Eco-guards In Action: From Poachers To Protectors

Rainforest Trust is supporting its local partner Conservation des Espèces Marines to create the 12,360-acre Dodo River Community Natural Reserve along the southwestern coast of Côte d’Ivoire.

The primary purpose of this proposed reserve is to protect a key tract of vanishing coastal forest and adjacent wetlands, river, ponds, mangroves and beaches which also serve as a key nesting site for many marine turtles, such as the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle and the Green Turtle, and is the most important nesting site in West Africa for the Vulnerable Leatherback Turtle. Through efforts to protect this important landscape, our local partner is creating a lasting impact throughout the community and inspiring change to protect this habitat and its species.

In 2017, our local partner worked to recruit and train 16 community members who were formerly poachers to become eco-guards for the forest and beach. These eco-guards came from the local villages and bring a wealth of knowledge about the landscape and wildlife which enables them to be vital protectors when they conduct their daily patrols of the areas. The eco-guards work alongside Ministry of Water and Forestry agents and Maritime police agents. Collaboration between the local eco-guards and government agents ensures that the importance of protecting this area and its species is acknowledged and valued across sectors.

From July to December of 2017, the trained eco-guards were able to identify and remove 147 cable snare traps from the proposed reserve area. The local partner is already seeing wildlife return to the area, and the seasoned eco-guards have discovered a possible Leopard track and evidence of the possible presence of the Endangered Pygmy Hippopotamus. In addition, they heard the calls of the Sooty Mangabey, a monkey species which is under high threat from deforestation and hunting for its meat. The eco-guards also actively patrol the shorelines day and night to protect female turtles laying their eggs, prevent egg poaching and provide oversight as turtle hatchlings journey to the ocean.

A key component to ensuring lasting conversation success in areas inhabited by humans is that the local community members are engaged in conservation efforts and that they believe in the importance of conserving the area. Rainforest Trust is thrilled that the eco-guards are deeply committed to regional conservation efforts and that they are actively gaining the support of their friends and families to protect the future Dodo River Community Natural Reserve.

To learn how to support projects like the Dodo River Community Natural Reserve, please visit the Conservation Action Fund.

 

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.

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. 

A Year In Review: 2017 Successes

From one of the Earth’s oldest rainforests to one of the most biologically significant areas on the planet, in 2017 Rainforest Trust continued to expand its global efforts to save species, care for communities and protect our planet.

This year, Rainforest Trust directed over $20 million to conservation initiatives. We protected over 1.2 million acres of land, a combined total larger than Yosemite National Park, while a further 19 million acres are in the process of being purchased and protected in the coming months.

We partnered with 62 local and community organizations in 45 countries across the tropics to prevent deforestation that would have caused a wave of extinctions and the release of massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

As the Rainforest Trust team soars into 2018, we want to highlight some of our key accomplishments that would not have been possible without the generosity and optimism of our supporters.

2017 Successes  

Latin America

 


Africa

 


Asia and the Pacific

 

Thank you to the generous support of our friends around the world and the SAVES Challenge, for making these projects a success. 

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

2017 Regional Overview: Latin America

From protecting rediscovered species in Brazil to securing rare magnolias in the Andes of Colombia, in 2017 Rainforest Trust supported local partners to preserve over 88,300 acres of habitat across Latin America.

Rainforest Trust and its local partner helped 16 indigenous communities in Peru gain titles to their lands, totaling more than 428,815 acres over the past few years. This is part of a larger effort to title over 50 community territories that will form a firewall against colonization around the Sierra del Divisor National Park and the soon-to-be White Sands National Reserve. Together, these two parks and the surrounding community lands will span almost 6 million acres. Rainforest Trust’s partner is helping these communities create sustainable management plans for their communal properties which are 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 in this irreplaceable region.

In one of the world’s most biodiverse tropical savannas, the Cerrado biome of Brazil, Rainforest Trust worked to create the first protection for the rediscovered Endangered Kaempfer’s Woodpecker. Originally discovered 80 years ago, the red-crested Kaempfer’s Woodpecker was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the region in 2006. Rainforest Trust’s local partner purchased the 593-acre private property, and the new reserve will be registered with the state as a private nature reserve (RPPN) to add an extra layer of protection. This will serve as an example for other landowners interested in establishing reserves on their own properties in the future. In addition to purchasing this key property and establishing an RPPN, the partner’s long-term goal is to launch a landscape-scale initiative to work with landowners to establish a network of private reserves across approximately 5,000 acres.

In the most rapidly disappearing habitat 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) and provide protection for the recently rediscovered Blue-eyed Ground-dove.

Across Ecuador, Rainforest Trust worked with its local partner to expand reserves and provide vital protection for key plant and animal species.  The Rio Canandé Reserve is a hotspot for biodiversity, and many species with restricted ranges depend on the reserve’s lowland tropical rainforests, including the Critically Endangered Canandé Magnolia –  documented only at this reserve – and the Critically Endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkey, one of the world’s rarest primates. In addition, at least 36 Endangered Great Green Macaws inhabit the area, perhaps the largest known group in Ecuador. It is immensely important that this area is protected from nearby palm oil and logging concessions. The conservation groups also purchased new properties totaling over 345 acres to add to the Narupa Reserve in northeast Ecuador, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. Just north of the Narupa Reserve, 872 species of birds have been recorded in the Sumaco-Napo-Galeras National Park, exemplifying the importance of this habitat. The new protected area provides critical habitat for range-restricted Andean endemic bird species and Vulnerable Neotropical-Nearctic migrant bird species, especially the Cerulean Warbler. This expansion also includes important habitat for at least four species of Endangered amphibians, including the Puyo Giant Glass Frog.

An additional land purchase of 126 acres through a local partnership brought the Río Zuñac Reserve’s total size to over 2,400 acres, protecting pristine cloud forest, endangered and range-restricted orchids and other threatened species. Because of the high rainfall and unusual geology, the reserve is rich in endangered, range-restricted plant species, 20 of which are found nowhere else in the world. In addition, the reserve harbors other Endangered species such as Black-and-chestnut Eagles and Mountain Tapirs, as well as Spectacled Bears and a highland population of Woolly Monkeys.

[crb_slider][crb_slide image=”https://www.rainforesttrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Mark-Wilson-Zunac-Eagle-Prey-.png” credits=”An Endangered Black-and-chestnut Eagle pair feasting in their nest in Río Zuñac Reserve. Photo by Mark Wilson” title=”” text=””][/crb_slider]

In Panama, Rainforest Trust worked with a local partner to expand the Cerro Chucantí Nature Reserve by 260 acres with a long-term aim of creating a broader government designated protected area. Titled properties were purchased to help establish an important buffer zone that acts as a barrier to prevent squatters from moving into extensive public wilderness areas, and will discourage poachers from hunting in the vicinity. The land purchase is part of the very limited high elevation cloud forest where many new species have been discovered, such as the dark brown Chucantí Salamander (Bolitoglossa chucantiensis) and the Maje Dink Frog (Diasporus majeensis sp. nov.). There are still a few species of snakes, at least three frog species, one salamander species and over a dozen species of ants and plants awaiting formal description.

In Colombia, Rainforest Trust and its partner expanded the Selva de Ventanas Natural Reserve by 120 acres. This is a vital component of the strategic network of biological corridors being created to connect remaining forest fragments. This expansion contains 32 percent of the global population of the Ventanas Magnolia (Magnolia polyhypsophylla), the most endangered tree species in the region with only 25 adult individuals known in the world.

In Guatemala, Rainforest Trust helped its local partner purchase six properties totaling 995 acres to establish the Cerro Amay-Chimel Cloud Forest Preserve. The Cerro Amay Cloud Forest is among the largest areas of intact forest left in Central America. Together, Rainforest Trust and its partner are strategically purchasing properties to connect the entire network for a corridor of protection while attracting researchers, promoting ecotourism and implementing sustainability initiatives in the indigenous villages surrounding the Cerro.

 

Thank you to the generous support of our friends around the world and the SAVES Challenge, for making these projects a success. 

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

2017 Regional Overview: Asia and Pacific

In 2017, Rainforest Trust expanded its global reach and worked in Australia for the first time. With 150,486 acres protected across Asia, the conservation organization made huge strides forward to protect critical habitat and endangered species.

A great accomplishment was the protection of the 44,726-acre Caloola property on the Cape York Peninsula of Australia. This was the largest land purchase that Rainforest Trust has supported and remarkably, this property is almost entirely undisturbed habitat. The Caloola property strategically creates a permanent connection among a vast network of protected areas that spans over 700,000 acres. The area contains 28 regional ecosystems, 20 of which have low or no representation in the Australian protected area network. Water for Cooktown is sourced from the Annan River that runs beside the Caloola property. The presence of a very significant population of the Endangered Northern Quoll has been confirmed on the protected area, as well as Bennett’s Tree Kangaroos and several Vulnerable and Near Threatened bat species.

In addition to supporting its Australian partner in the purchase of the Caloola property, the conservation groups also helped create the 173.5-acre Misty Mountain Nature Reserve. This site now functions as a wildlife corridor and safeguards the remaining missing link to complete a nearly 3 million-acre high priority rainforest mosaic in Australia’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. While this region has been a national priority, the high altitude rainforests on volcanic basalt have been very extensively cleared and are highly fragmented. Connecting the remaining areas was essential for the long term survival of many charismatic  rainforest species within Queensland.

Rainforest Trust also worked to expand the Daintree National Park. The Daintree Rainforest is among the oldest rainforests on Earth and is the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest remaining in Australia. Because of the Daintree’s unique evolutionary history and wealth of wildlife, it has been declared a Wet Tropics World Heritage Site, with Daintree National Park lying at the center of protection efforts. However, encroaching housing development around the park’s borders threatens to fragment forests and disrupt wildlife through human traffic and the introduction of exotic plants. Purchasing and securing private properties in this area has helped reduce the risk of habitat fragmentation and consolidates protected areas within the Daintree.

In the Philippines, Rainforest Trust and a local partner established a refuge for the Critically Endangered Palawan Forest Turtle, one of the 25 most threatened turtle species in the world. 2,413 acres were designated by the municipal government of Mendoza, and Rainforest Trust is working diligently with its partner to expand this protection to total 4,552 acres. Rainforest Trust also worked with another local partner to establish the Hibusong Wildlife Sanctuary of 1,390 acres on the biodiverse island of Dinagat. The sanctuary is the first in a series of four new protected areas that will comprise more than 17,800 acres in the coming year to secure forest and coastal habitat. Dinagat Island is recognized as a Key Biodiversity Area, with numerous threatened species such as the Golden-crowned Flying Fox, Dinagat Bushy-tailed Cloud Rat and the Dinagat Moonrat. Before the sanctuary was established by Rainforest Trust and its partner, there were no protected areas on Dinagat.

In Malaysia, Rainforest Trust permanently protected a 34,414-acre former logging concession in the last great forests of Northern Borneo. This vital habitat for Critically Endangered Bornean Orangutans and Sunda Pangolins is now incorporated into the Kuamut Forest Reserve, which safeguards the last vulnerable flank of the pristine forest of the world-renowned Danum Valley Conservation Area.

Rainforest Trust also supported a land purchase to create a critical wildlife corridor in Borneo to secure a safe passage for Pygmy Elephants. This project with a local partner protects the Kinabatangan Corridor which links two wildlife reserves and provides orangutans and elephants with safe passage along the northern banks of the Kinabatangan River, one of Malaysia’s most beautiful rainforest wetlands. This land within the corridor was sought by the oil palm industry, making its protection all the more urgent. Now a lifeline for Pygmy Elephants, the new protected area is frequented by other imperiled wildlife such as Sun Bears, Clouded Leopards and Bornean Ground-cuckoos. The corridor’s benefits even extend to the local community, conserving traditional fishing grounds and providing ecotourism opportunities to support their livelihoods.

In Indonesia, Rainforest Trust and a local partner conserved vital nesting grounds for the Endangered Maleo in northern Sulawesi. As one of Asia’s most iconic birds, Maleos build mounds to incubate their eggs through volcanic and solar-heated sand in large colonial nesting grounds, a natural spectacle that leaves the eggs exceptionally vulnerable to harvesting. 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. These 316 acres secured by Rainforest Trust and its local partner will contribute to the overall project which will form a 47,328-acre protected area of nesting sites, coastal habitat, forest conservation area and agroforestry buffer zone.

In the Republic of Palau, Rainforest Trust supported a crucial land purchase to save Endangered Megapodes. The reserve is the first private land converted to a protected area on the island of Peleliu, and it protects a vital foraging area for the Micronesian Scrubfowl, known locally as the Micronesian Megapode. The site also contains a famous WWII memorial, as it is notoriously the location of the longest and bloodiest battle of the Pacific war.

In Myanmar, Rainforest Trust and a local partner created the 66,965-acre Kaydoh Mae Nyaw Wildlife Sanctuary which protects subtropical broadleaf forest and provides a safe haven for wildlife such as the Asian Elephant, Tiger, Dhole, Banteng, Phayre’s Leaf-monkey and two species of Pangolin – the Sunda and Chinese – both of which are Critically Endangered. Rainforest Trust’s local partner is ensuring that the protected area is managed by the indigenous community, and conservation efforts will focus on collaborative management and capacity building in the form of patrolling and law enforcement, protected area infrastructure and awareness programs. Community development and education programs as well as agricultural assistance and alternative livelihood programs ensure ongoing community commitment to conservation.

 

Thank you to the generous support of our friends around the world and the SAVES Challenge, for making these projects a success. 

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

2017 Regional Overview: Africa

In Kenya this year, Rainforest Trust supported the protection of over one million acres to safeguard the world’s most endangered antelope, the Hirola.  This new conservancy will not only safeguard the Hirolas that currently call this region home, but will also help the species recover by re-establishing a free-ranging population between protected areas. Other species that will benefit from this refuge include Reticulated Giraffes, Grevy’s Zebras, African Savannah Elephants, African Wild Dogs, Lions, Cheetahs and several antelope species.

Rainforest Trust’s local partner is now preparing to compensate community members for the conservancy land by conducting land surveys and studying detailed settlement plans. Obtaining the registration certificate for Bura East Conservancy means community members are now empowered and officially have the legal backing to operate conservation efforts in their conservancy. In partnership with the local conservation organization and the county government, the communities will hold the land in trust for the conservation of wildlife in the area. The communities will act as guarantors for Bura East Conservancy and a future adjacent conservancy, which will both be incorporated into local area development plans. Together, these conservancies will protect 1.2 million acres, the largest conservation area in northeastern Kenya.

This part of Kenya also gained international attention this year after two white Reticulated Giraffes were seen  in the region where Rainforest Trust and its partner are protecting habitat. The white color is due to a genetic abnormality called “leucism,” a condition which affects many species and turns their appearance white. According to the partner’s blog, sightings of white giraffes around the Hirola range have increased in the past few years and recently, these two particular giraffes have been a common sight in the region.

Dr. Sally Lahm, Rainforest Trust’s Africa and Madagascar Conservation Officer explained, “There are fewer than 98,000 giraffes in populations scattered across the African continent. They already appear to be extinct in at least seven countries. Some giraffe populations are increasing while others are decreasing due to threats which vary among regions where they exist. The four major threats are habitat loss, civil unrest, illegal hunting and ecological changes in preferred habitats. [Our partner’s] project to create two new conservancies for Hirola antelope with local communities provides protection and monitoring for all wildlife populations, including giraffes.”

Rainforest Trust continues to support its partner in creating the adjacent conservancy and is excited for the work they will achieve in 2018.

 

Thank you to the generous support of our friends around the world and the SAVES Challenge, for making this project a success. 

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

Supporter Spotlight: James DeKay and Jill Vaughan

Mother and son embrace the gift of conservation.

Once again the season of giving is upon us and with it comes a tale of a mother and son who chose to forego traditional gift giving and instead embrace the gift of protecting acres. James DeKay, a Rainforest Trust supporter since 2009, and his mother Jill Vaughan, a supporter since 2015, both grew up with a deep love and appreciation for nature and conservation.

“I am fortunate that my parents enjoyed, appreciated and, it seems now, revered nature,” Jill recalled. “In walks through the woods, my father would point out animal tracks and scat and walked as if he truly revered the forest.” From a young age, Jill’s parents instilled in her an appreciation for nature that has stayed with her throughout her life and one that she made sure she passed on to her son. “My mother was always deeply connected to nature and she shared her appreciation for it with me,” stated James.

So, when it came time to give back, James chose to do so in a manner that would honor not only his mother, but also the reverence for nature she gained as a young girl exploring the gorges of Ithaca, New York with her father. “It was my younger son, James, who introduced me to Rainforest Trust,” Jill explained. “It was on my birthday that I received from James a Rainforest Trust certificate and word of his donation.” Later that year Jill decided to take a cue from her son and gave him a gift of protected acres for his birthday.

“I am proud of our decision to celebrate our birthdays by avoiding the traditional gifts and choosing instead to honor each other with donations that help protect the rainforests of the Earth,” Jill stated. A love of nature has been a driving force in both of their lives, and upon their discovery of Rainforest Trust they knew their donations would be directly supporting the environment and its species.

“I used Charity Navigator several years ago to find a small or mid-sized organization where I knew my occasional donations could make a difference,” explained James. “I was very happy to find Rainforest Trust whose priorities, strategies, medium size and overall efficacy motivated me enormously…here was an organization where my giving could make a difference, and, talk about a bang for my buck!”

But it’s not just the value that they get from their donations that keeps them coming back to Rainforest Trust year after year, it’s the impact that the nonprofit’s work has on present and future generations. “I give to Rainforest Trust because you work to preserve beauty, majesty, mysteries, amazing species evolved over millions of years, astoundingly complex relationships among those species and others and because your work is part of the Earth’s recent heritage,” said James. He continued, “You identify endangered and threatened species, and you protect acres that do a great deal to trap carbon dioxide or prevent its release into the atmosphere…anyone who has studied climate change even superficially knows that trapping the heat-causing gases is a part of the equation to doing what we can do to prevent worst case scenarios.”

In the end though, Jill’s words about why she supports Rainforest Trust are the ones that really hit home about the importance of the organization’s conservation work:

“Perhaps it is this moment that you tell yourself you must do more for all the birds, all this beauty, all of the water, those stately trees, the hidden worms – all of it. You want the life within there to survive and thrive. Our donations are what we need to cherish and protect what could again be a remarkable Earth.”

“Rainforest Trust makes me feel it is keeping our Earth for all of those who come next and next and next.”

For more information on ways that you can give the gift of conservation, you can visit our Conservation Action Fund.
 

HEADER IMAGE: James DeKay.

 

Climate Change Series Part 3 – Tropical Forests Impact Climate in More Ways than Just CO2

So far, our climate change series has investigated how tropical forests are significant carbon sinks and how deforestation and forest degradation are major sources of carbon dioxide emissions. But did you know that rainforests affect atmospheric gases and our climate in less well known, but equally important, ways?

“Tropical forests play an integral role in local and regional climates,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman, “and carbon storage is only half the story.”

The other half of the story has to do with rainforests creating cloud coverage and precipitation, both of which have a significant impact on local, regional and even global climate.

We have discussed photosynthesis, and its importance for carbon dioxide absorption. However, another equally important action plants conduct within this process is transpiration. When plants absorb water up from their roots, they convert the excess into water vapor and release it through small pores in their leaves. According to the United States Geological Survey, one large tree can release as much as 40,000 gallons of water back into the atmosphere every year. This has a direct effect on cloud coverage and precipitation patterns, and provides about 10 percent of the atmosphere’s moisture.
 

Which way is the water moving in Peru’s Amazon Rainforest? Photo courtesy of Thomas Mueller

 
Tropical plants also release the volatile organic compound isoprene as a byproduct of photosynthesis. Isoprene mixes with other gases in our atmosphere and creates secondary organic aerosols, which form ozone. Ozone is an essential part of our upper atmosphere, blocking the sun’s ultraviolet light and reducing our risk of skin cancer. However, when ozone is created in our lower atmosphere, it contributes to the development of clouds.

Cloud coverage acts as a regulator of local and regional temperatures in two ways. It provides precipitation as the clouds travel across the land and it provides higher albedo, or reflectivity of the sun’s rays. Clouds, much like ice and snow, reflect sunlight back into space better than the dark canopies of rainforest. This has a direct cooling effect locally and when considering tropical forests en masse, the planet as a whole. In fact, according to John Cook from the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Washington University, just a 1 percent reduction in albedo (including from cloud coverage, ice and snow) could increase global temperatures on a level equal to the doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Although these contributions come from all tropical forests, as the largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon releases the most oxygen, water vapor and isoprene, making it perhaps the most significant, natural contributor to the regulation of global atmospheric gases and climate. Amazon rainforest transpiration is so important that in the late dry season it is integral for bringing on each new wet season.

“These forests are self-propagating, in a sense; by holding moisture and maintaining temperature, they help create the very rains that sustain them in the wet season, Dr. Salaman said.”

Rainforest Trust has been working to protect tropical forests in Central and South America since our start in 1988. Thus far, we have protected nearly 10 million acres throughout the region, with plans to expand our efforts over the next few years, as part of our incredible directive to protect 50 million acres globally by 2020 through the SAVES Challenge. Some of our largest, current projects in the region include the expansion of the Airo Pai Community Reserve along with other conservation efforts in the Peruvian Amazon and the expansion of the Canande Reserve in Ecuador.

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HEADER IMAGE: Double Rainbow forms over tropical forest in Peru. Photo courtesy of Rainforest Trust