Rainforest Trust Awards First Young Conservation Award

Rainforest Trust recently honored one of its many young supporters with the organization’s first Young Conservation Award. Evelyn Lepsch – an 8th grader at the Peabody School, an independent school in Charlottesville, VA – was tasked with coming up with a project that would make an impact on her local community. She chose to highlight Rainforest Trust’s work.

“All of our students are required to undertake a project when they reach 8th grade, and we do our best to partner the children with local organizations so that they can see just how big of an impact they can have,” said Victoria Young, Evelyn’s teacher and supervisor on this project.

“Evelyn expressed to me that she wanted to focus her project on big cats and conservation, so we sat down and did a bit of research on conservation organizations in Virginia, and that is when we stumbled upon Rainforest Trust,”

she explained.

Evelyn saw our logo and a photo of a Jaguar from one of our projects and knew that Rainforest Trust would be a perfect partner. A few email exchanges later and Evelyn and her grandparents were at our Warrenton, VA headquarters outlining her plan. As an artist, Evelyn knew she wanted to combine her passions, and so she chose to create a mural depicting big cats and our conservation efforts. Over the next few months, Evelyn worked on her masterpiece that would hang in the main entrance of the Peabody School, so that it would inspire students for years to come.

Once complete, Rainforest Trust was invited to attend a presentation being held by the 8th grade class, showcasing all of the students’ projects. We were honored to have the opportunity to support such a passionate young conservationist, and after Evelyn gave a talk about her project, we were able to give a presentation about the importance of conservation work around the world.

It was during this presentation that Evelyn received her Young Conservation Award, and according to her mother, Nicole, she was both surprised and thrilled to receive it.

“Evelyn was so nervous to present her painting as it means a lot to her… ever since she was a small child, Evelyn has had an immense love for big cats and was so happy to be supported by an organization like Rainforest Trust,” she said.

The event was a huge success for the 90 students that participated, and we here at Rainforest Trust could not be more proud to have someone so talented and passionate about conservation as a supporter!

Liberia Marks Official Launch of Gola Forest National Park With Community Ceremony

Although Liberia’s 54th National Legislature signed the Gola Forest National Park into law on September 22, 2016, the new protected area was officially launched last month with a community-focused regional ceremony in Kungba District, SLC, Gbarpolu County. Over 250 people from local and national government agencies, non-governmental organizations, project donors and community members – including clan and town chiefs – attended the event.

Rainforest Trust worked with its local partner Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL) to help establish the 219,609-acre Gola Forest National Park, which is only the second national park in the country. It is located in Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount counties, along the border with Sierra Leone, where the park creates a transboundary complex of protection with Sierra Leone’s Gola Rainforest National Park. Together, these two parks safeguard one of largest remaining tracks of Upper Guinea Forest and form one of the largest protected area complexes in West Africa at nearly 400,000 acres.

Rainforest Trust’s local partner is committed to working with local communities to achieve lasting conservation results in this new park by having field staff visit communities regularly to ensure that they remain educated about and involved in the park designation and ongoing, long-term management.

“All of the staff of the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL) deserve the highest praise for their dedication and efforts made for several years to inform and engage the regional traditional and district authorities and residents of villages and towns in the conservation of their forest as a national park,” said Rainforest Trust Senior Africa and Madagascar Conservation Officer Dr. Sally Lahm. “It is reassuring to know that SCNL will continue to work with them into the future so that communities are involved in the management of their park.”

As one of Africa’s most important biodiversity hotspots, 60 species assessed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are found in the area, including the Vulnerable Forest Elephant. Facing threats from habitat loss and especially poaching, Forest Elephants have suffered catastrophic population declines in recent decades. In addition, surveys in the Gola Forest National Park have identified 48 other medium to large-sized mammal species, including Diana Monkeys, Critically Endangered Western Chimpanzees, and three Endangered species: the Pygmy Hippopotamus, Jentink’s Duiker and Western Red Colobus Monkey.

Expanding Community Protection, Securing Carbon in Peru’s Amazon Rainforest

Rainforest Trust and its local partner Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon (CEDIA) expanded protection around Sierra del Divisor National Park in Peru by an additional 42,867 acres in February 2018.

These new acres were added by helping three campesino communities (Monte de los Olivos, Canelos and Alto Perillos) obtain proper land titles as part of a larger effort to title over 50 community territories that will form a firewall against colonization around Sierra del Divisor National Park and the soon-to-be White Sands National Reserve.

“The rainforests in the Amazon of Peru are home to an extraordinary concentration of biodiversity, and home to many indigenous communities. Sadly the forests and peoples of the Amazon have all too often suffered from the relentless campaign to deforest and destroy this land,”

said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman.

“So when Rainforest Trust helps indigenous peoples secure their legal rights to their land, it not only gives them rights to block mining and logging, but importantly gives them one of the most basic of human rights. Land is a cross-cutting issue that directly impacts a number of human rights. For indigenous communities, land is a source of livelihood, central to their economic rights and tied to social and cultural rights.”

It is estimated that there are over 500 indigenous communities in the entire Peruvian Amazon that are still in need of proper land titles. However, this four-year project with CEDIA, which is expected to be completed next year, will provide land titles in all communities in the west part of Sierra del Divisor and in the Tapiche and Blanco River Basin north of the park.

This security not only benefits the communities, but as it empowers landowners to prevent deforestation, it will also have a positive impact on the planet. According to new research, the Peruvian Amazon has historically been a tremendous carbon sink, with researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science recently determining the aboveground carbon storage at 6.83 billion metric tons. However, as deforestation and degradation increases in Peru, these same forests are becoming carbon sources.

The Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) project took this information and determined that 59 million metric tons of carbon were lost during the last five years. And yet, it also showed that land protection can solve this problem, highlighting Sierra del Divisor National Park as one example.

“The article reports that Loreto and Ucayali are the regions with the highest carbon loss, and Sierra del Divisor is effectively safeguarding more than 3 million acres shared by these two regions,”

said Dani Enrique Rivera Gonzalez of CEDIA.

Climbing from an immense swath of rainforest, the Sierra del Divisor Mountain Range stretches more than 600 miles along the Peru-Brazil border in the heart of the Amazon Basin. Complete with plunging waterfalls, dormant volcanic cones, wild rivers, pristine forests and uncontacted tribes, this largely unknown and unexplored range is one of the Amazon’s last true wildernesses. The region is home to a biological community rich in rare and threatened species, including 38 mammals such as Jaguars, South American Tapirs and Red Uakari Monkeys. There are also believed to be 3,500 plant species, 300 fish species, 365 bird species and 109 amphibian species.

Through the generous support of our friends around the world and the SAVES Challenge, this project is a success. A special thank you to Leslie H. Danoff and Lawrence S. Robbins, GreaterGood.org, Luanne Lemmer and Dr. Eric Veach, Philip May and Leslie Santos and Brett Byers for their leadership gifts.

Costa Rican President Announces Country’s First Shark Sanctuary

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís announced at the beginning of May the designation of more than 10,000 acres of critical nursery habitat for the Scalloped Hammerhead, a shark that is listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. This Shark Sanctuary designation is the first of its kind in Costa Rica, and it establishes a new strict protection level and governance model that requires community commitment.

Rainforest Trust worked with its local partner Misión Tiburón to create the Scalloped Hammerhead Shark Sanctuary of Golfo Dulce, a unique ecosystem that is one of only four tropical fjords in the world. It is also a smaller, yet critical, portion of the larger 172,974-acre Marine Management Area and Shark Sanctuary that is planned for the entire Golfo Dulce ecosystem and supported by the conservation organizations.

“The announcement by the Costa Rican government designating a Shark Sanctuary in Golfo Dulce is a critical step in protecting this nursery for Scalloped Hammerheads as well as other endangered species,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “We congratulate President Solís for making this designation.”

Golfo Dulce is home to several species of sharks, including Endangered Scalloped Hammerheads, which are coastal and semi-oceanic sharks found in warm temperate and tropical seas. Neonates and juveniles live in nursery areas located in the coastal waters of estuaries, bays and mangroves, where nutrient-rich waters provide food and protection from predators.

Other sharks that will benefit from the sanctuary include Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks, Blacktip Sharks and Whitetip Reef Sharks. Apart from the seasonal aggregations of Whale Sharks, many of the sharks that inhabit the gulf are juveniles, which further demonstrates Golfo Dulce’s importance as a shark nursery. In addition to sharks, the biological diversity of Golfo Dulce includes 276 species of fish, 296 species of mollusks, 71 species of macrocrustaceans, eight species of whales and dolphins and numerous rays. Sea turtles also feed here, including the Critically Endangered Hawksbill Turtle, Endangered Green Turtle and Vulnerable Olive Ridley.

“When we started in 2010 to study the population of Scalloped Hammerhead shark in Golfo Dulce, we never thought it would become the first Marine Sanctuary for Costa Rica,” said Andrés López, researcher and co-founder of Misión Tiburón. “Now, this new governance model gives us hope for the future, as we believe this is the first step to develop conservation initiatives which will benefit not only endangered species but also the local communities.”

This Shark Sanctuary designation will establish no-take zones in the most critical nursery habitat for the sharks, the wetlands of Coto River, among other important areas. It bans the catch, capture, transportation and retention of hammerheads, as well as halts all exploitation of marine resources until a proper management plan is established to regulate wildlife harvesting from within the protected area. The management plan is also expected to include a strategy for patrols conducted by the local partner’s team in collaboration with the government coast guard.

Rainforest Trust would like to thank the Goodstone Inn & Restaurant and Playa Cativo Lodge for their generous support of this project.

Please enjoy this video from our partner.