International Women’s Day

Ednah Nyambu, Kenya

Ednah works with our partner Nature Kenya’s Saving the Taita Apalis Program, protecting a Critically Endangered endemic bird species in the future Taita Apalis Forest Reserve.

What is a typical day like for you in the forest?

My day begins with an early morning hike to one of the largest refuges for the Critically Endangered Taita Apalis. Inside the forest, I patrol to assess forest disturbance in the form of grazing, fuelwood fetching and logging. I also carry out bird monitoring through identifying and recording birds species both heard and seen to assess abundance in the forest.

What surprises you about your job?

I was surprised about how willing and eager the local community is in wanting to learn more about the endemic species of the Taita Hills forest. Most importantly, they want to see the small bird, the Taita Apalis. I have seen the values of science through fieldwork and its contribution towards decision making and knowledge generation, especially here in the Taita Hills.

What do you like most about working in conservation?

Informing the community of the uniqueness and endemism of the Taita Hills forests and the need to protect and conserve the forests is one of the activities I enjoy doing most in this job. Taita Hills is my home, and as a young, upcoming conservation leader, I feel honored to contribute whatever I can to sustainable conservation of forests for myself and future generations.

Ndelle Lizett Messame, Cameroon

As a project assistant with our partner Cameroon Wildlife Conservation Society, Lizett plans and implements field activities and species inventories. Here she is pictured (center) visiting with a baby chimpanzee in rehabilitation at the Douala-Edea National Park.

What would you like to share about your work?

As a woman conservationist, I feel very special because so many women shy away from this kind of job and consider it to be a dirty job. But they don’t know what it feels like conserving nature and ensuring sustainability of our natural resources. In addition, ever since I started working as a conservationist, I noticed that the interest I have in protecting nature is adding to my capacity as a mother to protect every person around me.

What is a typical day like in the forest?

A typical day in the forest is tedious, especially when I have to make my way through a dense forest of twisted trees. But in the end, you find yourself happy for having contributed to the promotion of nature conservation.

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is to get the support of a village that has never been sensitized about conservation activities.

Kamala Rai, Nepal

Kamala Rai is a social mobilizer assisting with our partner KTK-BELT’s empowerment and conflict transformation programs. She is seated (center), documenting local traditions with community members in the future Lumbasumba Conservation Area.

Why did you choose this job?

As I got to know about the Lumbasumba Conservation Project, I thought this was my best opportunity to make locals aware of threats and conservation issues, educate them and serve my village by protecting ecosystems, habitats and species through community-based landscape conservation.

What do you like most about working in conservation?

Conservation provides long-term benefits for the locals by protecting unique habitats, forests, plants, butterflies, animals and wetlands. I think conservation supports sustainable development goals rather than promoting short-term benefits.

What is the hardest part of your job?

I think the work we are doing teaches us how to work further. I feel attached to every part of the project and feel proud for serving my village and the conservation of surrounding nature. Thus, I don’t feel anything is hard about this job and assigned responsibilities.

Petga Feukeu Emilie Laure, Cameroon

As a field assistant for our partner Cameroon Wildlife Conservation Society, Petga supports eco-health education and outreach activities associated with Douala-Edea National Park.

What do you like most about working in conservation?

What I like most about this work is participating in the protection of the environment, nature, animal species, plants and rare resources. I appreciate the opportunity to sensitize and integrate the community into conservation projects, thus making it possible to shift their value to the biodiversity of a region.

What is a typical day like for you in the forest?

A typical day in the forest is full of emotions and excitement to discover new surprises, but it is also a moment of escape from the daily grind of the city and a rest for the spirit.

What has surprised you about your work?

In the course of my work, I was surprised by the hospitality of the communities bordering the national park which facilitates the completion of the teams on the ground in an area where there are no accommodation facilities.

Rainforest Trust projects thrive thanks to the important conservation work of people on the ground. The 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.

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. 

New Reserve Protects Bonobos in Congo Rainforest

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to the Congo Basin, the second largest tropical rainforest in the world. Despite having some of the highest biodiversity levels on Earth, the Congo Basin is one of the world’s least protected and most vulnerable forests.

The DRC also suffers from widespread poverty — a result of decades of war and infrastructure neglect. The country’s interior communities have had to fend for themselves, and many residents make a living from traditional fishing or small-scale agriculture. Forest resources might supplement a family’s few chickens or ducks. But these options don’t always offer a living income.

This combination of poverty, isolation and a lack of infrastructure is a challenge to wildlife conservation in the DRC. But new laws offer communities the right to partner with conservation groups to manage their own forests. Conservationists and communities can now work together to save forests and expand community self-governance.

A community in the region. Photo courtesy of ABC.

With this in mind, Rainforest Trust and local partner Amis des Bonobos du Congo (ABC), also widely known as Lola ya Bonobo in the U.S., set out to create the Ekolo ya Bonobo Community Reserve in the Équateur Province. And last month, the governor of the province signed a declaration to designate the site as a protected area. Ekolo ya Bonobo, covering 117,412 acres of mostly swamp forest, is home to wild Bonobos.

The Bonobo, the closest living relative of the Chimpanzee, is one of the Congo’s most iconic and threatened species. The species is endemic to the DRC’s rainforests and the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists them as “Endangered.”

Ekolo ya Bonobo is home to a diversity of unique flora and fauna. Besides Bonobos, the forest contains Giant Ground Pangolins, Leopards, Grey Parrots and three of the DRC’s four crocodile species. Bushmeat hunting is a significant threat to wildlife like crocodiles, monkeys and antelopes. While Bonobos suffer from habitat loss and poaching throughout the DRC, they have not been the direct targets of poaching in this area. This stems from both local taboos and increased awareness led by ABC’s community engagement programs.

An Endangered Bonobo. Photo courtesy of ABC.

The communities of Ilonga-Pôo, Baenga and Lisafa are the customary owners of the forest, though most of the protected area is remote and uninhabited. The Lopori and Matoku Rivers separate the villages and the town of Basankusu from this forest. Though these towns are closest to the forest, most hunters come from outside the region. But community leaders have limited influence to enforce protection commitments.

The project began by confirming the community’s interest in conserving this land. Much of this initial success was due to ABC’s long history of conservation and outreach in the area. Over the past decade, the communities and Bonobo conservationists have worked together to increase education and health resources. This community involvement continues in the new protected area, where they will manage the reserve alongside ABC. Eventually, they hope to recognize the area with the national Environment Ministry, who will then also help manage the reserve.

Educational programming for Bonobo conservation. Photo courtesy of ABC.

The reserve will train anti-poaching patrols with the legal right to prosecute hunters. It will also monitor wildlife over time and investigate biodiversity hotspots. The results of species surveys will inform complementary conservation education efforts.

This work is an important step forward for great ape conservation. But only significant and sustainable improvements in the communities’ economy will ensure long-term biodiversity protection. Hence, the project will continue to carry out community-led socioeconomic work that will guide effective and sustainable development efforts.

A view from along the Lopori River. Photo courtesy of ABC.

“The rainforests of the Congo Basin deserve the world’s conservation attention,” said Paul Salaman, President of Rainforest Trust. “But the communities of this area deserve our support as well. I’m pleased Rainforest Trust and ABC found success on this community-driven project to protect one of the world’s great ecosystems.”

This project was made possible through gifts to the Rainforest Trust Conservation Action Fund and the SAVES Challenge. Special thanks to Harvey and Heidi Bookman for their leadership support.

Header photo courtesy of ABC.

Ecuadorean Reserve Expanded for Increased Species Movement

Rainforest Trust and partner Fundación Jocotoco have once again expanded the Narupa Reserve. This month, 159 acres were purchased in the Napo bioregion of northeast Ecuador, 75% of which are primary, pristine forest habitat. Established in 2006 to save a large block of eastern Andean foothill forest, the reserve also consists of old growth and young secondary forest and abandoned pasture lands which will, in time, regrow into woodland.

The Endangered Black-and-chestnut Eagle. Photo courtesy of Roger Ahlman.

Landscape restoration is critical in the Napo region. The forests here are suffering from illegal logging and conversion to agricultural land. But reserve expansion provides vital habitat for endemic bird species like the Endangered Black-and-chestnut Eagle and vulnerable migrants like the Cerulean Warbler. Birders have recorded over 1,000 bird species in the Napo region, exemplifying the importance of this humid montane forest. This month’s purchase also includes wetland habitat for at least four Endangered amphibian species, including the Puyo Giant Glass Frog.

This expansion is part of a larger conservation goal to connect the Narupa Reserve with the Sumaco Napo-Galeras National Park to the north and the Antisana Ecological Reserve to the west, two larger protected areas. This strategic ecological corridor will benefit threatened Andean species and allow birds and mammals to move between large expanses of rainforest freely. Camera trap surveys have confirmed the presence of Pumas, Ocelots and Brazilian Tapirs in Narupa.

“Facilitating animal movement in this increasingly fragmented landscape is of the utmost importance,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Paul Salaman. “Habitat encroachment is rampant, with extractive industries bringing more roads and more people to the rainforest. But species studies have already shown us that the Narupa Reserve is effective in protecting wildlife long term. And the project has the continued support of the Ecuadorean people living nearby. They embrace the reserve, which is essential for its long-term success.”


This purchase was made possible by the SAVES Challenge and the Rainforest Trust Conservation Action Fund. Special gratitude goes to the March Conservation Fund and Artenschutzstiftung Zoo for their leadership gifts.
Header image: Habitat in the Narupa Reserve. Photo by Fundación Jocotoco.


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.

Two Rainforest Trust Partners Win Whitley Awards

This week, two conservationists supported by Rainforest Trust won the prestigious Whitley Award. Ilena Zanella from Misión Tiburón won for her work creating a reserve in Costa Rica’s Golfo Dulce, a critical nursery habitat for the Endangered Scalloped Hammerhead. And in Ghana, Caleb Ofori-Boateng from Herp Conservation Ghana won for his work creating the Onepone Endangered Species Refuge and protecting the Critically Endangered Togo Slippery Frog.

Each year, an expert panel of academics chooses the Whitley Award winners. The winners are granted one year of funding and a significant profile boost. This achievement pushes their stories to an international audience and increases their project’s visibility.

In May 2018, Rainforest Trust worked with Misión Tiburón to designate the Scalloped Hammerhead Shark Sanctuary in Golfo Dulce. The sanctuary protects over 10,000 acres of habitat necessary for the Scalloped Hammerhead and other species in Golfo Dulce’s rich array of biodiversity. This project brings the coast guard and local fisherman together to halt illegal hammerhead fishing and evaluate management decisions regarding juvenile shark populations. It will also double the number of students involved with Misión Tiburón’s education program.

Children participating in the education program. Photo by Misión Tiburón.

The Onepone Endangered Species Refuge, established in August 2018, safeguards 847 acres of threatened habitat for the Togo Slippery Frog and the plethora of other threatened species in the forest. The project’s success is heavily dependent on the local communities. Herp Conservation Ghana works alongside members of nearby communities to manage wildlife and reduce hunting. They’re also restoring damaged habitats, including replanting 20,000 trees to prevent erosion and sedimentation. This project will benefit both the forest’s resident species and the surrounding communities.

Caleb holding a Togo Slippery Frog. Photo by HERP Conservation Ghana.

The Whitley Award, sometimes referred to as the “Green Oscar,” raises awareness of world-changing projects in part by releasing short films narrated by Sir David Attenborough. They also provides PR assistance and distribute publicity materials world-wide to champion their winners. Rainforest Trust is honored to work with these incredible partners.


Header image: Endangered Scalloped Hammerhead. Photo by Misión Tiburón.

Endangered Species Day: Louis the Pangolin

On this Endangered Species Day, Rainforest Trust wanted to share a story from Oldrich Van Schalkwyk. Oldrich is a dedicated Conservation Fellow who recently helped organize a sting operation to rescue a pangolin being offered for sale.

Unfortunately, pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world and, as such, are on their way to extinction. Poachers value them in particular for their scales, believed to cure a variety of diseases in traditional Chinese medicine. Due to the rapid decline of Asian pangolin species, poachers have started targeting African pangolin species to sell in Asia.

Oldrich finds Louis under a cupboard. Photo by Endangered Wild Trust.

Earlier this month, Oldrich, a program manager for Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), caught word that a Temminck’s Ground Pangolin was being offered for sale in a village in Limpopo, South Africa. A brave informant, who then helped with the sting, provided this information. That informant began a fake negotiation with the sellers while Oldrich, EWT and local rangers planned the sting. They intended to rescue the pangolin and get him to safety.

The sellers were anxious to make the trade and the time window for rescue was closing. The sellers made it clear that if the sale didn’t go through within the hour the pangolin would go to someone else. So the team arrived at the scene as soon as possible. But the suspects fled before the team could arrest them.

“When you rescue animals from these situations, it is important to remember that you are dealing with organized crime. The animal lives are in danger, but human lives may also be in danger,” said Schalkwyck. “When I arrive at a scene like this, I am initially on “autopilot” and focused on following the proper legal procedures, because the animal is evidence.”

Eventually, woman and child in the house led the team to a small cluttered room.  Among the wreckage, Oldrich found the distressed pangolin hiding under a cupboard.

“The room was filled with chainsaw blades, it was awful. Once the scene was secure, there was a sense of urgency to get him to safety,” said Schalkwyk. “Though he seemed to be in relatively good condition, we wanted to get him a medical examination, because the wounds are not always visible.”

Upon rescue, Louis (the pangolin) was under immense stress and dehydrated. The team rushed him to Medike Nature Reserve, a Rainforest Trust-funded property, where he could eat, drink and rest. The following morning, the African Pangolin Working Group picked up him to begin full rehabilitation. They named “Louis” after the South African town he is from, Louis Trichardt. After rehabilitation, they will release him back onto the reserve. Rangers can then continue to monitor his health.

“Now we want to release him onto the Rainforest Trust property because it is the right habitat and has an active patrol,” said Schalkwyk. Our researchers will continue to watch him before his hard release into the wild.”

For over 30 years, Rainforest Trust has worked to safeguard habitat for endangered species like the pangolin. Our Fellows, like Oldrich, will continue to dedicate their work in the field to ensuring the long-term survival of these species.


The Vulnerable Temminck’s Ground Pangolin. Photo by Daivd Brossard.