Supporter Spotlight: Cindy Starr

Here at Rainforest Trust we are preparing to celebrate Earth Day, and as a lead-up we would like to highlight a supporter who, inspired by this day, has been involved in protecting the rainforest in many ways. Cindy Starr can trace her love for the environment all the way back to the very first Earth Day at the University of Michigan in 1970. It was there that she heard a speech by a leader in the field of ecology that moved her to one day take action.

Fast forward to 2009, and still inspired by her first Earth Day all those years ago, Cindy set out to find an environmental nonprofit to support.

“I was first introduced to Rainforest Trust by a friend, but back then it was relatively small and called World Land Trust US,” she said. “Though small, I continued my support as I felt [the organization] had an immediate impact on climate, species diversity, preservation of land for indigenous peoples and the employment of local residents as patrols… It was essentially a home run nonprofit that covered all the bases.”

Since then Cindy has focused her philanthropy through the lens of “think globally, act locally” but tweaked it to fit her own personal style, as she both supports organizations in her hometown of Cincinnati as well as globally focused nonprofits like Rainforest Trust.

Through Rainforest Trust, Cindy has been able to reach her goal by acting locally through groups like her employer sanctioned “Green Team” and her own personal philanthropy to address the global issues of habitat loss and climate change.

“We started recycling and energy conservation projects at our various office locations, and we began our Earth Week collection of dollars and loose change in our lunch rooms in 2009,” she said. “I recommended Rainforest Trust to the Green Team because I knew that our gift, which would be relatively small, would purchase at least a few acres… Rainforest Trust offered [us] the most bang for the buck.”

Cindy is committed to saving rainforest and protecting the planet, and she finds different ways to work this commitment into her life and the lives of those around her. Besides making regular contributions and encouraging others at her office to do the same, Cindy has included Rainforest Trust in her will. And in 2016, when her daughter was married, she shared her passion with guests.

“The wedding was very eco-minded… It was held in a botanical garden, and the food was vegetarian,” Cindy said. “Because guests depart wedding receptions with their own gift nowadays, my daughter and I wanted the gift to be something that wouldn’t end up in a wastebasket, so we purchased ten acres of Red Panda Forest Reserve habitat in Nepal for every guest.”

All told, through her various channels of giving, Cindy has protected over 1,500 acres of rainforest that not only save species but also support local communities and protect our one and only planet. So this Earth Day, take a page out of the Cindy Starr playbook and get involved so that we can ensure that in another 30 years there will be an Earth left to celebrate!

Camera Traps Provide Insight into Spectacled Bear Populations in Ecuador

Conservationists and researchers working with Rainforest Trust’s partner Fundación Jocotoco installed 20 camera traps in the Antisanilla, Yanancocha and Tapichalaca Reserves in Ecuador as part of a Spectacled Bear study to document the species’ population. Sponsored by Rainforest Trust, this study aims to create a targeted monitoring system that will enable the partner to estimate the amount of bears residing within and passing through these reserves.

This data is crucial to collect, as it is expected that the global species’ population is decreasing due to habitat fragmentation as well as poaching. Rainforest Trust is supporting this study because gathering bear population estimates will enable its partner to better understand how to manage activities within and around the reserves that affect the species. The camera installations could also help monitor changes in the altitudinal distributions of the bears, as well as potentially uncover illegal hunting.

Eight Spectacled Bears have been identified through camera trap evidence in the Tapichalaca Reserve since 2015, and four have been registered in the Yanacocha Reserve. Seven individual bears – including a female and its cub – have been documented in the Antisanilla Reserve, although this data was not gathered during this specific study.

The partner is currently sorting the bear images so they can better identify the individuals by their face markings. In addition to confirming the species’ presence in the reserves, the results of this ongoing study have provided unexpected insights. In some camera trap images, instead of the distinctive black and white facial markings of a Spectacled Bear, researchers saw the piercing caramel eyes of a Puma staring intensely at something just below the camera lens.

Pumas are some of the most widely distributed mammals, as they have a geographic range from Canada down to Chile. Although they are found in numerous countries, these large cats are threatened by the fragmentation of their habitat. They are also challenged by the poaching of their prey, as well as retaliatory hunting if they disturb livestock populations.

Rainforest Trust Launches New Women’s Conservation League

Rainforest Trust launched its new Women’s Conservation League (WCL) on March 8 in honor of International Women’s Day at a kick-off event at Old Bust Head Brewery.

Created in 2018 to coincide with Rainforest Trust’s 30th anniversary and the integral moment in time for women’s empowerment, the WCL is a professional networking group for women that promotes environmentally sustainable lifestyles around the world through local partnerships and community engagement.

“Women have always been a positive force for conservation in their communities,” said Rainforest Trust Chief Philanthropy Officer Leslie VanSant. “Rainforest Trust sees the Women’s Conservation League as a way to connect women and their efforts with other like-minded individuals and movements around the world to add volume and focus to the importance of protecting our planet.”

With Rainforest Trust’s international headquarters located in rural Virginia, the WCL provides the nonprofit with the opportunity to better engage in already-established, local conservation efforts, while maintaining its mission to protect biodiverse habitats in some of the most environmentally threatened areas of the world.

The first of these local conservation efforts will take place Earth Day weekend, when WCL will host an Earth Day of Service that includes trash pick-up with the Adopt-a-Highway program, a park beautification project with the Fauquier County Parks and Recreation department and an electronics recycling drive with ALC Recycling.