

Proyecto Tití needed fence posts, and plenty of them. They’d created a new protected area and needed fencing to mark the boundaries and protect the forest from logging, cattle and garbage. One problem: fence posts in that region are often wooden. Hence, to protect the trees, Proyecto Tití might need to harvest trees.

The irony of using deforestation to prevent deforestation looked inevitable.

But, rather than accept this conundrum, Proyecto Tití offered redemption to an unlikely colleague: garbage. Using local waste, Proyecto Tití invented the “Tití Post”, a recycled, plastic fence post to string together with wire. Now working to protect forests, the former garbage guards the trees from cattle and anthropogenic deforestation. Plastic waste, otherwise ending up in the water or littered around the forests, has lifted the burden of demarcation from the very wood it now protects.
 

A man stands next to a Titi Post. Photo courtesy of Proyecto Tití

 
The Tití Post project also aligns local conservation with local socioeconomic benefits. Members of the community are paid to collect garbage and the local recycling infrastructure provides jobs. James Lewis, Rainforest Trust’s Director of Conservation Programs, said,

“To be successful, protected areas have got to engage the local communities. Healthcare, education and employment are opportunities that can and should come out of protected areas and the Tití Posts are a great example.”

So yes, our valiant and reformed hero, the plastic Tití Post, tackles both deforestation and waste. Yet, by supporting local economic growth, the Tití Post has proved it can use its bucket to whitewash even more walls.

For More Information and to Support this Project: Strategic Land Purchase for the Cotton-top Tamarin
 

HEADER IMAGE: Critically Endangered Cotton-top Tamarins. Photo by Joao Marcos Rosa

 

Seven Things You (Probably) Don’t Know about the Cassowary

There’s no question the cassowary is an iconic bird. As tall as a person with a high helmet (casque) on its head and a bright blue neck with touches of red, it’s also easy to identify. But due to habitat decline, the bird is becoming harder and harder to spot in the wild.

Of the three species of cassowary in the world, only the Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii) is found in Australia where it is listed as Endangered in Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The southern population, which occurs between Townsville and Cooktown, is listed as Endangered in Queensland; the northern populations, which occur north of Cooktown, are listed as Vulnerable.
 

Cassowary Plums. Photo by Cerlin Ng

 
1. The purpose of the cassowary’s helmet, or casque, is still unknown
Researchers say it may indicate dominance and age as it continues to grow throughout the bird’s life. Some research also suggests it could assist cassowaries in ‘hearing’ the low vibrating sound made by other cassowaries and may also act as a shock-absorber that protects the bird’s head as it pushes through dense rainforest and scrub thickets.

2. They really are big birds
Cassowaries are the third tallest bird in the world with an adult standing up to six feet tall. And they’re heavy. The sexes are similar in appearance, but females are slightly larger. They have been recorded to weigh as much as 167 pounds (76 kilograms), but average around 104 pounds (47 kilograms). Males average around 84 pounds (38 kilograms).

3. Cassowaries are solitary, except when they mate
Generally cassowaries are solitary birds, only coming together to mate during the breeding season which runs from around May or June to October. Cassowaries don’t form permanent bonds or mate for life, and the females may mate with several male cassowaries in a breeding season. In doing so, the female bird will produce several nests, laying clutches of three to five eggs by different fathers.

4. When it comes to cassowaries, dads rule the roost
Once the eggs are laid, it is the male’s sole responsibility to incubate the eggs, a process which takes around 50 days. Once the eggs hatch, males raise the chicks for an additional nine months. The father teaches the young cassowaries, which have distinctive stripes, to forage. They become independent around nine months of age and reach maturity at around three years.

5. Rainforests need cassowaries
Cassowaries are frugivores and eat fruit that has fallen to the ground. The birds are considered ‘keystone’ species because of their role as a major seed disperser of up to 238 rainforest species. Without cassowaries, those rainforests would not be able to survive. It is estimated that up to 100 plant species depend entirely on cassowaries to disperse their seeds.

In some cases, cassowaries are the only bird to be able to digest certain fruit, such as the vivid Cassowary Plum (Cerbera floribunda). It contains a sap poisonous to humans and most other animals. The cassowary’s unique digestive system – which is short and fast – and its stomach, which contains a rare combination of enzymes, allows it to digest the fruit. The Cassowary Plum is an important food source for the cassowary and the bird, in turn, distributes and helps germinate the seeds. When fruit is scarce, cassowaries have also been known to eat snails and small, dead mammals.

6. They can do serious damage to people and other birds
People who live in cassowary territory have a healthy respect of the big bird. Their heavy, muscular legs have three toes and each toe bears a large claw up to 0.79 inches long, shaped like a dagger and used for fighting and scratching. In the wild, cassowaries are mostly shy, avoiding contact with people, but male birds can be aggressive when defending their chicks.

7. Cassowaries are in serious trouble
In 1998 Queensland’s Wet Tropics adult population was estimated to be up to 2,400 cassowaries strong. But by 2001 scientists believed that only 1,200 to 1,500 wild cassowaries existed in Australia. That figure is comparable with the number of Giant Pandas in China. More than 80 percent of coastal lowland rainforest, which is the cassowary’s prime habitat, has been cleared over the past century. Nearly a quarter of the cassowary habitat that remains has poor conservation protection. Researchers now understand the north Queensland cassowary population to be closer to 4,000 individuals.

Rainforest Trust is working to safeguard Australia’s cassowaries and extend wildlife corridors by buying land in the Daintree Rainforest and adding it to the World Heritage National Park estate.
 

HEADER IMAGE: Cassowaries sport impressive casques. Photo by Raphael Quinet/Flickr

 

Snow Leopards are Doing Better, So Conservation is Even More Important

The Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) is due for a status update. Once considered “Endangered” due to a small, shrinking population, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) now considers the Central Asian big cat “Vulnerable” due to a larger, still shrinking population.

Wait, what?

So apparently, as the IUCN profile of the species describes, it’s difficult to measure the population of a secretive, elusive and solitary cat that lives across millions of square kilometers of the highest and most isolated mountains in the world.

Fair point.

But over the past couple of decades, we’ve gotten better at measuring populations. With better monitoring techniques, researchers concluded that the global Snow Leopard population is bigger than we thought. Much bigger. Previous estimates of the global population came out around 2,500 mature individuals, but IUCN now believes between 4,000 and 9,000 Snow Leopards live in the wild.

 

The Snow Leopard is being uplisted from ‘Endangered’ to ‘Vulnerable.’

 

Along with new population estimates, the rate of population decline might be lower than we thought. Some locations have stable or increasing populations, and some locations may have declining populations. Again: it’s hard to count snow leopards.

A species needs to hit strict criteria in order for IUCN to consider it “Endangered.” With this new information, Snow Leopards don’t hit those thresholds.

Good news for Snow Leopards, right?

Sort of.

Snow Leopard habitat continues to fragment and degrade. Some stories report that climate change threatens two-thirds of the species’ habitat. IUCN notes that poaching and retaliatory actions put the leopard’s future in jeopardy. But, IUCN also notes, conservation efforts have improved conditions for Snow Leopards in much of their habitat. In the past couple of decades, poaching and killing has become more infrequent in some areas. Multiple countries have seen large swaths of leopard habitat protected and community-based conservation initiatives implemented.

In a (measured) hopeful moment such as this, we catch glimpses of actual conservation results from all the efforts to protect Snow Leopards.

“Although we have developed better technology and better field techniques for measuring wildlife populations,” said Rick Passaro, Rainforest Trust’s Asia Conservation Officer,

“This can only be counted as a conservation success story due to the hard work of all the conservationists working together to protect both the species and its habitat.”

So now, when a species is doing better than we thought, it becomes even more relevant to invest in further conservation. Because it works.

In the Snow Leopard’s Nepalese range, Rainforest Trust is partnering with Koshi Tappu Kanchenjunga Biodiversity Education Livelihood Terra-Studio (KTK-BELT) to protect a vital stretch of habitat. With local community involvement, the new Lumbasumba Conservation Area will protect over 176,000 acres of forests and mountains.

So don’t cover over your “Save the Snow Leopard” bumper sticker just yet.

Not quite yet.

For More Information and to Support this Project: Creating a Vast Conservation Corridor for the Snow Leopard

 

HEADER IMAGE: The global Snow Leopard population is now thought to number somewhere between 4,000 and 9,000 individuals.

 

First Step in Ecuadorian Great Green Macaw Reintroduction

Last month, Rainforest Trust partner Fundación Jocotoco transferred ten Great Green Macaws (Ara ambiguus) to flight cages in Ecuador’s Ayampe Reserve, a Rainforest Trust supported project.

The birds will live in the flight cages for two months until released into the reserve. With luck, this release will lead to a bolstered wild Great Green Macaw population in Ecuador, where the species (listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List) have seen especially low population numbers.

Carolyn Sedgwick, Rainforest Trust’s Latin America Conservation Officer said, “Rainforest Trust is delighted Jocotoco is assisting the return of this remarkable species to its native habitat and is hopeful the Great Green Macaw population will recover with time and with the assistance of proactive conservation efforts throughout its range.”

Check out the video to see the birds transferred to their temporary residence:


 

FOOTAGE AND HEADER IMAGE: Courtesy of Fundación Jocotoco

 

Two Incredibly Rare Toads Seen in Two Days

Seven years. Seven toads.

This was the reality of the Amathole Toad — in the past seven years, scientists have spotted only seven of these creatures. Total. Anywhere. Guess how many were spotted in the thirteen years before that?

Did you guess zero? Because the answer is zero.

Needless to say, the toad is rare. Before 2011, scientists thought it was extinct until being rediscovered by Dr. Jeanne Tarrant and her colleagues. Now, it’s listed as Critically Endangered by International Union for Conservation of Nature.
 

Amathole Toad. Photo by EWT

 

Because we’ve only seen seven toads. In seven years.

But last month (you know where I’m going with this), Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), a Rainforest Trust partner in South Africa, sent a field team into the chilly Amathole Mountains to look for toads.

And they found two toads. In just two days.

Seven years. Seven toads.
Two days. Two more toads.

Technically, that’s about a 29 percent increase in sightings in less than 48 hours. Pretty impressive, since the species is a tiny brown toad living in brown grass under brown logs.

“It seems like every day we are hearing another story about a species going extinct or another forest destroyed,” said James Lewis, Rainforest Trust’s Director of Conservation Programs.

“The Amathole Toad and its story should give us all hope. With targeted conservation efforts like this, we can really make a difference to the survival of a species.”

The Amathole Toad has an incredibly limited range within the Amathole Mountains, and currently its habitat has no protection. Rainforest Trust and EWT are working to protect 20,000 acres of the incredibly biodiverse Amathole Mountain range through a Biodiversity Stewardship program, recognizing landowners as the custodians of habitats and ecosystems on their own land. The EWT field team actually did their searching on one of the potential properties for conservation. Along with the Amathole Toad, the area contains other threatened and endemic amphibians, as well as iconic wildlife like the Grey Crowned Crane.

For More Information and to Support this Project: Protecting the Eastern Cape Highlands of South Africa for Rediscovered Amphibian
 

HEADER IMAGE: A found toad. Photo by EWT

 

Partner Q&A with Centre for Sustainability-Philippines

Rainforest Trust worked with Centre for Sustainability-Philippines (CS-PH) to create Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat in Palawan, which is the largest critical habitat designated in the Philippines. Jessa Belle Garibay (Project Manager) and Karina May Reyes-Antonio (Project Coordinator) share their thoughts on protecting this forested site that harbors some of the country’s most endangered wildlife.

1. What first inspired you to become a conservationist? What brought you to work for Centre for Sustainability-Philippines (CS-PH)?

Jessa: It’s a bit hard to imagine that someone who grew up in what is considered the “Last Frontier of the Philippines” would not automatically want to protect the area and work for conservation. However, I used to be one of the many locals who dreamed of big jobs outside this piece of paradise so that I could earn more, regardless if those jobs gave importance to the environment. I’d like to think what turned me around from these initial aspirations were my positive experiences outdoors, and the many people I’ve met working in conservation, who served as role models for younger generations like my own. The amount of energy local champions dedicated to protecting Palawan’s important areas created a ripple effect in younger people (including myself) to take on the challenges of conserving these areas as well.
Prior to joining CS, I completed one and a half years of training in environmental restoration and trail work in the United States, which inspired me to implement these lessons in my hometown. Now with three years at CS, I can say that more than ever I am very inspired to work on projects that conserve and protect the environment, so I can give back to the land which continues to nurture me and my family! I am also thankful that CS-PH is a good platform to continually learn with a diverse young team of conservationists.
Karina: I started out as a community organizer in South America, working with children and mothers through education and non-violent action in impoverished urban communities affected by narco-trafficking. It wasn’t until I did a life-changing distance university course about environmental security that I realized how disconnected I and the communities in which I was working were to our immediate environment, despite how vulnerable our location was to environmental disasters, especially landslides! Soon after completing that course, my angle for empowering communities drastically changed, and I began pursuing community development projects that actively worked to connect communities with their immediate environment in an effort to overcome their impoverishment. I haven’t looked back since! I was born and raised in Australia to Filipino parents, and after many years working in community development in foreign lands, I returned to the Philippines and landed a volunteer opportunity at CS. CS embodies how I see forward-thinking community development, through projects that include livelihood, education and conservation in a holistic approach. They asked me to stay on as staff soon after joining, and the rest as they say is history!
 

Palawan Hornbill. Photo by Llimchiu.

 
2. What are some of the key species that are found within the forests surrounding Cleopatra’s Needle?

Jessa: Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat (CNCH) is so large that it is home to countless flora and fauna, many of which are endemic to the area. One of our many favorites is the Palawan Pangolin, which also serves as CNCH’s mascot. The Palawan Pangolin is one of the most highly poached animals in the world! It is one of the eight pangolin species that are all listed in CITES Appendix I, effectively banning them from international trade. Other equally important key species include the rediscovered Palawan Toadlet, the Palawan-endemic pitcher plant Nepenthes mira, the striking Palawan Hornbill and the curious Palawan Bearcat.
Karina: There are so many from which to choose, as CNCH is the largest Critical Habitat across the Philippines with over 100,000 acres! The second, Carmen Critical Habitat for Marine Turtles, stands at one seventh the size at 14,223 acres. Most Critical Habitats are at a smaller range as they focus on only a few species, and that’s what makes this declaration so momentous. The size of CNCH clearly indicates the large number of endemic and/or threatened species that have been identified and recorded, affirming the need for a critical habitat this big!
As CNCH remains largely unstudied, it’s not yet definitive what all of our key species are, but here’s some from our work and research thus far:
• Almaciga tree (Agathis philippinensis). As the tallest tree in Cleopatra’s Needle, I refer to it as our “reigning queen”. It can reach as high as 213 feet tall with diameters of 80-160 centimeters. It’s also the most important species to our Batak community partners, and what’s important to them is important to us! As the primary non-timber product of the forest, its high-value resin (used to produce varnish and paint, among other materials) represents approximately 80 percent of the income for the indigenous people of Cleopatra’s Needle, and their livelihood and cultural traditions revolve around this species. Unfortunately, however, its IUCN Red List Status is Vulnerable, but CS has been working hard since 2014 to remedy this with our exciting propagation project—where we’ve reforested 5,077 seedlings back into Cleopatra’s Needle, and we currently have an additional 11,000 seedlings in our nurseries this season.
• Palawan Bearded Pig. This is another one of those species that is key to the communities, and therefore to us! Unfortunately, its IUCN Status is also Vulnerable. It is an important food source for the indigenous people who have hunted it sustainably for consumption since time immemorial, and as per their continuing rights enshrined in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act. However, outsiders also increasingly hunt and sell it illegally, which is now driving a tragedy and posing a serious threat to its population.
• Amphibians. All of the 14 amphibian species which make up the amphibian population of Cleopatra’s Needle, especially the six endemic to Palawan, serve to demonstrate the viable and intact forest ecosystem therein. Some of these endemic species include the Palawan Horned Frog and the Palawan Toadlet (Endangered), the Busuanga Wart Fanged Frog and the Philippine Flat-headed Frog (Vulnerable), and the Philippine Toad (Least Concern).
 

Camera trap image of a Palawan Leopard Cat. Photo captured by Centre for Sustainability.

 

3. Camera traps are helping provide insight into the lives of elusive creatures that might otherwise be inaccessible. What are you learning from the camera traps within CNCH?

Jessa: Knowing that Palawan is relatively understudied compared to other parts of the Philippines, camera trapping activities within Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat provide an excellent opportunity to learn and discover about the area and the species that live in it. It highlights species that are hard to observe because of the remoteness of their habitats or the decline of their numbers in the wild. Through camera traps within CNCH, we are now able to document species which have never been captured on film before, giving us significant baseline data and a powerful tool to reach out to the public about the importance of conserving important areas like CNCH. Raising conservation awareness by sharing camera trapping footage for research gives us a platform to partner up with possible funders, donors, project partners and volunteers to boost our cause!
Karina: We are learning we need more support to do more research! During our 3-month mammals survey, conducted by CS Researcher Paris Marler, we orchestrated a groundbreaking baseline capture of six of the seven known carnivores native to Palawan (including the Palawan Leopard Cat, Asian Small-clawed Otter, Palawan Stink Badger and Short-tailed Mongoose), and other species like our CNCH Mascot – the Palawan Pangolin. Based on the captures, the Palawan Porcupine appears to be the most common carnivore, most commonly found interacting in family groups. We also learned that our carnivores were very curious about pig’s blood, which was our best lure for drawing them in for a photo. Actually, we hope to conduct more camera trapping without bait as this can possibly influence final results. However, during this pioneer study, we were eager to ensure recordings of these animals which were yet to be photographed in their natural habitats, to give us much-needed evidence for the urgency to establish CNCH. But this preliminary camera trapping survey is just the beginning, we need to do more!

4. How has working with the indigenous Batak community helped to strengthen conservation efforts in Palawan?

Jessa: Personally, working with the indigenous Batak community of CNCH gave me a deeper understanding of why these areas truly matter in conservation. Beyond the numerous unique flora and fauna, and beyond the beauty and diversity of forest types found here in this region, I witnessed the deep and meaningful connection between people and nature. This connection, lost by many among us, is kept alive by groups like our Batak partners who have lived harmoniously with their environment since time immemorial. Working with the indigenous Batak community helped justify the need to protect the forests, as many people depend on it for shelter and livelihood. The people’s deep knowledge of the forests of CNCH provided a thorough foundation for baseline data, finding our way in the forests, identifying species and their existence and a whole lot more information that strongly supported the success of the declaration of CNCH.
Karina: The work we’ve done thus far in collaboration with our Batak community partners has provided the critical foundation for establishing the CNCH. As we all know though, the declaration is just the tip of the iceberg. So, by already having this strong and productive working relationship, our real conservation work will be even more effective moving forward as we lift the conservation status of CNCH off the page and work together to make it a real, functioning protected area in practice. Ultimately, conserving our rich natural environment here in Palawan starts and finishes with our local communities, especially our Batak community partners. As the only inhabitants of this forest, they are its true guardians who have the good fortune of living, breathing and interacting with and in it every day.
 

Karina May Reyes-Antonio and Jessa Belle Garibay with Mundita Sison Lim from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Biodiversity Management Bureau. Photo courtesy of Centre for Sustainability.

 
5. What advice would you give to other women looking to become involved in conservation?

Jessa: Based on my personal experience growing up as a female in the Philippines, which deems true for many females I know who were born and raised here, working outdoors and being in conservation would probably be the last thing people would expect of you. However, it should not stop you from pursuing your dreams, especially in exploring the outdoors! I know first-hand that you should find a good support system who believes that you can do just about anything, and break all the stereotypes that try to pigeonhole us. In my case, I had role models and family members who were supportive of things that matter to me. Find those people—and build upon what they think are your strengths, and learn from criticism. Finally, just remember that we all have and/or can gain skills just as much as men can, and that what it all boils down to is the amount of passion you have within you and how much you are willing to learn regardless of your gender and preferences!
Karina: Do it, we need you! Concretely, create yourself a network of support, especially with other local female conservationists who can really relate to the immediate challenges you might be facing and help you find day-to-day solutions. Keep your smile on always and your wits about you, get fierce and feisty when needed, but always remain professional so it’s clear that they’re never going to get you down, and that they’re definitely not going to get in your way. In my experience, the world has a habit of giving way to those of us on a mission—eventually! Finally, always trust your gut instinct and let that guide you—if you don’t trust yourself, then who will?

 

HEADER IMAGE: CS-PH team members Karina May Reyes-Antonio and Jessa Belle Garibay. Photo by John Michael G. Favila

 

Conservationist Inspired by Tiny Monkey to Save Colombia’s Forests

Rosamira Guillen, voted in high school as most likely to become a designer, studied architecture as an undergraduate. But she always enjoyed environmental planning and, through a master’s degree at SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, NY and a Fulbright scholarship, focused her studies on landscape architecture. This work led her to the Barranquilla Zoo, near where she grew up in Colombia, to redesign one of their exhibits.

There, she first met the Cotton-top Tamarin.

“I was struck to learn that this species was only found in this region of Colombia; the same region I was born and raised, and growing up, I never heard of them,” said Guillen. “That motivated me to do something about it.”

 

Guillen and a Cotton-top Tamarin. Photo by Lisa Hoffner

 

The Cotton-top Tamarin is a squirrel-sized monkey native to the tropical forests of Northern Colombia. Guillen is now the Executive Director of Proyecto Tití, a conservation organization devoted to defending the Cotton-top Tamarin, or Tití.

Cotton-top Tamarins have always been endemic to northern Colombia in a region that used to be entirely dry forest and savannah. But now, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as Critically Endangered due to extensive habitat loss and capture for the illegal pet trade. At last count, there were only 7,000 individuals remaining in the wild. Enter: Proyecto Tití.

Proyecto Tití has had notable successes in the past decade in the effort to save the Cotton-top Tamarin. For example, at one point, Colombia listed the species as “Vulnerable” despite being listed as “Critically Endangered” worldwide. But the species only lives in Colombia, so this disparity was incongruous. Guillen and Proyecto Tití worked to have the Tití listed as Critically Endangered in Colombia, providing crucial added protections for species.

Titís never descends from the trees they live in and can’t cross rivers, making them especially vulnerable to habitat fragmentation. In addition, shrinking and separating forest patches relegates tamarins to smaller and smaller habitats. These smaller patches place increased stress on the territorial populations of these forest patches. These idiosyncrasies make the Tití more susceptible to extinction but, when blended with their oddball fluffy heads and small size, they also make the Cotton-top Tamarin endearing.

 

Critically Endangered Cotton-top Tamarins. Photo by Joao Marcos Rosa

 

So Proyecto Tití is banking on tamarin likability as a support for tamarin conservation. Guillen wants to make the Tití a symbol of Colombia’s biodiversity, creating a hometown enthusiasm for the species. Proyecto Tití is preparing to run PSAs in Colombian cinemas to educate the public on the Tití and inspire recognition and affiliation.

 

Students visiting Proyecto Titi’s reserve. Photo by Proyecto Titi

 

But public education is only one of Proyecto Tití’s “four pillars.” The other three are field research, forest protection/restoration and providing income alternatives (alternative to something that might contribute to deforestation) to communities around tamarin habitat.

Guillen acknowledges that, for many landowners, water and food security might be more pressing concerns than biodiversity. She said,

“We help communities understand that the forest that is home to cotton-tops provides many benefits to humans, like protecting water sources and food, so they see a higher value in protecting these forest areas.”

 

Staff conducting fieldwork. Photo by Proyecto Tití

 

Guillen’s conservation work on behalf of the Cotton-top Tamarin hasn’t gone unnoticed by the international community. This summer, she received the prestigious National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation Award for Latin America for her commitment to conserve the species.

James Lewis, Rainforest Trust’s Director of Conservation Programs, said,

“Rosamira is a true conservation hero. The effectiveness of Proyecto Tití and Rosamira is one of the reasons why Rainforest Trust always works with in-country partners to address conservation challenges. Rosamira’s experience and passion will continue to drive forward Tití conservation efforts and I’m sure inspire a generation to come.”

Rainforest Trust is partnering with Proyecto Tití to secure a critical 187.8 acre expansion for the Los Titíes de San Juan Reserve. This property not only doubles the size of the reserve, but also allows for future connections between the reserve and other forest patches in the region.

“Protecting forests is key to the long-term survival of Cotton-top Tamarins,” Guillen said.

“We’re very grateful to Rainforest Trust for providing us with the opportunity to secure more habitat for these cute and charismatic little monkeys!”

For More Information and to Support this Project: Strategic Land Purchase for the Cotton-top Tamarin

Two White Giraffes Seen in Kenyan Conservation Area

The Hirola Conservation Programme (HCP), a Rainforest Trust partner in Kenya, just captured footage of two white Reticulated giraffes. The giraffes, an adult female and calf, were in the region where Rainforest Trust and HCP are protecting vital habitat for the Hirola, the world’s most threatened antelope. The white color is due to a genetic abnormality called “leucism,” a condition which affects many species and turns their appearance white. According to the HCP blog, sightings of white giraffes around the Hirola range have increased in the past few years and recently, these two particular giraffes have been a common sight in the region.

“The current international attention given to these rare white giraffes should be used to focus on their status in the wild. This stately elegant mammal, emblematic of African savannas and beloved around the world, faces the same threats as many other species,”

said Dr. Sally Lahm, Rainforest Trust’s Africa and Madagascar Conservation Officer.

“There are fewer than 98,000 giraffes in populations scattered across the African continent. They already appear to be extinct in at least seven countries. Some giraffe populations are increasing while others are decreasing due to threats which vary among regions where they exist. The four major threats are habitat loss, civil unrest, illegal hunting and ecological changes in preferred habitats. Hirola Conservation Programme’s project to create 2 new conservancies for hirola antelope with local communities provides protection and monitoring for all wildlife populations, including giraffes.”

Check out the footage here:

Footage courtesy of Hirola Conservation Programme.

Supporter Spotlight: Orchid Conservation Alliance

Orchid Lovers Band Together to Protect Rainforest Habitats.

Founded in 2006, the Orchid Conservation Alliance (OCA) is an organization comprised of 548 individuals and 35 orchid societies whose goal is to promote the conservation of orchids and orchid habitat around the world. This mission eventually led the OCA to support Rainforest Trust’s work in protecting vital habitat in South America, because many species of orchid are found only in tropical forests. Donors since 2008, the OCA has helped fund Rainforest Trust’s projects that create protected areas in Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia. But much like Rainforest Trust, their mission doesn’t stop in South America, as the OCA is open to orchid conservation anywhere this elusive, yet stunningly beautiful family of plants reside.

“We have no paid staff and we are entirely volunteer,” said Director and OCA President Dr. Peter Tobias. “Yet with Rainforest Trust’s help, we have donated more than $250,000 to the preservation of orchid habitat, and thus to everything else that lives in those forests.”

Roughly 10,000 of the estimated 25,000-plus species of orchid worldwide reside in tropical rainforests, with 880 species of orchid appearing on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, thus making the mission of Rainforest Trust and partners like OCA so critical to their survival. To date, the OCA has helped Rainforest Trust protect more than 457 acres of orchid habitat, including the expansion of the Selva de Ventanas Natural Reserve in Colombia and the establishment of the in Northwestern Ecuador.
 

Lepanthes Culex. Photo courtesy of Salvamontes Corporation

 
“We support Rainforest Trust because they double the money we contribute to orchid conservation projects in Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia,” said Dr. Tobias. “We are a community of orchid lovers and rainforests are where most of them grow, so this partnership makes sense as it lets our members double their contributions…it makes a huge difference.”

This is why funding Rainforest Trust’s work is so vital. Protection of orchid habitat not only preserves orchids, but also their pollinators, and other threatened or endangered species as an additional bonus. In fact, most orchid species depend on a single type of pollinator, be it bees, birds or bats. If the specific pollinator species is eliminated, the particular orchid that depends upon it can easily become extinct.

“The planet is going to the dogs. We have to save what we can. Don’t put it off…every day forests are felled, plants are collected and the natural world is in extremis,” said Dr. Tobias.

In addition to donating money to support orchid conservation throughout the world, the OCA, much like Rainforest Trust, offers trips to these remote habitats, so that individuals can experience the beauty of these endangered species in the wild. They state on their website that: “An orchid blooming on a tree trunk in the sun and rain of its native habitat is one of the miracles of the natural world every orchid lover should see at least once.” To learn more about the Orchid Conservation Alliance and their work, please visit their website.
 

HEADER IMAGE: Trichosalpinx Bricenoensis. Photo courtesy of Salvamontes Corporation