Cameroon’s First Marine & Terrestrial National Park Announced

The government of Cameroon announced last Friday the creation of its first marine and terrestrial national park, an effort that was made possible by Rainforest Trust and local partner Cameroon Wildlife Conservation Society (CWCS).

Terrestrial and aquatic habitats of Douala-Edea. Photo courtesy of CWCS.

The declaration upgraded the Douala-Edea Wildlife Reserve, first created in 1932, to national park status, and it approved a nearly 350,000-acre expansion that includes mangrove forests, rivers, wetlands and marine habitats. Collectively, this expansion and conversion actively safeguard a total of 741,000 acres, almost the size of Yosemite National Park.

“This critical Key Biodiversity Area was at grave risk from growing pressure to deforest and destroy its megadiverse rainforests,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “The designation of this huge National Park is a vital step towards permanently protecting the precious natural resources of Cameroon hand-in-hand with local communities and the government.”

The Douala-Edea Wildlife Reserve, recently identified as one of the most important conservation landscapes in Central Africa, had unprotected land parcels, mangrove forests and freshwater and marine habitats that are integral to the overall health and sustainability of this coastal land and seascape. With this new designation level and expanded area, the Douala-Edea National Park will protect both the integrity and connectivity of this amazing ecosystem, which includes habitats as diverse as the species that live within them.

Chimpanzees. Photo by Tambako the Jaguar.

“There is no doubt this major conservation breakthrough could not have been achieved without resolute engagement and financial support from Rainforest Trust,” National Coordinator of CWCS Dr. Gordon Ajonina said. “We are proud to say Rainforest Trust funding helped speedily move the gazettement process forward, including improvements in infrastructure, purchasing equipment for game rangers and motorcycles and engine boats for marine patrols.”

There are the Endangered Green Turtle and the Central African Chimpanzee, one of West Africa’s most imperiled primates, as well as other increasingly rare primate species such as the Vulnerable Gabon Black Colobus Monkey. Numerous species of forest antelope and small populations of Vulnerable West African Manatees, Leatherback Turtles, Olive Ridley turtles and African Forest Elephants also live in the area. There are more than 70 waterbird species documented, in addition to many migrant species that use the rivers and rich wetlands as important stops on annual migrations.

This protected area was made possible by the Conservation Action Fund. All gifts to the Conservation Action Fund are matched through the SAVES Challenge and used 100 percent in support of our programs.

New Species of Coffee Tree Named for Conservationist

Soon we may all be giving up pumpkin spice for a different kind of latte, thanks to a newly identified species from the coffee family (Rubiaceae) recently discovered in eastern Panama.

New species Notopleura sallydavidsonae in flower. Photo courtesy of ADOPTA.

The new-to-science plant, Notopleura sallydavidsonae, was described yesterday by Rodolfo Flores and co-authors in Webbia – The Journal of Plant Taxonomy and Geography. It was named in honor of Sally Davidson, Rainforest Trust’s board member. Davidson is a longtime supporter of Rainforest Trust, serving on the board almost since the organization’s conception 30 years ago. She is a passionate conservationist who also owns the Clyde’s restaurant chain.

“I am so honored to have this beautiful coffee bush in Panama named for me, and I must return someday to see it in flower,” Davidson said. “Working with Rainforest Trust has been an important part of my life for many years now, and this honor came as a great surprise and is very much appreciated.”

Davidson receiving this honor. Photo courtesy of Rainforest Trust.

Rainforest Trust is currently working with its Panamanian partner Asociación Adopta el Bosque Panamá (ADOPTA) to expand the Cerro Chucantí Private Nature Reserve by 127 acres, with an expected completion date of later this month. This is the second expansion project the two conservation organizations have undertaken in their short two-year partnership. In 2016, Rainforest Trust and ADOPTA expanded Cerro Chucantí by 260 acres, bringing the total area protected within the reserve to 1,556 acres or nearly twice the size of Central Park.

There have been many discoveries of species new to science in Cerro Chucantí, including plants, salamanders, frogs and snakes. The geographic isolation of this massif or “sky island” has allowed its flora and fauna to differentiate considerably, so that it contains a number of locally endemic rainforest species.

Interior view of Cerro Chucantí Private Nature Reserve. Photo courtesy of ADOPTA.

“While Rainforest Trust’s mission is to protect tropical habitat to save threatened species, the discovery of species new-to-science within our protected areas reinforces the importance of safeguarding these vital habitats. Not only are there numerous threatened species in need of protection, but there could be just as many species that need to be discovered before they become extinct,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “We are very pleased and proud that our longstanding board member, Sally Davidson, has been honored with this namesake Rubiaceae.”

Species new-to-science are being discovered all across the tropics, the most biodiverse region of the planet. For example, Rainforest Trust’s Ecuadorean partner Fundacion EcoMinga announced in July that a new orchid species, Pleurothallis chicalensis, had been discovered in the Dracula Reserve in northwest Ecuador. Rainforest Trust has helped EcoMinga add some 900 acres to the reserve, with several more projects in the works slated for completion in 2019.

Rainforest Trust is currently compiling a list of new species discovered within its protected areas, with plans to host a “Species Legacy Program” at the international conservation organization’s 30th anniversary dinner in December. As it stands now, Rainforest Trust will auction off the naming rights to up to 12 new species as a way to increase both funding for and awareness of its projects, impacts and progress in saving species from extinction.

This protected area was made possible by the Conservation Action Fund. All gifts to the Conservation Action Fund are matched through the SAVES Challenge and used 100 percent in support of our programs.

Land Purchases Expanding Vital Atlantic Forest Protections in Brazil

This year, Rainforest Trust has helped purchase two additional land parcels for a total of 225 acres — twice the size of the Vatican City — in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro’s Lagoinha Valley. The area contains high-quality Atlantic rainforest and the Guapiaçu watershed, which offers verdant scenery with abundant streams of fresh water. The international conservation organization teamed up with its long-time Brazilian partner REGUA, from whom the protected area gets its name, to complete these purchases that are now under the local partner’s conservation management portfolio.

“We are very pleased to have been able to work with REGUA since 2007 to protect critical habitats in Brazil,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “These latest purchases fill in and protect a mosaic of important areas for conservation.”

The first property purchased, called Armênio, was completed in February 2018. Of its 52 acres, half is naturally forested and the other 26 acres have been cleared for cattle pastureland. Our local partner has already completed fencing around the property and has plans to implement its proven reforestation methodology on the cleared portion. The second parcel — the 173-acre Vidal property — contains high-quality Atlantic rainforest adjacent to an existing REGUA property and was purchased just last month. These properties were at risk of being purchased by developers and cleared for homes.

Endangered Southern Muriqui. Photo courtesy of REGUA.

Together, these two new acquisitions will expand protections for numerous endemic and threatened species in the REGUA protected area, including the Endangered Crowned Solitary Eagle, which has a very small, fragmented population within South America, and the Endangered Southern Muriqui, the continent’s largest and rarest primate. The two properties will also function as a buffer to contiguous primary forest found at the higher altitudes of REGUA.

This protected area was made possible by donations in support of our work with REGUA and in particular the Michael Louis Charitable Trust and the Felburn Foundation. All gifts to support our projects are matched through the SAVES Challenge and used 100 percent in support of our conservation action.

New Endangered Species Refuge Designated in Ghana

The beautiful landscape of Onepone Endangered Species Refuge. Photo courtesy of Herp Conservation Ghana.

On August 21, the Ghanaian government approved the designation of 847 acres — the size of Central Park — as the new Onepone Endangered Species Refuge, safeguarding habitat for numerous threatened species. Rainforest Trust worked closely with its local partner Herp Conservation Ghana to establish this protected area in Ghana’s Togo-Volta Hills near the border with Togo.

“This new refuge is wonderful news for the Critically Endangered Togo Slippery Frog as well as many other threatened and endemic species,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “We are honored to have had such great support from local communities to preserve this biodiverse region, which previously was at risk from deforestation.”

The unique biodiversity of the Togo-Volta region makes it a priority conservation site for endemic plants and animals, including the Critically Endangered Togo Slippery Frog and the Endangered Ukami Reed Frog. Critically Endangered Hooded Vultures, Vulnerable Black-bellied and White-bellied Pangolins and a plethora of endemic butterfly and amphibian species all reside within this forested habitat that is facing increasing pressures from forest degradation and hunting. Demand for timber and charcoal production, conversion to agricultural land and new settlements drive much of the forest loss.

Endangered Ukami Reed Frog. Photo courtesy of Herp Conservation Ghana.

The new refuge was named for the traditional name of the local people, who have been integral in the official designation. Two local communities gave up land for this designation, and Community Management Committees and a Protected Area Management Board will be created. Rangers will be selected from these communities as well. In addition to these benefits, this new protected area will safeguard a forest stream that is currently a major source of clean water for the rural communities. Water-gathering and washing in the stream have negative impacts on wildlife – specifically the amphibian population. This project will improve the community water supply by constructing two solar-powered, underground water wells. Increased access to clean water will have both ecological and social benefits. First, it will reduce human dependence on the forest stream, decreasing frog habitat degradation. Second, these wells will reduce the time it takes women and children to collect water, a notoriously arduous and dangerous task that is often undertaken twice a day for several hours.

This protected area was made possible by donors to this project and to the Conservation Action Fund. All gifts to the Conservation Action Fund are matched through the SAVES Challenge and used 100 percent in support of our conservation activities.


Header Image: Critically Endangered Togo Slippery Frog. Photo courtesy of Herp Conservation Ghana.


Dracula Reserve Expansion: New Protection for Ecuador’s Endangered Orchids

This August, Rainforest Trust helped purchase a 36.7-acre parcel to expand a unique orchid reserve in northwestern Ecuador. The Dracula Reserve was created in 2014 and is part of the global Chocó-Tumbes biodiversity hotspot that is restricted to a narrow swath of land from the Andes to the Pacific along western Colombia and Ecuador.

“With less than 10 percent of Ecuador’s precious Chocó rainforests left standing, Rainforest Trust has focused significant effort on purchasing the most threatened private names to expand and consolidate protected areas in this region of tremendous conservation importance,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman.

“Sadly, fourteen Dracula species have already gone extinct due to deforestation in the region, so every acre we can add to these spectacular orchids’ habitat is vital.”

As its name suggests, this reserve is one of three locations that safeguards approximately 90 percent of the Dracula orchid genus, while also offering protection to other threatened orchids such as the Endangered slipper orchid called Hirtz’s Phragmipedium. While the reserve was founded with an orchid conservation focus, many other types of flora and iconic fauna are also protected by the reserve, including the Critically Endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkey, one of the rarest primates in the world.


Critically Endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkeys. Photo by Michael Moens.


Rainforest Trust is continuing to work with local partner Fundación EcoMinga to expand the Dracula Reserve, with efforts underway to purchase several more properties that will add 1,475 acres, more than doubling its current size to 2,616 acres by 2019. This will help create a corridor of protection that not only connects the different units of the existing Dracula Reserve, but also connects Dracula to the Awa Ethnic and Nature Reserve, spanning 284,986 acres across the Ecuador-Colombian border.

This land purchase was made possible through the support of the Orchid Conservation Alliance and the Conservation Action Fund. All gifts to projects and the Conservation Action Fund are matched through the SAVES Challenge and used 100 percent in support of our conservation activities.


Header Image: Endangered Hirtz’ Phragmipedium. Photo by Luis Baquero and Gabriel Iturralde.


Continued Expansions Protect Ecuadorean Andes, a Global Biodiversity Hotspot

In May, Rainforest Trust helped secure a 133-acre strategic land purchase — an area the size of 100 football fields — to expand the protection of Tapichalaca Reserve. The reserve was first established in 1998 after Rainforest Trust’s President Dr. Robert Ridgely discovered the iconic and Endangered Jocotoco Antpitta nearby.

For twenty years, Rainforest Trust has worked with its longest-standing Ecuadorean partner Fundación Jocotoco to expand a network of nature reserves that are some of the last sanctuaries for many threatened and endemic species in the Ecuadorean Andes.

The Tapichalaca Reserve is Jocotoco’s first reserve (of more than a dozen today) and encompasses spectacular montane forest on Ecuador’s eastern Andes slope, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.

“Strategic land purchases to expand nature reserves is key to Rainforest Trust’s work to protect threatened species into the future,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “We are delighted to work again with Fundación Jocotoco to secure this private property in the Ecuadorean Andes.”

The reserve harbors at least 55 plant species endemic to the slopes of Cerro Tapichalaca, including a Critically Endangered vine. It also protects significant numbers of threatened animal species, ranging from large mammals such as Endangered Mountain Tapirs to the Endangered Black-and-chestnut Eagle. The list of globally threatened species protected by Tapichalaca Reserve will likely grow as a number of species, such as the endemic Tapichalaca Tree Frog (Hylacirtus tapichalaca), have not yet been assigned an IUCN threat category.

The beautiful landscape of Tapichalaca Reserve. Photo courtesy of Jocotoco.

Rainforest Trust will continue to work with Jocotoco to expand this and other reserves throughout Ecuador, a nation that hosts more species per square mile than most others on Earth.

This purchase was 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 are used 100 percent in support conservation action.


Header Image: Endangered Mountain Tapier. Photo courtesy of Martin Schaefer.


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 Lawit-Cenana 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 Lawit-Cenana 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 Lawit-Cenana 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.