Voices from the Rainforest: Samuel Ngueping, Rainforest Trust Conservation Fellow

Rainforest Trust projects thrive thanks to the important conservation work of people on the ground. Our Voices from the Rainforest series brings you news from our projects in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific — from the perspectives of those working in and for the rainforests.

Using Social Media as a Conservation Tool

Samuel Ngueping is a Protected Area Manager with Rainforest Trust Partner Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) in Cameroon. He began working at the ERuDeF Institute in 2013 as Program Development Officer and since, has worked there for many years in several different capacities. Since April 2018, he has been stationed at the ERuDeF head office in Buea, Southwest Region, working as the Director of Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management in the Conservation department.

Samuel (holding sign) participating in a sensitization meeting in Bechati. Photo by ERuDeF.

Why did you become a conservationist?

Since childhood, I have had a passion for nature. While attending primary and secondary school in the Western Region of Cameroon, I found through my studies that in the 1940s there were many local, threatened wildlife species, including African Forest Elephants, Lions and Leopards. I discovered that the Santchou Game Reserve was an important elephant hotspot in the region around that time. But unfortunately, I have realized that there are no more elephants in the reserve and no more large mammal species in the entire Western Region of Cameroon.

Because of my dream to see the charismatic African Forest Elephant, I decided to become a conservationist. This motivation prompted me to register in an undergraduate program in Botany at the University of Buea where there are many elephant ranges. I also earned my Master’s Degree in Protected Area Management. All these trainings have enabled me to acquire practical skills in the field of conservation in order to better contribute to the sustainable management of biodiversity as a whole.

What inspires you most or makes you proud about being a Fellow?

Being a Rainforest Trust Fellow connects me with renowned conservationists and allows me to exchange field experiences in diverse conservation specialties with other experts in the field. This lets me contribute the little I know with peers to promote a safe environment where man can live in harmony with nature.

Tell us about a time that you felt you had made a difference as a conservationist.

The time I felt I have made a difference in conservation was when I created my Facebook page promoting wildlife conservation. I frequently publish articles there promoting biodiversity conservation.

Tell us about a conservation challenge in your job.

Insufficient funding to tackle issues related to conservation in different landscapes; insufficient skill in GIS, wildlife survey and data analysis; insufficient working equipment like cameras, laptops, GPS and bikes.

Tell us about a conservation success.

I have succeeded in reaching millions of people through an awareness campaign for conservation during school and community environmental education and with my Facebook page.

I also engaged many stakeholders (community members, council, civil society organizations, NGOs and government ministries) in the process of the creation and management of the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and the proposed Njoagwi-Fotabong III-Essoh Attah Wildlife Sanctuary.

I participated in many landscape restoration projects and planted more than 5,000 agroforestry trees through the collaboration of students and community members. In addition, I successfully coordinated the research project for the management of human-elephant conflict in Mount Cameroon National Park in 2012.

Conservation helps us manage the natural resources we have in a sustainable way without compromising the benefits of future generations. It also helps me protect my own life because I can equally be affected by climate change if I don’t act now. Conservation helps me to live in harmony with other living creatures around me.

What has surprised you the most in the field?

I went to the village of Bechati in the Wabane Subdivision, Lebialem Division for environmental education and noticed that children were going to school without shoes and yet still managed to earn good grades. This made me realize that what matters in life is not the amount of wealth you have, but managing what you do have the best way you can.

Header image: Samuel (center, orange shirt) working with local students on a landscape restoration project at a local nursery. Photo by ERuDeF.

Voices from the Rainforest: Hiralal Sardar, Rainforest Trust Conservation Guardian

Rainforest Trust projects thrive thanks to the important conservation work of people on the ground. Our Voices from the Rainforest series brings you news from our projects in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific — from the perspectives of those working in and for the rainforests.

Protecting the Sanctuary He Calls Home

Hiralal Sardar was born in Paschim Kushaha, the Sunsari district of Nepal. For most of his life, he worked for local landowners as a farmhand. Although he has no formal education, his work experiences led him to understand the region and its people in a unique way. Hiralal’s history with the area inspired him to begin working with Rainforest Trust partner KTK-BELT on the Koshi Tappu Conservation Project.

Hiralal was asked to be a forest guardian for the Paschim Kusha Biodiversity Sanctuary, a 40-acre parcel adjacent to the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Sanctuary that Rainforest Trust helped to purchase in 2018. The two protected areas are composed of vital riparian habitat and home to 485 recorded bird species. They are widely considered to be two of the most important water bird reserves in South Asia.

Hiralal working in the reserve. Photo by KTK-BELT.

Hiralal currently serves as the sole guardian of the sanctuary. The majority of his work is dedicated to protecting the sensitive bird habitat against human and livestock intrusion. His patrolling has led to a pronounced reduction in the cutting of Typha grass, a native plant beneficial to wildlife. Typha forms the architecture of “playgrounds” and resting sites for many endangered birds in Koshi Tappu. Hiralal’s patrolling has suspended other harmful anthropogenic activities in and around the Paschim Kusha Biodiversity Sanctuary such as waste proliferation and poaching.

Because of his ties to the region, Hiralal initially faced challenges informing the local communities about conservation. “When I first started and was wearing a KTK-BELT shirt, people didn’t listen to me because I am their neighbor. I used to have to scold people not to graze their animals in the sanctuary,” said Hiralal. “But now they are proud of how beautiful the sanctuary has become and how many birds are here now. Many people say it’s the one place where you can see many rare birds in just a 40-acre site.”

Although he has made great strides in protecting the reserve, Hiralal and other Koshi Tappu guardians are still trying to minimize threats. “The biggest problem is that we need to control grazing,” said Hiralal. “If we can create enclosures and round up the thousands of feral cattle in and around the reserve, Typha and other grasses will come back and the habitat can naturally revive. I’ve been amazed by how quickly it grows back.”

Hiralal plans to protect and improve the sanctuary for years to come. “I hope I can continue to be a guardian of Paschim Kusha until I am old and see this sanctuary become the best place for people to visit when they come to Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve.”

Header image: Sunset at the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by KTK-BELT.

Voices from the Rainforest: Gunwant Mahajan, Rainforest Trust Conservation Fellow

Rainforest Trust projects thrive thanks to the important conservation work of people on the ground. Our Voices from the Rainforest series brings you news from our projects in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific — from the perspectives of those working in and for the rainforests.

Discovering the Smithsonia viridiflora

Gunwant Mahajan works as a senior field coordinator with Rainforest Trust partner, Applied Environmental Research Foundation (AERF). He has conducted detailed plant surveys and identified populations of many endangered plant species in the proposed Prachitgad Community Reserve in India. Rainforest Trust and AERF are working to protect Prachitgad, an area north of the Western Ghats mountains.

In this blog, he writes about discovering the Smithisona viridiflora orchid on the reserve and its importance to the biodiversity of the reserve’s unique habitat.

Floral Pearl of Prachitgad Community Reserve

The Prachitgad Community Reserve protects key habitats for a variety of mammals and birds. The area is home to many endemic and threatened plant species, including the herbaceous flora, which have not been studied in the north Western Ghats. The AERF team has documented 118 herbs and counting.

Gunwant working in the field. Photo by AERF.

Orchidaceae is a family of epiphytic and terrestrial herbs with special microhabitat requirements. They are a favourite of pollinators, too. So far, the team has recorded more than 10 species of this herb family within a comparatively small area, near the crest-line of the Western Ghats mountain range.

The most significant find of this year is an epiphytic orchid, Smithisona viridiflora, recorded in the post-monsoon season of 2018. Smithsonia viridiflora was previously known by various synonyms such as Gastrochilus dalzellianus (Santapau) Santapau & Kopadia, Sarcocholis dalzellianus Santapau and Aerides dalzelliana (Santapau) Garay. It is epiphytic on Lagerstroemia microcarpa, Ficus microcarpa, Memecylon umbellatum, Ficus racemosa and Oeal dioica. It is also seen on a rare, giant tree, Terameles nudiflora.

In the Prachitgad Community Reserve, Smithsonia viridiflora is found on Carissa congesta, an old species of shrub. It is recorded in the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. In Maharashtra, it is recorded in the areas of Thane, Pune, Kolhapur, Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri. It is endemic to Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot, and found in evergreen forests. According to the IUCN Red List, it is Endangered.

The species is suffering from a decline in their natural habitat due to forest degradation and a decrease in the number of evergreen trees, its host species. We will continue to document more sites in the reserve that contain host trees during the post-monsoon season of 2019. We are excited to see this rare endemic orchid in the reserve, which reiterates the importance of conservation in this unique forest near the crestline of mountains.

A total of 319 plant species are recorded in the Prachitgad Community Reserve. Forty-eight of them are endemic to the Western Ghats, while 19 are listed on the IUCN Red List. This amount of plant diversity indicates the ecological significance of this reserve and its conservation importance in the North Western Ghats.

Smithsonia viridiflora on the Prachitgad reserve. Photo by AERF.


Header image: Mountains in the Prachitgad Reserve. Photo by AERF. 

Integrated Technology Bolsters Conservation

Header photo courtesy of Sumac Muyu Foundation.

One of the more recent boundary-pushing developments in technology is cross-platform integration. By allowing different devices to communicate with each other, such as a cell phone and a home security system, we can reduce digital “clutter” and streamline work.

But integration isn’t just for convenience—it’s also for improving efficiency, including in high-pressure, high-stakes situations. That’s the idea behind SMART, the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool, a program bringing this new technological interface to conservation.

Data collection and analysis is the core of the SMART software. As rangers patrol a protected area, they can input everything from wildlife sightings to snares to actual encounters with poachers within seconds. Camera traps can also gather this information in real time, allowing for immediate data collection in otherwise inaccessible areas, day and night.

Rainforest Trust staff and Fellows learn more about SMART from Wildlife Protection Solutions.

SMART then collates the data and looks for patterns. For example, the program notices if there is any correlation between the areas frequented by both wildlife and poachers. This analysis allows ranger teams to plan more effective patrol routes. The camera traps can also provide real-time alerts on both wildlife and poacher intrusions. This function can prompt patrol teams to send out an emergency crew to stop poaching and monitor individual protected animals.

Last month, Rainforest Trust’s Partner Retreat included a SMART training program. Two experts from the conservation technology nonprofit Wildlife Protection Solutions trained participants in the classroom and through hands-on field exercises. They provided each participating Rainforest Trust Fellow with a pre-loaded, field-ready smartphone and an overview of the software. Practice field exercises took place in the forest around Rainforest Trust’s office.

Rainforest Trust staff and Fellows participate in a SMART training program last month at the Rainforest Trust Partner Retreat.

“The SMART training has immediate protection benefits,” said Mark Gruin, Rainforest Trust’s Acting CEO. “The Fellows will take a more-than-basic knowledge of the tool back to their organizations for more effective patrols and monitoring.”

“Proper data analysis can provide optimization in any industry,” said Rosie Faccone, Technology Coordinator for WPS. “It just so happens that with conservation it translates to empowering the rangers and patrol teams, and ultimately protecting our planet’s biodiversity more effectively.”

SMART integration and data analysis has, so far, only started bringing conservation into the new tech landscape. Future innovation can only connect more rangers with more wildlife and more opportunities for protection.

Voices from the Rainforest: Rendra Bayu, Rainforest Trust Conservation Fellow

Rainforest Trust projects thrive thanks to the important conservation work of people on the ground. Our Voices from the Rainforest series brings you news from our projects in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific — from the perspectives of those working in and for the rainforests.

Educating Future Conservationists 

Rendra Bayu works as a Field Coordinator with Yayasan Konservasi Rare Aquatic Species of Indonesia (RASI). He specializes in government and private sector engagement for protected area management and public outreach. He also helps run an English tutoring center for underprivileged students. Rendra’s education background lends itself well to spreading awareness of conservation and the species he works to protect.

Rendra leading a community meeting. Photo by RASI.

Why did you become a conservationist?

At first, I was interested in learning more about Pesut Mahakam (also known as the Pesut River Dolphin) and other endangered species from Kalimantan. Growing up, I only knew of their statues and that they were extremely rare. When I started browsing the internet, I came across RASI and learned about their conservation activities and wanted to get more involved.

Because my background is in education, I wanted to spread the message that the Pesut is not extinct yet and that with the help of local communities we can spread awareness and make a change. I feel inspired that I have the opportunity to share about the unique and endemic species of Kalimantan with the Fellow international network.

Video from RASI of a Pesut River Dolphin rescue, untranslated.

Tell us about a time that you felt you had made a difference as a conservationist.

When I campaigned to raise awareness in schools along the Mahakam River. I can see that many more young people understand and care about the Pesut River Dolphin. They have started uploading videos or photos on social media when the dolphins pass their village.

Also, I once assisted in rescuing a river dolphin that got trapped behind the river bank and was cut off from the river. After our team removed all the obstacles on the flooded bank we were able to make the dolphin move through a small opening and get it back to the main river.

Rendra working on the Mahakam River in East Borneo. Photo by RASI.

What is the hardest part of your job?

When doing surveys and observations from early morning to late afternoon in tropical heat, it can be quite challenging, but fortunately we do surveys as a team so we can motivate each other and keep focused.

Tell us about a conservation success.

We just finished three sub-district workshop meetings, which were very successful. Twenty-six villages all signed to be part of a protected area. We even got additional reserve size for core zones.

Also, we managed to change thrashing behavior in 100 floating raft households for the moment and aim to add at least 400 more within the protected area.

What has surprised you the most in the field?

When I was doing interviews with 80 gillnet fishermen, I realized that I was lucky to have my boatmen who were able to speak the local language. The local dialect is so different from mainstream Indonesian so I was able to learn and understand it better.

Header image: Rendra conducting a study on the Mahakam River. Photo by RASI. 

Voices from the Rainforest: Herman Michael Lyatuu, Conservation Fellow

Rainforest Trust projects thrive thanks to the important conservation work of people on the ground. Our Voices from the Rainforest series brings you news from our projects in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific — from the perspectives of those working in and for the rainforests.

Bringing Technology and Conservation Together

Herman Lyatuu, Project Manager for Magombera Nature Reserve, was born in the Kilimanjaro area in northern Tanzania. He currently works with the Tanzanian Forest Conservation Group (TFCG), through their Udzungwa Forest Project partnership with Flamingo Land and Reforest Africa.

Herman (middle) flying a drone during the Partner’s Retreat. Photo by Rainforest Trust.

Why did you become a conservationist?

It started as a seed in my teenage life when I first saw my dad working as a Forester. He had a tree nursery at home that my siblings and I helped him tend after school. He taught me how to germinate and take care of different types of trees, but concentrated on medicinal native plants. My knowledge and interest in conservation then grew as I grew. When I began high school, I decided to take this route professionally, all thanks to inspiration from my dad in my younger years. Now I am working for TFCG and Reforest Africa under the great conservationist and researcher, Dr. Andy Marshall, with donor support from Rainforest Trust and Flamingo Land in the UK. This has given me renewed inspiration.


What inspires you most about being a Conservation Fellow?

Being a Fellow means that I get more exposure, more responsibilities and more accountability in the field of conservation. My understanding in the field of conservation will expand to an international level, including the understanding of internationally employed tools such as Global Positioning Systems, Global Information Systems, and SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool). What I find exciting is that my contribution to conservation is now seen worldwide.


Tell us about a conservation success.

Through conservation education, my team managed to train more than 85% of 10,000 villagers in the use of fuel-efficient stove technology and more than 75% of the villagers are still using the technology. I am also very happy to have been part of a team that upgraded 26km2 (6,424.47 acres) of high biodiversity forest to create the Magombera Nature Forest Reserve. There were so many stakeholders contributing to this effort, but my team was here on the ground to coordinate each activity to see the success of upgrading this mysterious forest first hand.

Herman (far right) working with local villagers. Photo by Tanzanian Forest Conservation Group.

Tell us about a time that you felt you had made a difference as a conservationist.

The first year that I joined the Udzungwa Forest Project, I managed to convince villages around Magombera Forest who are highly in need of dedicated land to participate in tree-planting and conservation efforts. Each village donated one hectare and we managed to plant more than 4,500 native trees. This also required germinating more than 25 native tree species for which germination methods were formerly not documented anywhere.

Tell us about a conservation challenge in your job.

I am working in a village community that depends highly on both natural forest resources and agriculture. Villages like these often seek to expand their farms to get more output because of the increasing population. They do not use the modern way of cultivation. This also leads to frequent encroachment, firewood collection, and poaching within nearby forests.

Despite challenges, Herman remains passionate about conservation because,When we lose our natural resources, we lost our identity, culture and future. When we serve the environment, we serve ourselves, species and the world at large.”

Header image: Magombera Nature Reserve. Photo by Tanzanian Forest Conservation Group.

Rainforest Trust Hosts Fourth Annual Partner Retreat for International Conservationists

Earlier this month, Rainforest Trust held the fourth annual Partner Retreat at the International Conservation House in Warrenton, Virginia. The Partner Retreat is a week-long opportunity for dedicated conservationists in the global Rainforest Trust network to connect with one another and staff. Each day, visitors participated in training and seminars in a variety of conservation management and outreach subjects.

The focus of the retreat has previously been on capacity building for chief executives and organizational leaders in conservation. But this year, the event focused on Rainforest Trust Conservation Fellows. “We changed the program this year as a reflection on our commitment to the Fellows and Guardians program,” said Mark Gruin, Acting CEO of Rainforest Trust. “We developed course content directly related to them to reinforce their personal and professional growth.”

Rainforest Trust Conservation Fellows. Photo by Rainforest Trust.

In the past few retreats, Rainforest Trust offered workshops covering dense topics like fundraising strategies and long-term conservation planning. But Fellows are on the front lines of conservation and spend the majority of their time working in the field. So instead of packing in as much detail as possible throughout the week, the agenda focused on a few practical conservation management topics.

One of the most important aspects of the Fellows work is conservation monitoring. Several of the workshops focused on surveying protected areas, including a training on the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART). SMART is a digital monitoring tool that allows users to measure, evaluate and improve the effectiveness of their patrols and conservation initiatives. Two experts from the conservation technology organization Wildlife Protection Solutions conducted the training, combining classroom and field work. They provided each fellow with a pre-loaded, field-ready smartphone and gave an overview of the software. The practice field exercises took place around Rainforest Trust’s campus. “The SMART training has immediate protection benefits,” said Gruin. “The Fellows will take a more-than-basic knowledge of the tool back to their organizations for more effective patrols and monitoring.”  

In addition to monitoring techniques, Fellows learned various methods of conservation storytelling. The Rainforest Trust Outreach team developed a series of in-depth communications workshops to refine Fellows’ skills and contribute to their organizations’ outreach. Workshop topics included written storytelling and best practices for social media. The team also interviewed each participant about their work to better understand and communicate their inspiring stories with the world. Rainforest Trust digital experts offered courses on filming and photographing wildlife in their natural habitat, including the use of drone technology.  

The retreat provided staff with the opportunity to talk with the Fellows face-to-face. This type of communication is usually difficult due to their busy schedules or remote locations. Throughout the week, Fellows often met with the Rainforest Trust Conservation team in small groups to discuss project-related issues.

Sharing stories from the field and socializing was a large part of the retreat. In addition to the daily lunches and dinners, Rainforest Trust staff volunteered their time to show the Fellows around Virginia. “For some of the Fellows, this is their first time leaving their country or even their village,” said Gruin. “Interacting with people from other cultures is so important for growth, not only amongst the Fellows, but for our staff as well.” This year, social activities included a local winery tour, walking around Historic Old Town Warrenton and visiting popular stores and restaurants.

The Fellows left with enhanced outreach and monitoring techniques, along with field supplies provided by Rainforest Trust. The retreat was an important success for all involved and Rainforest Trust plans to continue hosting Conservation Fellows at future retreats. “We hope the Fellows apply what they learned throughout the week in their work and find further motivation to continue paving the way in conservation,” said Gruin. “We recognize that our Fellows are the future of conservation and want to provide them with all the tools and training necessary to succeed.”

A collection of photos from the Partner Retreat. Photos by Rainforest Trust.


Header image: The Fellows enjoying Drone Training. Photo by Rainforest Trust. 

Voices From the Rainforest: Hassan Issa, Conservation Fellow

Rainforest Trust projects thrive thanks to the important conservation work of people on the ground. Our Voices from the Rainforest series brings you news from our projects in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific — from the perspectives of those working in and for the rainforests.

Calling Protected Areas Home

Hassan Issa is a wildlife and environmental enthusiast working as field assistant for Hirola Conservation Program (HCP) within the Bura East Conservancy in Kenya. Hassan is motivated by field-based conservation and is particularly interested in finding solutions that improve human-wildlife relations. He is particularly keen on saving endangered species such as the Hirola, Reticulated Giraffes and Grevy’s Zebra.

Hassan has an excellent understanding of the local environment and communities as he hails from the larger Garissa County. This has enhanced his capabilities and motivation to work with wildlife and the local community. One of his passions is photographing wildlife, which he says is one of the most effective ways of telling wildlife stories.

Hassan in the field. Photo by Hirola Conservation Program.

Why did you become a conservationist?

It is actually a coincidence because I had originally set out to be a humanitarian worker and a peace ambassador. This was informed by the unfortunate violent extremism that was affecting my home area and the neighboring counties. After graduating high school, I chose to study Development Studies for my undergraduate program. When I completed my coursework in 2017 I had to look for an internship, that is where I met with Dr. Abdullahi Ali who was the mentor I needed. He introduced me to conservation.

After going to the field and interacting with wildlife and seeing the positive impact it had on the society, I immediately knew it was the career path I wanted to take. I was impressed by the impact the HCP and their international partners had on our poor rural society. This inspired me to see the bigger picture of conservation. In turn, I now mentor several younger rangers that I have recruited to be future leaders of conservation for our region.


What inspires you most about being a Conservation Fellow?

The most inspiring thing is the fact that I know there are young people out there who are like-minded and are working on the same goal: to protect endangered wildlife and the environment. Robert Swan, the first person in history to walk to both the North and South Poles once said “the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it,” so I am inspired by my colleagues’ work to make this planet a better place than they found it.

“Conservation is important because it helps in protecting earth’s resources including air, water, soil and living things from exploitative human impacts. Conservation will ensure these resources benefit the current and future generations to come.”

Tell us about a time that you felt you had made a difference as a conservationist.

In October 2018, we started implementing the second phase of the Hirola habitat restoration program at the Ishaqbini Conservancy and the Bura East Conservancy. We planted different species of grasses such as Cenchrus ciliaris, Eragrostis superba and Enteropogon macrostachyus, which we identified would do best in that environment and also have significant nutritional values for Hirola.

I was in charge of the field operations. I established grass islands where we worked together with over 50 local people to get rid of Acacia reficiens, an invasive species that makes it hard for native grass to grow. Over a period of 40 days, we planted the grasses on 60-acre plots in each conservancy. I feel like this is my greatest achievement as a conservationist to date because I have not only changed the face of the landscape, but I have also improved the habitat for Hirola and other wildlife species in the sense that there will be an abundance of pasture in the area.


Tell us about a conservation challenge in your job.

One of the major challenges we face is poaching, especially for giraffes. The poachers mainly use wire snares which they attach to trees in the hopes that it sticks in the giraffe’s neck or foot. We have been able to rescue a good number by collaborating with mobile veterinary units from Kenya Wildlife Service.

“Leaving my family and friends at home and going to live in the wilderness is the hardest part for me, although ironically, there is nothing I enjoy more than sleeping in the open sky night while staring at the stars and waking up to the chirping of the birds.”

Tell us about a conservation success.

A conservation success story for the organization is the increased protection of Hirola habitat by establishing new conservancies and subsequently the gradual recovery of the Hirola population. This has brought pride to the neighboring community which has seen the media attention and created renewed interest for conservation by the County Government of Gaissa.

Another success story is definitely the reduced number of poaching incidents that we have witnessed over the past two years. This has been possible because of increased patrols and our recent campaign of educating the community that lives around the conservancy. More importantly, our team also documented new populations of poorly understood populations of endangered mammals, such as African wild dogs, Haggard’s Oribi and Grevy’s Zebra.


Header image: Critically Endangered Hirola. Photo by Hirola Conservation Program. 

Artist Donates 10% of Proceeds to Rainforest Trust

London-based artist Abigail Brown dedicates her career to creating art inspired by the world’s unique and endangered species. And last month, she collaborated with Rainforest Trust on a project with direct benefits to wildlife. She drew a series of endangered animals and donated 10% of the profits from each print to Rainforest Trust.

Brown has had a fascination with animals since childhood. “I’m not too sure why it’s always been animals,” she said. “If it’s an echo of childhood toys or a desire to have a pet but never being allowed one, animals have always had the strongest appeal to me.”  

Her passion carried over into her career, where she creates animal-related artwork through various media.

Pangolin and her pangopup. Art by Abigail Brown.

In school, she focused on painting and drawing. But after graduating with a degree in Surface Decoration and Printed Textiles, she explored working in fabric. She practiced stitchwork and creating 3D pieces by making animal plush toys. In more recent years she has moved into sculpture. “I have been working with paper mâché, metal, wood-carving and ceramics,” said Brown. “It is always centered on the animal kingdom and with a great fascination for seeking out the lesser-known weird and wonderful species.”

But researching these species over the years has also made her more aware of their plight. This knowledge fueled her decision to incorporate raising awareness of the various threats to wildlife in her work. 

Critically Endangered Hirola. Art by Abigail Brown.

A few years ago, Brown met Rainforest Trust’s Chief Conservation Officer, Angela Yang. Yang came across Brown’s Okapi sculpture and commissioned her to make a series of endangered animal sculptures for the IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2016. When Yang joined Rainforest Trust, she made sure to inform Abigail of the organization’s mission.

Now occupied with so much work in other mediums, Brown has had less time to draw. But she started up again when her husband

gave her an iPad. She began using a drawing app, which inspired her to develop a project that would help her practice while benefiting an important cause.

“It struck me that a wonderful project would be one that helped a greater purpose: highlighting some of the planet’s endangered species,” said Brown. “It seemed like a great idea to approach Angela [Yang] about, so that the prints I made could benefit an organization helping those animals, with the hope that people might feel encouraged to make donations.”

Critically Endangered Saola. Art by Abigail Brown.

The collaboration has benefited both parties. The Rainforest Trust team has enjoyed working with Brown and learning more about her work. And Brown has been able to practice drawing again and learn about the species Rainforest Trust protects. “Working with the teams at Rainforest Trust introduced me to many species I hadn’t ever heard of,” she said.  “It was equally informative for me as my audience.”


Visit Brown’s website to learn more about her and purchase a print.


Header image: The Rainforest Trust Conservation Team holding their prints. Photo by Rainforest Trust. 

World Turtle Day: Rainforest Trust Guardians at the South African Tortoise Conservation Trust

Rainforest Trust would like to celebrate this World Turtle Day by highlighting the recently expanded Geometric Tortoise Preserve and our long-time partner South African Tortoise Conservation Trust (SATCT). The hard work and dedication of SATCT staff, many of whom serve as Rainforest Trust Guardians, make the ongoing protection of tortoise habitat possible. The preserve is home to 25% of the remaining species population.

In 2015, we worked with SATCT to designate the 810-acre Geometric Tortoise Preserve to safeguard shrubland for the Critically Endangered Geometric Tortoise. Before the preserve was created, nearly 95% of the species’ habitat was lost to metropolitan development and agricultural encroachment from ranches and vineyards. This land transformation left the Geometric Tortoise population dwindling at fewer than 1,000 individuals. Both the species and land would have continued to degrade without protection. So Rainforest Trust supported the founding of the preserve, and this month, we helped SATCT expand the protected area by an additional 49 acres. 

The newly expanded preserve requires a large amount of maintenance from staff. Invasive tree species often make their way into the habitat, which is detrimental to native plants and wildlife that rely on them. Hermanus van der Ross and the other Rainforest Trust Guardians commit their time to clearing these trees and their seeds before the rainy season, which allows for the region’s natural vegetation to thrive. “We burned the alien trees after cleaning them from the habitat. That way, when the rainy season starts, the Fynbos starts to come back and grow,” said Ross.

A significant portion of the unique Fynbos ecosystem lies within the preserve. The Fynbos is small lush belt of shrubland that sits on the Western and Eastern capes of South Africa. Known for its exceptional biodiversity, it is home to many rare and threatened plant species and other wildlife. Over 9,000 plant species live in the Fynbos and more than two-thirds of them are found nowhere else on Earth. Less than half of the original Fynbos remains intact today, making the preserve and the people who work to protect it crucial to ecosystem survival.

Guardian Pieter Jack is passionate about conservation in the area and maintaining it for years to come. “It makes me proud to help in conservation and to protect the tortoises and field,” said Jack. “We had to see that this area must be managed and the flora and fauna must be protected for the next generation.”  

A collection of photos from the Geometric Tortoise Preserve. Photos by SATCT.


Header image: A Geometric Tortoise on the preserve.