New State Park to Strengthen Tiger Protection in Malaysia

Malaysia’s Terrenganu state government announced today that it has designated 25,664 acres of land formerly slated for logging as a new protected area for wildlife. This new Kenyir State Park in the Kenyir region of Terrenganu is phase one of a much larger conservation project that will encompass nearly 250,000 acres that lie within a globally important Tiger Conservation Landscape and critical wildlife corridor.

The creation and management of this new protected area is a collaborative effort involving the Terengganu state government and the local nonprofit organization Rimba, in partnership with Rainforest Trust and Panthera.

“This new protected area not only brings more key wildlife habitat under protection, but also protects vital forested watersheds that provide important ecosystem services to the people of Terengganu,” said Dr. Sheema Abdul Aziz, President of Rimba.

Estimated at more than 130 million years old, the dipterocarp forest in the Kenyir State Park is now permanently protected from logging and secured from further development. Over a dozen Critically Endangered Malayan Tigers have been recorded in the area, while the global population is established at fewer than 250 mature individuals in the wild.

“The importance of this area simply cannot be underestimated,” said Rainforest Trust Chief Executive Officer Dr. Paul Salaman. “The creation of the new park is a rare and unparalleled opportunity to protect a spectacular and imperiled tropical forest harboring what is certainly one of the planet’s most awe-inspiring predators – the Malayan Tiger.”

The forests of the new park contain some of the highest biodiversity in Asia and are home to 18 highly threatened mammal species, including the Asian Elephant, Sunda Pangolin, Malay Tapir, Dhole and White-handed Gibbon. Six of Malaysia’s eight wild cat species prowl these forests.

“These apex predators face tremendous pressure from poaching, fuelled by the illegal trade in their body parts for traditional Chinese medicine,” said Dr. Gopalasamy Reuben Clements, lead investigator of Rimba’s Project Harimau Selamanya and Associate Professor at Sunway University.

More than 290 bird species have been documented in this area, 66 of which are considered threatened or near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This includes nine hornbill species, making this area one of the richest places in Southeast Asia for these magnificent birds.

Future phases will expand on the new state park and connect the previously unprotected forests to the 1,073,280 Taman Negara National Park, creating a vast protected landscape for the wide-ranging tigers. The project will also create a vast network of protected forests as recommended in the Malaysian Central Forest Spine Master Plan for Ecological Linkages, with the 1,073,280-acre Taman Negara National Park at the core and the new Kenyir State Park as a vital corridor.

The next steps will involve the establishment of ranger teams to patrol the state park and the development of sustainable funding mechanisms such as ecotourism and payments for ecosystem services to help support wildlife protection efforts.

With the support of our generous friends around the world, our partner Rimba and the SAVES Challenge, this project is a success. A special thank you to Geoffrey Chen and Angela Huang, Joan Hero and William Baumgardt, Katherine Hansen, Panthera, Stanley Watt, Tapir Apps GmbH, and Whitney and Elise DeCamp for their leadership support.

Chocó Rainforests Benefit from Major Land Acquisition Campaign

Rainforest Trust has helped successfully purchase 16 properties totaling more than 1,762 acres to expand Río Canandé Reserve in northwestern Ecuador. The new land purchases are part of Rainforest Trust and Fundación Jocotoco’s long-term objective of establishing an ecological corridor between Canandé and the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve.

Rainforest Trust has helped expand the Río Canandé Reserve to 8,054 acres — nearly 10 times the size of Central Park — in one of the largest remaining fragments of the Chocó Rainforest in Ecuador, a biodiversity hotspot that is restricted to a narrow swath of land from the Andes to the Pacific along western Colombia and northwestern Ecuador. However, threats from commercial logging and rapidly expanding oil palm plantations within Ecuador have reduced the country’s proportion of the Chocó to less than 10 percent of its original size.

“The strategic expansion of protected areas is incredibly important for Rainforest Trust, so we work with our partners to assess the most important properties that could provide road access to larger areas of intact tropical habitat and we work to secure those properties as a preemptive action to block potentially far greater impacts on rainforest,”

said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “Furthermore, consolidating and connecting reserves in the Choco is key to providing a future for endangered species.”

The Choco hotspot has some of the world’s highest concentrations of range-restricted or endemic species, particularly within birds, amphibians, and many plants groups. Those endemic species depend on the Río Canandé reserve’s spectacular lowland tropical rainforests. This includes the Critically Endangered Canandé Magnolia — a species known only from this reserve. Additionally, the area is a stronghold for the largest surviving population of the Ecuadorean subspecies of the Critically Endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkey. This subspecies lives only in northwest Ecuador and is ranked as one of the 25 most endangered primates on Earth. The reserve, a Key Biodiversity Area, is also a refuge for more than 300 bird species and an astounding 123 amphibian and reptile species.

These purchases were made possible by the Conservation Action Fund and supporters of our work in Ecuador. All gifts to the Conservation Action Fund are matched through the SAVES Challenge and used 100 percent in support of our programs.

New Nature Reserve Strengthens Protection of Ecuador’s Premier National Park

Today, Rainforest Trust has helped establish an important new reserve at the eastern gateway to Podocarpus National Park, which holds the greatest concentration of biodiversity in Ecuador. Rainforest Trust teamed up with our local partner Fundación Jocotoco to purchase the 370-acre private property that houses ecotourism facilities with the objective of helping protect the threatened tropical forests beside the national park.

The Copalinga Nature Reserve is an area half the size of Central Park and is an excellent site for ecotourism with its spectacular biodiversity, landscapes and an established eco-lodge that is already incorporated into the itinerary of tour groups visiting the region.

“This strategic land purchase is critical not only for the protection it provides to an imperiled national park, but because it offers high-quality accommodation facilities for ecotourism and thus an income stream to sustain conservation activities in this biodiverse region,”

Rainforest Trust CEO Paul Salaman said. “On a personal note, this reserve is a special one for our Rainforest Trust family, who came together and donated towards this project in memory of Beverly Ridgely, a long-time conservationist and father to Rainforest Trust President Bob Ridgely.”

Podocarpus National Park lies on the eastern flank of the towering Andes mountain chain and is recognized as one of the most biodiverse places in the world, with some 554 bird species having been recorded. While the Napo Giant Glass Frog is incredibly rare, it has been recently recorded near the Copalinga Reserve. The area also has the highest orchid diversity in Ecuador. Located in the pre-montane tropical forest zone, the newly purchased property has approximately 75 species of trees per acre.

In the tropical Andes, only an estimated 25 percent of the region’s habitat remains intact, with threat levels being particularly severe in the northern range from Venezuela to Ecuador. Although there are several large national parks in Ecuador, they lack adequate protection and at risk from logging. For example, the annual deforestation rate within and around Podocarpus National Park in southeastern Ecuador is up to almost 1 percent per year. This alarming figure, along with the small ranges of many threatened species, shows that additional protection in the buffer zone of the park is desperately needed to prevent the loss of rainforests.

Our vision is to expand Copalinga Nature Reserve further so as to provide a robust barrier to colonization and logging on the eastern flank of Ecuador’s most important National Park.

This purchase was made possible by the support of many friends but especially Jazmyn McDonald, Dale Henderson, the Baltimore Family Foundation and the SAVES Challenge. Thank you for your support!

Race Car Driver Leilani Münter Partners with Rainforest Trust to Protect Over 1,500 Acres of Endangered Rainforest

Eleven years ago, biology graduate, race car driver and environmental activist Leilani Münter made the commitment to adopt an acre of rainforest for every race she runs. Today, Leilani is proud to announce that she has stepped up her rainforest commitment considerably for the eight races she is running in 2018 in the No. 20 Vegan Strong Toyota for Venturini Motorsports in the ARCA Racing Series. Leilani has partnered with Rainforest Trust to protect over 1,500 acres of rainforest, which will prevent approximately 60,000 metric tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere, equivalent to taking more than 13,000 cars off the road for one year.

“Rainforest Trust is doing incredible work and I am thrilled to partner with them. We are living through the sixth mass extinction event: humans are pushing animals to extinction at a rate that is 1,000 greater than the natural background rate of extinction. I don’t want to live in a world without wild creatures. Our generation needs to do everything we can to save the species we can before it’s too late,” Münter said.

With her donation, Leilani is supporting a Rainforest Trust conservation project located along the Mahakam River on the island of Borneo in East Kalimatan, Indonesia. The river is home to a Critically Endangered population of Mahakam River Dolphin that consists of around 80 individuals. Researchers are in the process of analyzing the DNA of this isolated population and believe that it may be genetically distinct from other populations of Irrawaddy Dolphin, an Endangered cetacean that is typically found in coastal shallows throughout Southeast Asia. The area is also home to many other Endangered species including the Bornean Orangutan, Malaysian Giant Turtle, Proboscis Monkey and Storm’s Stork, as well as numerous threatened bird species. Leilani has plans to travel to Borneo to visit the area with Rainforest Trust.

“We are so excited that Lelani has chosen to share the story of our important conservation work in Borneo with all of her racing fans,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “When she visits this proposed protected area in the future, she will be a stronger advocate for the importance of saving species and rainforest.”

On July 12, Leilani spoke about the human impact on our plant during The High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations in New York City. Her most recent ARCA race was at Pocono Raceway on Friday, July 27.

This story was originally published on July 9 in Speedway Digest.