Supporter Spotlight: Sisters Use Their Love of Arts and Crafts to Save Acres

Rainforest Trust shares a dream with our supporters: that rainforests and the species that call them home will survive far into the future, beyond our lifetimes and those of our children and grandchildren. Safeguarding these crucial habitats is a gift for the future, a legacy of which we are proud. We are always inspired by the children who support our work and were thrilled to learn about two sisters from the UK, Emily and Ava Ford (ages 9 and 7), who decided to save the rainforest in a very unique way: by making and selling lizard keyrings.

Emily and Ava first became interested in the rainforest at school. Their teacher gave a presentation on the Brazilian rainforest and its importance which captivated the girls. Their mother, Rachael, recalls, “Emily came home from school that day and was totally enthused about the idea of raising money to save acres of the rainforest.” Seeing as the girls also have a love for arts and crafts, Rachael encouraged them to combine their interests, and thus the lizard keyring was born.

“Emily and Ava love arts and crafts, so we decided to make the lizard keyrings out of pony beads and ribbon to sell at school,” said Rachael. “The girls were so excited by the project that they even produced their own hand drawn posters.” All-in-all the girls made around 90 lizards at home over a two week period. Most exciting, the girls got their classmates involved by running two lizard making workshops during lunchtimes for ten other girls at school, who helped to make an extra 20 keyrings. “We then sold the lizard keyrings over a two day period at school for £1 each and they went like wildfire!” said Rachael. The lizard keyrings were so popular that they still had people asking for them days after the sale was over, including our very own Rainforest Trust staff.

So what was it exactly about the rainforests that sparked this outpouring of creativity and generosity from the girls? “The rainforest is important because if it is destroyed we wouldn’t get enough oxygen or water,” said Emily. “I love animals and know that thousands of species of animals live in the rainforest and I want to protect them,” Ava added.

“The rainforest provides food, oxygen, water and even medicine to make people better…we need to protect it!”

“Each lizard took around 15 minutes to produce, so I was amazed by the girls’ patience and persistence with the project,” said Rachael. “The whole project was incredibly rewarding and educational [for Emily and Ava]…the girls were creative, working on the computer and communicating with teachers. I would seriously encourage schools and groups of children to get involved with similar charitable projects, as it really is beneficial for confidence, literacy, computer skills, learning the value of money and making children feel like they are actually doing something to save our planet.”

And indeed they are doing something very important to help save the planet! But the girls also realize that this problem does not have a quick fix and it will take the dedication of many to solve. “The rainforest is in danger, which causes problems that affect us all, so I would expect other children to save it with me!” stated Emily.

With the proceeds from their sales and their desire to protect Brazilian rainforest, Emily and Ava chose to support our Blue-eyed Ground-dove project in Brazil, which is now fully funded and protected thanks in part to their efforts. The enthusiasm for and dedication to conservation that these young girls exhibited gives us hope and excitement for what the next generation can achieve to help save our Earth’s rainforests.

If you would like to help join Emily and Ava’s fight to save the rainforest, please visit Rainforest Trust’s Conservation Action Fund. For more information about how to donate to Rainforest Trust’s projects from the UK, please visit the Rainforest Trust UK home page.

Reserve Expansions are Integral Habitat Builders

When protected areas are strategically expanded, more optimal habitat becomes available for threatened species. Knowing that threatened species are already residing in the original protected area significantly strengthens the likelihood that they will also find suitable habitat in expanded areas. Also, expansions frequently result in linkages between previously established, but not connected, reserves and protected areas. These linkages can be tremendous assets for threatened species, as they provide protective corridors where the fauna can move freely.

Another significant benefit from strategic expansions comes in the face of climate change. As global average temperatures increase and changes to the planet’s water cycle disrupt traditional precipitation patterns, habitats, biomes and ecosystems have the potential to change drastically. Climate change will cause shifts in species distributions worldwide, threatening their viability due to range reductions and altering their representation in current protected areas. Biodiversity hotspots might be particularly vulnerable to climate change because they hold large numbers of species with small ranges which could contract even further as species track their optimal habitat, according to a 2012 paper published by Stony Brook University researchers with Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. Therefore, when a protected area is expanded, not just in acreage but also in attitudinal range or climatic variability, it helps prolong the period over which the protected area will continue to provide vital habitat.

“Particularly in Latin America, where most of our protected area projects involve land purchase, it is frequently the case that it’s simply not possible to buy all the land one would like to all at once because it would be prohibitively expensive and/or because the properties are not all available for sale,” Dr. George Wallace, Rainforest Trust Chief Conservation Officer, said.

“More often reserves have to be build gradually over time to achieve our objectives of developing protected areas that are large enough to protect viable populations of threatened species into the future.”

These are the reasons Rainforest Trust and its local partners strive just as hard for protected area expansions as for new protected areas. A perfect example is the REGUA Reserve in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest near Rio de Janeiro. Rainforest Trust has been supporting Brazilian partner Reserva Ecologica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) for over a decade to purchase and protect this severely threatened rainforest.

Originally spanning over 500,000 square miles, less than 10 percent of the Atlantic Forest remains. By strategically purchasing rainforest acres in Brazil’s Guapiaçu Valley, Rainforest Trust’s partner has created a secure 22,860-acre reserve that provides critical protection for some of the Atlantic Forest’s most threatened wildlife, including 60 mammal species such as Pumas, Ocelots, Jaguarundis, Three-toed Sloths and South America’s largest and rarest primate, the Endangered Southern Muriqui. However, as development pressures from Rio expand into the valley, the integrity of the local ecosystem faces mounting challenges.

Rainforest Trust’s most recent efforts have resulted in the purchase of eight strategic parcels that combine for 747 acres. These purchases are part of a larger strategic plan to expand the reserve throughout the entire Guapiaçu Valley and reconnect forest fragments, creating essential wildlife corridors.

Rainforest Trust would like to thank the Michael W. Louis Charitable Trust and the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust for their multi-year support of our work with REGUA in Brazil. Gifts to projects are eligible for the SAVES Challenge Match and support our conservation work 100%.

Endangered Maleos Safeguarded through Protected Area Expansion

Rainforest Trust’s local partner WCS-Indonesia recently purchased an additional 72 acres to protect the nesting sites and coastal habitat for the iconic and Endangered Maleo on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. This additional land purchase brings the total protected area size to 388 acres and is another step toward creating a planned 47,328-acre protected area of nesting sites, coastal habitat, forest conservation area and agroforestry buffer zone.

Indonesia’s Sulawesi island contains a mix of biodiversity from Australia and Asia as well as its own completely unique species, including the Endangered Maleo. As one of Asia’s most iconic birds, the Maleo builds mounds to incubate its eggs through volcanic and solar-heated sand in large colonial nesting grounds, a natural spectacle that leaves the eggs exceptionally vulnerable to harvesting. While not breeding in their localized colonies, Maleos reside in lowland rainforest foothills, making deforestation an additional threat facing the endemic species. With a nearly 90 percent decline in population size since 1950, it is estimated that fewer than 5,000 of these birds remain in the wild.

 

Thanks to our many generous friends around the world and the SAVES Challenge, this project is a success. A special thank you to Luanne Lemmer and Rainforest Trust Vice Chair Dr. Eric Veach, Chris Otahal, Charles and Jacqueline Probst, John and Fleur Rilett, Dr. Urs-Peter Stäuble and Lawrence Thompson for their leadership support.

For more information on how you can support Rainforest Trust, visit our Conservation Action Fund.

Climate Change Series Part 4: The Unique, Cyclical Relationship between Climate and Tropical Forests

As previously discussed in our climate change series, there are multiple ways that tropical forests affect our global climate from carbon sequestration and deforestation emissions to cloud and precipitation formation. However, the relationship is not one-sided. Global climate, and more specifically the drastic changes we are causing, will also significantly impact our tropical forests.

Global temperatures are predicted to rise by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the effects on tropical forests will be tremendous. A “positive feedback loop” – referring to events or changes that further enhance more changes, pulling away from equilibrium – will most certainly be the outcome for Earth’s tropical rainforests.

This is how it works: by cutting down or burning tropical forests, the carbon stored in the plants’ mass is released into the atmosphere. The reduction in tropical plants also results in lower production of water vapor and isoprene, which means less cloud formation and precipitation. More frequent and severe droughts are likely as temperatures rise and cloud coverage and precipitation decreases. Since all plants – but tropical plants in particular – need a lot of water to survive, droughts have the potential to wipe out large swaths of rainforests. As the plants die as a result of drought, they release their stored carbon. Also, once the amount of dead and dried foliage increases, the risk of forest fires (both natural and man-made) increases. Using the increased dead plant material as fuel, the forest fire will consume even healthy plants that survived the drought. Losing tropical plants to drought and fire, combined with other sources of deforestation, brings us back to the beginning of the cycle with adding more carbon emissions to the atmosphere. And again, with more carbon in the atmosphere and fewer plants generating clouds, there will be warmer temperatures and reduced precipitation patterns. This cycle will continue to spiral out of control unless we put a stop to it.

“The relationship between deforestation and climate change is widely recognized, but the effects of climate change on forests are still being uncovered. This devastating cycle makes protecting the tropical rainforests that we still have even more urgent,”

said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman.

For example, when the Amazon River Basin suffered a “once in a century” drought in 2005, up to 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere as a result of damage from the lack of water resources. Then in 2010, for the second time in five years, the region faced an extreme drought that should only occur once every 100 years. Together, these two droughts are responsible for releasing as much carbon dioxide as what the forest typically takes in over 10 years, according to a University of Leeds article. New research from the American Geophysical Union predicts that if deforestation rates within the entire Amazon basin remain high, the annual precipitation amount will be equal to the amount the region receives in what is now considered to be a drought year, making this the norm by 2050. Not only will this be catastrophic for the Amazon rainforest and the species and communities that depend upon it, but also for all the agricultural producers who have cut down the forest to make way for their farms. It also negatively affects communities and businesses in other parts of the world that receive precipitation created in the Amazon rainforest and transported across the globe, according to an article in The New York Times.

But, of course, it’s not that simple. Carbon dioxide is a necessary “fuel” for photosynthesis. During other historical times of elevated levels of CO2, there has been an increase in plant growth, as plants pull additional amounts of the gas out of the atmosphere. This is also happening now, according to the recent study Greening of the Earth and its drivers. The study’s authors found that global vegetation is currently experiencing a growth period, referred to as “greening,” 70 percent of which is due to increased carbon dioxide.

Unfortunately, scientists do believe that there is a threshold above which additional CO2 will not result in more robust plants, as they adjust to the rising carbon dioxide levels and growth diminishes over time. However, this remains one of the biggest causes of uncertainty in determining future climate scenarios being conducted by the IPCC, because researchers have not yet figured out when plants will reach their saturation point, according to co-author of the study and Exeter University Professor Pierre Friedlingstein.

Rainforest Trust is working diligently to mitigate the negative causes of this feedback loop by purchasing and protecting tropical lands through community engagement and local partnerships in places such as the Amazon. Through its SAVES Challenge, the conservation organization has committed to protecting 50 million acres by 2020, making a large impact on protecting our forests and the ecosystem benefits they provide all living creatures on Earth.

If you would like to help Rainforest Trust reach this goal, please visit its Conservation Action Fund.

Supporter Spotlight: Suzanne Davenport

A friend of tapirs and of the rainforest: Celebrating the life of Suzanne Davenport

As 2017 has drawn to a close, I would like to veer away from the usual “year in review” posts and invite you to join us here at Rainforest Trust in celebrating the life of Suzanne Davenport, a longtime supporter and dear friend whom we sadly lost in 2017.

Suzanne was well known as “The Tapir Lady” at Rainforest Trust due to her love for the rainforest-dwelling “pig with a trunk” (although Suzanne would be sure to let you know they are more closely related to horses and rhinoceroses than pigs). Over the years, she worked tirelessly to support and volunteer with organizations that provided protection to tapirs and was a donor to Rainforest Trust.

As we celebrate Suzanne’s life, we found ourselves asking, “Why the tapir?” What was it about this unusual species that captured Suzanne’s heart and served as a microcosm for how Suzanne approached life? Luckily, her husband, Scott, had the answer and shared her amazing story with us.

“Suzanne first came across a tapir at the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart, Germany,” recalled Scott. “The way she told it to me, a woman next to her made a disparaging remark about their attractiveness and perceived intelligence and Suzanne felt obligated to stick up for them.” And through this small exchange one could learn all they needed to accurately sum up Suzanne’s values: a champion of the downtrodden who stuck up for those who could not do so for themselves, but also someone who was incredibly positive, seeing the best in all those around her and who absolutely loved providing others the opportunity to shine.

It was Suzanne’s love for the tapir that first brought her into contact with Rainforest Trust. She discovered our organization at our April 27 observation of World Tapir Day, an event that she was heavily involved in through her work with the Tapir Specialist Group in Brazil.

“When she began speaking with the folks who were working with tapirs it became obvious that their biggest enemy was the loss of habitat and the incursion of roads into their areas,” recalled Scott. “So finding an organization whose efforts were focused on preservation in the way that [Rainforest Trust is] was very exciting to her.”

That excitement translated into years of generous support and since 2011, Suzanne raised awareness and funds for several of our South American and Southeast Asian projects where tapirs would receive protection. In addition to supporting Rainforest Trust projects, Suzanne regularly held CrowdRise events to promote awareness and raise funds for Rainforest Trust and tapirs. A classically trained pianist, she rallied her musician friends and established “Tapir Aid,” a music event aimed at promoting the plight of the tapir.

“It was really the tapirs and the habitat preservation that sparked the more active role in raising awareness that she developed over the last 7-8 years,” Scott continued. “When she realized how many people the internet and social media could mobilize she definitely started to think bigger…and that was how the two ‘Tapir Aid’ concerts came to be.”

Suzanne was a firm believer in the ability of the individual to drive change, and the more individuals that came together, the greater their ability to drive even bigger change.”

Suzanne’s passion for change has led to an outpouring of support in the wake of her passing, both from friends and family as well as from the organizations promoting the causes she held so dear. Suzanne has certainly left us all with some big shoes to fill, and though she may be gone – she will certainly not be forgotten. Thanks to her big heart and personality, Suzanne’s impact will live on. Since 2011, Suzanne was responsible for protecting 3,986 acres of rainforest habitat through Rainforest Trust’s SAVES Challenge.

 

Rainforest Trust is grateful for the generous support of Suzanne and Scott Davenport. 

Land Purchase Is First Protection for Rediscovered Blue-eyed Ground-dove

The recently rediscovered Blue-eyed Ground-dove now has a protected habitat to call home thanks to the purchase of a 1466-acre private property in Brazil. Rainforest Trust teamed up with its local partner Sociedade para a Conservação das Aves do Brasil (SAVE Brasil) to purchase the unique cerrado habitat (a type of highly threatened Brazilian savanna), which is the most rapidly disappearing habitat in the country – even before Amazon rainforest loss.

The Blue-eyed Ground-dove, assessed as Critically Endangered by BirdLife International, is one of the rarest birds in the world. It was lost for 75 years and was thought to be extinct until a population was rediscovered in 2015 by an independent ornithologist. Collaborating with SAVE Brasil and Rainforest Trust, a research group undertook an intensive survey for the species and created a comprehensive conservation plan. Although this rediscovery was one of the most amazing ornithological finds in recent memory, before this new land purchase, this highly threatened bird had no protection and was at grave risk.

“In an urgent bid to save this beautiful dove, we supported searches to locate other populations in the hope it was already protected,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.

“But after intensive searches it was clear that just one private property being sold for development contained the vast majority of all surviving individuals. With our partner SAVE Brasil we acted swiftly to purchase this property and permanently safeguard the species.”

The Blue-eyed Ground-dove Reserve is considered an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area and will qualify as a Key Biodiversity Area. In addition to the Blue-eyed Ground-dove, other endemic bird species found in the area include the Cipo Canestero, Narrow-billed Antwren, Hyacinth Visorbearer and the Pale-throated Pampa-finch.

“The purchase of this reserve is an important achievement for the protection of the only known population of the Blue-eyed Ground-dove,” said Dr. Pedro Develey, CEO of SAVE Brasil. “In addition, this private reserve will be part of a larger mosaic of protected areas that includes a municipal and a state reserve, forming a 75,000-acre complex assuring the long-term protection of the dove’s habitat, as well as the region’s rich biodiversity and natural resources.”

With the help of our generous friends around the world and the SAVES Challenge, this project is a success. A special thank you to the James Family Charitable Foundation, the Marshall-Reynolds Foundation, Scott and Rebecca Rasmussen, Ted and Kay Reissing, Lawrence Tompson and Sally Vogel for their leadership support.