For primatologist Leo Neves, who studies one of the rarest primate species on the planet in Brazil’s Serra Bonita Reserve, work provides few complaints. Last week, though, a series of unforgettable distractions not only offered him a break from the routine, but also provided good evidence of the reserve’s importance.
While on the trail of the Northern brown howler monkey – whose entire population is believed to number less than thirty individuals – Neves was surprised to hear an unusual set of primate vocalizations coming from deeper in the forest. Following the clucking sounds, Neves discovered two groups of Golden-headed lion tamarins meeting near a spring in the jungle. Amazed at the sight of these endangered primates, which had only been observed once before in the reserve, Neves slowly pulled out his audio recorder and camera to capture the occasion.
While absorbed in watching the two groups interact from a careful distance, Neves was startled by the chirping call of a White-necked hawk – another threatened species – which promptly settled on a nearby branch. An opportunistic predator, White-necked hawks typically feed on prey scattered by the presence of other animals; in this case, it was most likely the tamarin’s activity that proved a draw. Astonished by his good luck, Neves next turned his camera on the hawk.
However, he was not the only one to take notice of the arrival: the tamarins immediately scattered into the forest leaving him alone with the snow-colored hawk at the spring.
“Golden-headed lion tamarins were spotted only once at our reserves, many years ago, and never seen again,” said Dr. Vitor Becker, who is Research Director for Instituto Uiraçu, the organization responsible for managing the Serra Bonita Reserve. “So there was some doubts about their presence at Serra Bonita. This record confirms that they are doing well here.”
The Serra Bonita Reserve is an innovative conservation model comprising a group of private properties totaling 4,400 acres and located in the Serra Bonita Mountain Range. Instituto Uiracu was created to manage and expand this reserve with the long-term goal of protecting the whole Serra Bonita Mountain Range. In addition, the area is home to twleve primate species including the Critically Endangered Yellow-breasted Capuchin.
Rainforest Trust is assisting Instituto Uiracu to expand the existing protected areas to a total of 5,000 acres. Through the incorporation of these new lands, this reserve will prevent the further destruction of this unique habitat, which contains the highest levels of biological diversity and endemism in Brazil. As part of one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world – the Atlantic Rainforest – it is considered as one of the highest priorities for global conservation efforts.
Serra Bonita’s distribution of protected native forests provides an important refuge to many animal species that have benefited since conservation efforts began in 2003. Prior to that time, logging and hunting were commonplace and had been for decades. This situation has been reversed over the past nine years of active conservation, and many threatened species have returned to the Serra Bonita.
Learn more about conservation efforts currently underway at Serra Bonita.
Interested in visiting Serra Bonita with Rainforest Trust? Check out our Eco-Travel Conservation Tour to Brazil!