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.

Land Purchase Creates Fiji’s First Bat Sanctuary

Rainforest Trust celebrates the purchase of over 20 acres in Fiji to protect the land around Nakanacagi Cave, home to the only known maternity colony of the Endangered Fijian Free-tailed Bat, creating the nation’s first bat sanctuary. This strategic purchase on Vanua Levu Island was undertaken in partnership with our local partner, the National Trust of Fiji, together with Bat Conservation International (BCI) – and was officially dedicated with a large, local ceremony on July 17.

“This is an exceptional opportunity to protect a single site that is literally irreplaceable for the security of the Fijian Free-tailed Bat,” said Dr. George Wallace, Chief Conservation Officer for Rainforest Trust.

“In the absence of protection, the fate of nearly the entire global population would be potentially in jeopardy, but we have a chance here to provide a much more certain future for the species.”

Securing this parcel of land initiates the process of creating the new Nakanacagi Cave Reserve. A forthcoming adjacent parcel will add over 30 additional acres, ensuring protection of the entire cave system and surrounding habitat. Ultimately, the entire area will be formally integrated into the Fijian government’s nascent protected areas system.

“The overall goal of this project is to establish sustainable partnerships that result in the long-term protection of the cave and the unique biodiversity of this area. Around 95 percent of the global population of Fijian Free-tailed Bats rely on this one site and initial biodiversity assessments recorded at least 20 endemic plants surrounding the cave,” said Chair of the National Trust of Fiji Craig Powell.

Some researchers believe the other 5 percent, on the island of Vanuatu, may actually be another bat species. This would make this cave system even more crucial for the species’ survival.

Local communities used to hunt Fijian Free-tailed Bats for food. Recent conservation outreach efforts have curbed bat consumption, but without formal protection, hunting could resume. The local partner is working to create a consensus amongst the local communities on the importance of conservation, and the Nakanacagi Cave Reserve’s creation is a vital part of this plan.

Hence, last week’s launch was an elaborate traditional dedication ceremony of prayer, kava, song, feast and dance, including one inspired by the bats themselves. The much revered Tui Macuata (Paramount Chief), Ratu Wiliame Katonivere, an outspoken conservationist, commended the village on ceasing the traditional harvest of the bats. Protection of the cave was further pledged by the District Chief and local community leaders in front of a group of around 300 ceremonial participants, made up of local community members, school children and guests from the local government, Rainforest Trust, BCI, National Trust of Fiji, Nature Fiji, Museum of Fiji, International Union for Conservation of Nature and the University of the South Pacific.

“The pageantry and high spirits of the dedication ceremony by the Nakanacagi villagers, clans and provincial leaders were inspiring,” said BCI Chief Conservation Officer Kevin Pierson, who attended the ceremony. “Of Fiji’s six bat species, five are in decline. This sanctuary is a critical step in the protection of the Fijian Free-tailed Bat and a wonderful first major conservation win for the Fijian Bat Conservation Initiative.”

Besides bat hunting, erosion and deforestation threaten the cave and surrounding habitat. Past logging and burning have degraded some areas of the native forest, causing it to be susceptible to damage from extreme winds that accompany tropical cyclones. With protection and restoration undertaken by Nature Fiji, the forest can begin to recover and make erosion less potentially damaging.

The reserve will be formalized over the next five years under the Fiji Forestry Department’s Reserve Demarcation Policy. A management plan will be put in place and local conservation rangers will be deployed to ensure continuing conservation successes.

New Ranger Training Site Purchased for Heart of Nantu Project in Indonesia

Rainforest Trust and local partner Yayasan Adudu Nantu International (YANI) are pleased to announce that in April, the site for a new ranger training facility for their Heart of Nantu project was purchased. The more than six acres, which will be known as the Alawahu Community Training Centre, are adjacent to Nantu Wildlife Sanctuary, a 172,294-acre threatened protected area in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

“We have long recognized that having trained rangers — ‘boots on the ground’ — is vital to ensure that our reserves remain permanently protected,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “In addition, this new training facility will provide employment opportunities for the local community.”

The new training site was once pristine lowland forest that was cleared in 1997. The plot now consists of grassland with 78 planted and matured coconut trees. Our local partner will begin reforestation with native trees on certain parts of the site immediately while using the planted coconut trees for building materials for the ranger outpost. In addition to being a training facility, it will also become the focal point for community engagement to include workshops, trainings and cooperative meetings that build local grass-roots appreciation and support for additional protection for the Nantu Forest.

“Such facilities are extremely scarce/non-existent in Sulawesi,” said YANI Executive Director Dr. Lynn Clayton. “Hence, this will be one of the first of its kind here and an extremely valuable tool towards long-term conservation of the globally important Nantu forest ecosystem.”

Once complete, the Heart of Nantu project will expand Nantu Wildlife Sanctuary by 15,266 acres via this small land purchase and an application for Legal Expansion of the sanctuary by 15,260 acres. The proposed protected area is a key access point for illegal loggers, gold-miners and slash-and-burn farmers aiming to encroach into the heart of Nantu. It also comprises of critical habitat for key populations of Sulawesi’s endemic and unique rainforest biodiversity, where 62 percent of its mammal species and approximately 30 percent of its bird species are found nowhere else.

This purchase 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.

Conservation Acquisition for Endangered Dove Inspires New Brazilian Park

Thanks to efforts taken by Rainforest Trust, the government of Brazil’s Minas Gerais state just designated 88,174 acres — about twice the size as Washington, DC — as the new Botumirim State Park to protect the unique cerrado habitat. The cerrado, the most rapidly disappearing habitat in the country, is home to the Critically Endangered – and once thought extinct – Blue-eyed Ground-dove.

“It is great to see our long-term strategy to protect this spectacular dove has paid off with the designation of this new state park,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Paul Salaman.

“Building on our land purchase with SAVE Brasil, this significant expansion will not only safeguard the core Blue-eyed Ground-dove population, but it will also allow habitat around it to recover and the dove to rebound and thrive in the future.”

Rainforest Trust’s work to establish the first protection ever for the rediscovered Blue-eyed Ground-dove in 2017 raised awareness of both the bird’s existence and its need for protection, leading the government to make this fateful decision.

On October 23, 2017, Rainforest Trust teamed up with our local partner Sociedade para a Conservação das Aves do Brasil (SAVE Brasil) to purchase 1,606 acres of cerrado habitat, forming the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove Nature Reserve.

The Blue-eyed Ground-dove is one of the rarest birds in the world. It had been lost for 75 years until a population was rediscovered in 2015 by an independent ornithologist. Collaborating with SAVE Brasil and Rainforest Trust, a research group undertook an intensive survey for the species and created a comprehensive conservation plan. Although this rediscovery was one of the most amazing ornithological finds in recent memory, before these efforts, this highly threatened bird had no protection and was at grave risk.

“In an urgent bid to save this beautiful dove, we supported searches to locate other populations in the hope it was already protected. But after intensive searches, it was clear that just one private property being sold for development contained the vast majority of all surviving individuals. With our partner SAVE Brasil we acted swiftly to purchase this property and permanently safeguard the species,” Salaman said after completing the first land purchase last year.

On July 6, the Minas Gerais government recognized the work of Rainforest Trust and SAVE Brasil and expanded protection of the cerrado habitat to further safeguard this incredible bird.

Conservation Organizations Purchase Critical Properties for Wildlife in Nepal

Rainforest Trust is pleased to announce the purchase of five parcels of vital riparian habitat in partnership with KTK-BELT and International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC). The acquired properties lie next to Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve in Nepal, and their purchase will fortify and expand the country’s first and largest Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance site.

Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, with a new expanded total acreage of 42,560, provides habitat protection for numerous globally threatened species, including six species of vultures – four of which are Critically Endangered – as well as the Critically Endangered Red-crowned Roofed Turtle and Bengal Florican. With 485 recorded bird species in this small reserve, it is considered one of the most important aquatic bird reserves in South Asia.

“Rainforest Trust is proud to partner with KTK-BELT and ICFC to strategically acquire 40 acres of threatened woodland and wetland habitat and expand the spectacular Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve,”

said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “This additional habitat protection helps numerous endangered wildlife species, like the Ganges River Dolphin and the Red-crowned Roofed Turtle.”

The expanded reserve section includes an important forest that is vital for the Critically Endangered nesting vultures. In the last 20 years, forest cover has declined by more than 80 percent in the Koshi Tappu ecosystem, reducing these nesting sites in particular. This expanded security also prevents land-grabbing in this sensitive buffer region, and provides increased defense against invasive weeds, wildlife trapping and overfishing.

The completion of this project will assist ongoing efforts by other institutions and nongovernmental organizations currently working to double the size of Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve due to its ecological importance.

Another crucial aspect of this purchase is that the parcel is located in the south of the reserve, where conservation efforts have been challenged due to a lack of community engagement, stemming from discrimination the community has historically faced. Our local partner worked closely with the communities surrounding this new protected area to increase education about the importance of conservation, and they provided valuable alternative livelihood opportunities such as vulture eco-tourism, Ganges River Dolphin viewing areas and bio-brick production using harvested invasive plant species as a benefit to the local populations.

Through the generous support of our friends around the world and the SAVES Challenge, this project is a success.

Burn the Trees to Save the Habitat

The Fynbos habitat of South Africa is home to many endangered and rare plant species. Some of these plant species are found only in the Fynbos, a small, coastal habitat patch native to southern South Africa.

These endemic species do not include the Port Jackson Willow.

The Port Jackson Willow (Acacia saligna) is native to Australia. But, in the past 200 years, it has spread to South Africa through human agriculture and gardening. And the tree species has been thriving — spreading across the country and out of control. The trees are displacing native vegetation and destroying ecosystems all over the African Cape — including the rare Fynbos.

So what is one to do when alien trees are destroying your ecosystem?

You burn them.

One of Rainforest Trust’s partners in South Africa, the South African Tortoise Conservation Trust, cleared the Port Jackson Willow from the Geometric Tortoise Preserve they created along with Rainforest Trust. Once the trees were cut and uprooted, they were ready for burning.

But, as we’ve seen time and time again, solving one conservation problem often opens the door to solve another one at the same time.

The Geometric Tortoise Preserve has some of the last remaining habitat for the Critically Endangered Geometric Tortoise (Psammobates geometricus). And fires are a natural part of many ecosystems. But if an uncontrolled fire were to consume the preserve, it may make the land uninhabitable for the tortoises or even kill the tortoises who live there.

Seeing as the preserve is likely home to 50 percent of the entire population of the species, a destructive fire would be, eh, less than ideal.

One of the best protections from spreading forest fires is also one of the simplest — the fire break. By lowering the vegetation around the border of a protected area, we can reduce the organic matter available for a fire to consume. Made simple: less dry grass means a lower likelihood of a fire spreading into the preserve. But the threat of fire remains possible — strong, dry winds can push a raging wildfire over a firebreak. That’s why these firebreaks also serve as access roads, allowing fire-fighting equipment to move around the preserve in case a fire does spread inside.

To create the fire break around the Geometric Tortoise Preserve, our partner could have spent hours weed-whacking. Or, they could use a bunch of wood from an invasive species already lying around that needed burning anyway.

Guess which option they chose?

That’s right, they piled the Port Jackson Willow wood around the border of the preserve and lit it on fire. With careful management, this created a solid fire break. In addition, Port Jackson Willows are easy fodder for a spreading wildfire, so their removal reduces the likelihood of a fire spreading further inside the preserve. [Insert the conservation-appropriate equivalent of “two birds, one stone.”]

Invasive species management and avoiding the threat of wildfire (not to mention much of conservation) can feel Sisyphean. But with solutions such as this, sometimes we get the mountain to roll the boulder for us.

Rainforest Trust Partner Helps Stop Bauxite Mine

“I’ll take ‘Def-ORE-station’ for $1,000, Alex.”

“Gibbsite, boehmite and diaspore make up much of this ore whose mining is contributing to deforestation across the tropics.”

“…”

~~~~~~~

You probably have never have heard of bauxite. But you almost certainly use bauxite-derived products every day.

Bauxite is one of the most important sources of aluminum. Yes, despite your steadfast recycling habits, the world is still mining new sources of aluminum. In fact, even if we recycled every soda can in the world, we would still mine more sources of aluminum. Today, manufacturing everything from cars to currency to rocket fuel requires aluminum. So, needless to say, we love ourselves some aluminum.

But where does it all come from?

Often, from bauxite. And we love ourselves some bauxite. We mine it all over the world, but especially in tropical regions. In fact, we love bauxite so much that in 2017, we mined 300,000 metric tons of the stuff.

That’s the same as 1,634 jumbo jets.

But you know who might not love themselves some bauxite? The communities whose land is being mined and whose forests are being cleared to get to it.

Around the world, mining spells trouble for the world’s rainforests and communities who live in rainforests. Because when mining clears the forests, guess who rarely gets a say in whether that happens?

The people who actually live near these mines.

Yes, not only has mining contributed to ecological devastation of the world’s rainforests, the communities who will face the brunt of the environmental consequences often have little say over how, when and if mining occurs.

But not today. At least, not on the island of Nende in the Solomon Islands.

Rainforest Trust’s partner in the Pacific island nation, OceansWatch-Solomon Islands, recently helped stop a bauxite prospecting project. An Australian mining company, AU Capital Mining, had received a permit to prospect for the mineral on Nende. But, according to OceansWatch-Solomon Islands, many local landowners are in opposition to the idea. In fact, last year the Guardian reported that this company faced allegations it “coerced, bullied and tricked communities into signing over prospecting rights to their land.”

But last month, Radio New Zealand reported that the Solomon Islands government rescinded AU Capital Mining’s exploratory license on Nende due to “unsatisfactory” work. Radio New Zealand also reported that Solomon Islands Mining Minister Braddley Tovosia said that “the company had failed to establish amicable relations with the local communities.”

This was something the prospecting agreement had stipulated as necessary.

Our partner worked alongside local landowners to get this permit rescinded. Without their work, the mine development may have continued unabated, despite objections from the Nende communities. This decision is a victory for both these communities and Nende’s wildlife, including the endemic and Endangered Nendo Shrikebill.

Rainforest Trust is working with OceansWatch-Solomon Islands on protecting two Biodiversity Reserves on islands nearby Nende. These reserves are home to threatened and endemic species such as the Critically Endangered Vanikoro Flying Fox and the Endangered Santa Cruz Ground-dove.

Learn more about our project to protect threatened wildlife in the Solomon Islands.