Ground-breaking Conservation Agreement to Save Atlantic Rainforests in Argentina

Missiones Falls
 Yaboti Biosphere Reserve
 Yaboti Biosphere Reserve

An agreement has been signed between conservation NGOs, a local forestry company (that sold a property within the Yaboti Biosphere Reserve), the provincial Ministry of Environment, the Guarani communities, and Rainforest Trust to permanently protect the Yaboti Biosphere Reserve area in Argentina but allow some sustainable development, such as ecotourism activities. This critical habitat is also home to three communities of Guarani indigenous people who are part of the agreement, and the land will be protected as part of an indigenous reserve.

The Atlantic forest once stretched unbroken from the Atlantic coast in the north of Brazil, south and inland through Paraguay and the Misiones Province of Argentina. Today it is one of the most critically endangered ecoregions in the world, with only 7% of its once vast original forest remaining. The Yaboti Biosphere Reserve, within the Misiones Province of Argentina, is home to 116 mammal species, 548 bird species, 124 amphibian species, and 222 fish species. Protecting the Atlantic Rainforest in the Yaboti Biosphere Reserve is a high priority as although it is called a reserve, much of the land within it is privately owned, and severe habitat destruction is taking place in the area.

This agreement is a landmark step towards effective conservation in the overall Yaboti Biosphere Region including the 9,795 acres that Rainforest Trust supporters assisted in purchasing. The agreement was signed by Viviana Rovira (Minister of Environment), three Guarani Caciques (leaders), and Nicholas Laharrague (Director of Mocona Forestal), who thanked the communities living in the area for working towards a consensual agreement. He also thanked Javier Jiminez Perez and John Burton of Rainforest Trust for their assistance in reaching this agreement.

120 Acres Saved for Earth Day 2012

Thank you, thank you, thank you! In one short week Rainforest Trust donors sent in an amazing $6,000 in honor of Earth Day 2012. These donations have been matched, dollar for dollar, thanks to generous suport from Mystic Dreamer Art and our Board members, which means Rainforest Trust raised a total of $12,000, allowing us to purchase 120 acres throughout South America.

Rainforests are the richest places on earth holding the majority of the planet’s biodiversity. 25 of the richest biodiversity hotspots cover just 1.4% of the surface of the planet yet contain more than 60% of all terrestrial biodiversity.

We are losing these rainforests and species at an unprecedented rate due to the devastating effects of deforestation for timber, conversion to farmland, infrastructure projects, and mining.

Rainforest Trust works with local partners to purchase and protect these precious rainforests for just $100 per acre. This Earth Day, show you care by donating to Rainforest Trust to help us preserve rainforest acres.

Thanks to generous support from the Rainforest Trust Board and Ann Kruglak of Mystic Dreamer Art, any gift made during the week of Earth Day 2012 was matched, dollar for dollar, allowing each donation to double its impact! For every $100 donated, TWO acres were saved forever.

Rainforest Trust Receives Grants from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

Sandpiper
Cerulean Warbler
Sierra Caral

We are pleased to report that three Rainforest Trust partner projects have been awarded grants totaling almost $330,000 through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA).

Our Bolivian partner, Association Armonia, has been awarded $100,000 for their work in protecting the critical stopover habitat for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper at the Rainforest Trust-funded Barba Azul Nature Reserve–a critical stopover area for the bird after it crosses the Amazonian rainforest. With this project, partners will protect and manage savanna habitat; restore habitat and conduct law enforcement within the Barba Azul Nature Reserve savanna and river-edge foraging habitat; and manage habitat through a patch burn plan that will create Buff-breasted Sandpiper habitat. Partners will also research and monitor sandpiper populations, movements, and habitat use in the Beni Savanna and use community outreach and education to help increase and improve the quality of foraging habitat on private cattle ranches. You can read more about our partner and their work.

Fundación Jocotoco has been awarded $80,109 for their work conserving the Cerulean Warbler in Eastern Ecuador at the Rainforest Trust-funded Narupa Reserve. The subtropical and foothill humid forests of eastern Ecuador are a highly threatened vital wintering area for the Cerulean Warbler and other priority migrants. This project will strengthen the protection and management of one of the key wintering sites for the species: the Fundación Jocotoco’s Narupa Reserve in eastern Ecuador, covering nearly 600 hectares of primary and secondary forest. Public outreach and ecotourism will be used to increase public support for the conservation of migratory species and their habitats. You can read more about our partner and their work.

In Guatemala, our partner FUNDAECO has been awarded $149,446 for their conservation of stopover and wintering habitat at the Rainforest Trust-funded Sierra Caral Forest project.
With funds through the NMBCA and a broad international partnership including Rainforest Trust donors, FUNDAECO will purchase two adjacent parcels of forest in the Sierra Caral mountains in the Caribbean region of Guatemala. These lands will become the core of a larger protected area at Sierra Caral, a critical wintering and stopover area for at least 33 species of neotropical migrants. Funds will also be directed to train, equip, and support personnel to prevent unsustainable activities and to provide outreach and education to local communities. Bird monitoring efforts will be expanded to assist management objectives. Check back for updates on the creation of this new reserve.

Click here for more about the NCMBA grant program through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Critical New Nature Reserve Established in Colombia

Ribbon Cutting at the reserve

Fundación ProAves, with the support of Rainforest Trust and American Bird Conservancy, has established a new 7,076-acre nature reserve to protect the Chocó rainforest and buffer the threats to adjacent Embera indigenous communities. Located in Colombia, the rainforest contains one of the highest concentrations of endemic biodiversity in the world with many birds, plants, and amphibians at risk of extinction. The area is home to several rare and threatened bird species, including the Endangered Chocó Vireo and Gold-ringed Tanager, as well as other threatened species such as the spectacled bear and jaguar.

The Las Tangaras Nature Reserve is one of the most diverse and important tropical forest sites on earth and will protect a great elevational gradient–from 2,000 to 12,900 feet above sea level. This area protects the watershed of the Rio Atrato, the Chocó’s most important river which serves as a vital economic resource for tens of thousands of inhabitants living in poor rural communities. A total of sixteen private colonist properties in the area were acquired to create the 7,076-acre reserve.

“We are strategically acquiring and protecting a critical area of privately held rainforest to create a buffer zone against colonization and strengthen the protection of adjacent indigenous communities that are besieged by gold-miners and ranchers,” stated Dr. Paul Salaman, Chief Executive Officer of Rainforest Trust, a champion of conservation action in the mega diverse Chocó Hotspot.

The Las Tangaras Nature Reserve, owned and operated by Fundación ProAves, is expected to be a major attraction to visiting birdwatchers and nature tourists. The area boasts remarkable opportunities for birding (over 250 species documented at the reserve so far) in a country that is home to more avian species than any other on the planet. A spacious, eight-bedroom lodge; a house for staff; and a restaurant featuring a balcony overlooking the Atrato river were just constructed. Other important species found in the reserve include the endangered Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Yellow-eared Parrot, the vulnerable Black-and-Gold Tanager, and Toucan Barbet.

At the end of March, Dr. Salaman traveled to Colombia to participate in the Reserve launch. We hope all of our supporters will consider visiting the Reserve if they have occasion to be in that area of Colombia so they can see first-hand what they helped to create.

“Visitors will be astounded how easy it is to see an incredible diversity of rare and little known biodiversity, including a dozen endemic bird species. We hope people will come from all over to visit and appreciate what the Colombian Chocó has to offer, be they from nearby Medellin or from Miami or London,” commented Lina Daza, Executive Director of Fundación ProAves.

Visitor information:
Located four hours by highway from the city of Medellin, the Las Tangaras reserve lies at the gateway from the Andean highlands into the Choco lowlands and offers spectacular scenery, lush forests, and some of Colombia’s rarest wildlife attractions, all conveniently located around the spacious Mary Giles lodge in a meandering loop of the Rio Atrato.

For more information and bookings, please contact info@conservation.co at Conservation Alliance.

Rainforest Trust CEO Featured in Audubon Magazine

Yellow-earred Parrot
Yellow-earred Parrot on endemic wax palm

Appeared in March-April 2012 Audubon Magazine

Summary: Fifteen years ago the Yellow-eared Parrot was presumed extinct. Its rediscovery in Colombia forced the Catholic Church to abandon an age-old tradition, and brought about one of the most amazing comebacks in the Americas. Below is an excerpt from the story, written by Susan McGrath. For the full story and photos, please see the March-April 2012 Audubon Magazine, or email info@rainforesttrust.org for a scanned PDF copy of the article.

Excerpt: The chance to observe Ognorhynchus icterotis, the Yellow-eared Parrot, is well worth scrambling in the dark.  It’s among the world’s most endangered psittacide, says the Australian ornithologist [and Rainforest Trust Chief Executive Officer] Paul Salaman, and one of the most specialized. Endemic to the high, cloudforested flanks of the northern Andes, the Yellow-eared Parrot is the sole species of a single genus and dependent for its survival in Colombia on one species of endemic wax palm, Ceroxylon quindiense. The parrots will nest in no other tree. In the absence of quindío palms with commodious cavities, they forgo nesting. They die out.

The immediate threat to this bird is unique, too: the observance, by tens of thousands of adherents to the Roman Catholic Church, of a beloved annual tradition, Domingo de Ramos. Palm Sunday, the Sunday preceding Easter… Therein lies the crux of the matter. The parrots require the tree; the church requires its palms.

“We have used this palm for 1,000 years,” Pastor Raul Ortiz pronounced when the Yellow-eared Parrot was discovered in his parish, late in 1999. “It is God’s will that we use it. He will never let the wax palm run out.” More than a century ago naturalists knew of large populations of Yellow-eared Parrots in Colombia and Ecuador, tens of thousands of birds, likely living everywhere the quindío palm (and in Ecuador a closely related wax palm) was found. The birds’ unique brand of habitat was a broad swatch of the central and oriental cordilleras of the Andes, in cloudforests at elevations between 6,000 and 9,000 feet. Altitude proved no sanctuary. European settlement brought deforestation, and hunters and weekend warriors would shoot everything that moved–including Ognorhynchus and the mountain tapirs, curious long-snouted herbivores that ingest and disseminate wax palm nuts.

By 1996 the species was presumed extinct. That year a flock of 30 Yellow-eared Parrots popped up in Ecuador, but by 1997 they had vanished. No one knows why.

Enter Salaman, a hotshot young birding guide leading 15 intrepid life-listers on a high-speed traverse of Colombia. One day a raucous flock of yellow-mustachioed birds flapped by. Salaman posted the unexpected sighting on a birding listserve. Within 18 months, with funding from Spain’s Loro Parque Foundation, a young Argentinian ornithologist was ensconced at a field station near the farming town of Roncesvalles in Tolima state; monitoring the newly discovered population of 61 birds.

To his surprise he found that the Ognorhynchus were barely nesting. They can’t cut through palm trunks on their own, he discovered. The parrots have to find a palm with a woodpecker hole. Or a dead palm decapitated by a storm, exposing the pith at the headless neck, down through which the birds can scoop a cavity. Unfortunately, Roncesvalles had long ago been stripped of cloudforest, and woodpeckers with it. The wax palms survived in pastures, tolerated because dead palms yield excellent fence posts–easily spilt and naturally water-resistant. Hence palms but few nests. Out of 30 possible pairs, only one nested; a single precious chick hatched.

The conservationists launched an awareness campaign: These birds are something to be proud of, the last of their kind in the world. You can help them.

“People responded,” Salaman says. They stopped taking potshots at the parrots. A sympathetic local priest counseled his human flock to protect the wax palms. And the avian flock began to prosper.

Three years later a sharp-eyed state forester in Jardín, 100 miles north of Roncesvalles in Antioquia state, heard squawking overhead and glimpsed something remarkably Ognorhynchus-like. Plunging headlong after it, the forester found 22 Yellow-eared Parrots’ merrily stripping fruit from a tree. The Roncesvalles team confirmed the find. And a young bird enthusiast began to search for dormitory sites–an epic task here where the cloudforest was still extensive and wax palms, once the dominant tree, mysteriously scarce.

On a Sunday in April three months later, the mystery of the missing palms was solved. From a balcony overlooking the plaza in Jardín, Jose Castaño, Salaman, and others watched as hundreds of joyous celebrants streamed behind Pastor Raul toward the church, each rattling a segment of quindío wax palm spear.

“The calculations were whizzing through our heads,” Salaman says. “There were enough branches to down there to account for what–200, 300 wax palms? Trees that don’t even flower until they are 25 years old. Protecting these parrots was going to be nothing like Roncesvalles. We would have to tackle this problem in a completely different way.”

In fact they’ve used “just about every tool in the kit,” says Salaman, and in working to save Ognorhynchus have improved the prospects for all of the region’s birds.

“First we thought, well we’ll ask the pastor for his support,” Castaño says. It had worked in Roncesvalles. Padre Raul, however, was an autocrat of the old school.

“It is God’s wish that the palm of Palm Sunday be wax palm,” he pronounced.

Then a forestry lawyer unearthed a wonderful fact: In 1985 Colombia had designated Ceroxylon quindiense its national tree. Chopping down a quindío wax palm, it turned out, is a federal offense. The conservationists had the law on their side. But what constituted their side, exactly? A clutch of ardent ornithologists, birders, and students without portfolio.

“You have to do these things properly,” Salaman says. “Build an organization, not just something you run out of your own bank account. So we got together near the end of the year in 1999, wrote some bylaws and a constitution, and kicked things off.”

“Oh! We were full of dreams and plans,” says Castaño, one of the first secretaries of the newly hatched ProAves, Colombia’s first national bird conservation organization and a BirdLife International collaborator. The founders (Castaño, Salaman, and eight others) started meeting landowners, monitoring the birds’ behavior, and instituting a public awareness campaign and a school program. The forestry lawyer sent an official letter hinting of repercussions if the church allowed use of the palms.

Padre Raul, the town’s priest, blew a gasket. Fulminating from the pulpit, he admonished parishioners to stand fast and keep using the palms, insisting that these were not the wax palm, and it was just a lie that the parrot nested in them. On Palm Sunday 2002, ProAves distributed balloons and all manner of branches in the square. The forestry police reluctantly confiscated quindío boughs before people joined the processional and fined their bearers.

In the end, perhaps in acknowledgement of the changing times, it was the church itself that broke the deadlock. Padre Raul was transferred. His successor was Padre Mario Agudelo, Jardín born and bred.

“God doesn’t care what branches we use,” Padre Mario announced to the ProAves staff in 2003. “Bring us some options.” Padre Mario initially chose bamboo. It was not a success. …

Flash forward to the present. The ProAves kids are doing a brisk business in the square selling iraka. Native, common, and abundant, it has been the sanctioned frond since bamboo was ditched in 2004. People are pouring in from the countryside–on horseback, squeezed onto motorcycles, packed into coffee-cooperative jeeps. The forestry police staked out the roads before dawn, looking for wax palms coming into town. Every year there have been fewer. This morning there are none.

“Sometimes people feel so daunted,” Paul Salaman says. “It’s so difficult to save species, they say, so expensive. Well, it turned out that the Yellow-eared Parrot was suffering from challenges that could be addressed. And its recovery–from the blink of extinction to more than 1,000 individuals–has been one of the most amazing in the Americas. I think there’s an important message for all of us here: Take heart.”

Please join Rainforest Trust to buy and save more threatened tropical habitats and make a real difference.

Key Purchase for Colombia

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range located in northwestern Colombia rises from the Caribbean beaches upwards to 5,775 meters and covers all eco-zones from tropical rainforest to glaciers and majestic snow-capped peaks. This ancient and isolated massif pre-dates the Andes and is considered one of the America’s most important locations for biodiversity and endemism. Although only 6,800 square kilometers–smaller than the state of Connecticut–the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta range boasts the highest concentration of bird endemism than any other place on the planet and is home to one of the planet’s highest concentrations of threatened and endemic birds, amphibians, and plants.

In early 2012, with support from our donors and a generous match from American Bird Conservancy, Rainforest Trust was able to assist our partner, Fundación ProAves, with the acquisition of a 604 acre property called “La Cumbre.” “La Cumbre” stands out as by far one of the single most important areas within the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains as it contains an important concentration of Santa Marta Wax Palms and the largest breeding population of Santa Marta Parakeet (the most reliable place to locate this species) and core surviving area of forest for the Santa Marta Toro, a nocturnal mammal that had been thought to be extinct for over 113 years and was just rediscovered in 2011.

Key Purchase for Buenaventura Reserve

El Oro Parakeet by Doug Wechsler
Buenaventure Reserve

A key piece of tropical forest has been saved for the Buenaventura Reserve in southwestern Ecuador, thanks in part to efforts by Rainforest Trust. In early December, the 318-acre “Dianita” property was acquired as part of Rainforest Trust efforts to protect the globally endangered El Oro Parakeet, of which less than 1,000 remain.

The addition of this new property to 4,000-acre reserve was the result of joint efforts by Rainforest Trust, Rainforest Trust, American Bird Conservancy, the Danish Ornithological Society, and Robert Wilson. The reserve, which is owned and managed by Rainforest Trust partner Fundación Jocotoco, protects no fewer than 15 globally threatened species, and is the most important single site for the endemic and Endangered El Oro Parakeet and the Ecuadorian Tapaculo.

There are only about 1,000 El Oro Parakeets in the wild, and the reserve is home to about one-fifth of them.

“Fortunately, those numbers have been steadily increasing as a result of a successful conservation campaign that includes the provision of nest boxes to supplement the scarcity of suitable nest-trees,” said Zoltan Waliczky, Jocotoco’s Executive Director.

The Buenaventura Reserve, in the heart of the El Oro Parakeet’s range in southwestern Ecuador, protects the largest remnant patch of a unique ecosystem that combines elements of tropical wet and dry forests. As little as 5% of this forest, which once spanned northern Peru and parts of the Ecuadorian Coast, may now remain. What is left is threatened by ongoing habitat destruction for agriculture and cattle pasture, making the Reserve vital for the conservation of the rare, endemic birds of the region. The Reserve had been separated into two parts, but these are now connected by the Dianita property, making it an extremely important purchase.

The newly acquired land is 70% cattle pasture, and will need to be restored–something that Fundación Jocotoco excels at doing. In the last three years, Jocotoco has planted more than 40,000 trees in Buenaventura Reserve alone, and over 600,000 plants in their network of eight private reserves, thanks to support from Scottish and Southern Energy and the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

In addition to the El Oro Parakeet and Ecuadorian Tapaculo, the Reserve also protects a stronghold site for the endangered Gray-backed Hawk. This species is typically found only in pairs but is commonly observed in greater numbers in the Reserve. Other threatened species of interest are the Rufous-headed Chachalaca, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Red-masked Parakeet, and Pacific Royal Flycatcher. More than 330 species of birds have been recorded at Buenaventura, of which at least 12 are classified as globally threatened; another 34 species are local endemics.

The Reserve also hosts tourists from around the world at the comfortable Umbrellabird Lodge, which is located less than an hour from the airport in Santa Rosa. A well-developed trail system and several bird feeders that attract numerous hummingbirds and songbirds make wildlife observation easy and enjoyable. Buenaventura is part of the Conservation Birding initiative, where any funds spent are reinvested into the operational costs of the reserve, assuring long-term conservation of the exquisite plants and animals found there.

 

264,000 Acres Saved at Ecuador’s Antisana Volcano

Antisana Volcano
Antisana Volcano
Antisana Volcano

Rainforest Trust is proud to announce the protection of 264,382 acres of tropical forests to paramo grasslands across the Antisana Volcano in Ecuador. This is one of the most significant conservation accomplishments in recent decades and comes after years of careful and dedicated work by Rainforest Trust and our partner in Ecuador, Fundación Jocotoco.

“The contiguous 264,382 acre land purchase around Volcan Antisana represents one of the greatest conservation successes ever in the Andes,” noted Dr. Robert Ridgely, Executive Director of Rainforest Trust and a primary driving force behind this success.

Please join us to buy and save more critical tropical habitats and make a real difference.

Antisana is an iconic Ecuadorian volcano standing over 18,700 feet high and made famous by the work there by Alexander von Humboldt. Antisana harbors one of the few remaining true mountain wilderness areas in the Tropical Andes. Surrounding the volcano, just east of Quito, are high-altitude paramo grasslands at 13,000 feet in elevation. These unique highland steppes give way to tropical forests on the Andean slopes that descend into the Amazon basin floor. This enormous but undeveloped area attracted the attention of conservationists in the 1980s, and the Ecuadorian government declared it an ecological reserve in 1993.

Even though the area was declared a reserve on paper, over 80% of the 296,520 acre Antisana Ecological Reserve was still privately owned and managed for cattle. This resulted in conflicts between the actual management of the area and conservation objectives, threatening a number of important species including the Andean Condor, the national bird of Ecuador. For years, conservationists, the private farm (Hacienda) owners, and the Ecuadorian government wanted to resolve these conflicts but were stalled by the enormity of the project.

Nearly 10 years ago, after witnessing the heart-wrenching destruction of a nesting colony of Silvery Grebes, Francisco “Pancho” Sornoza proposed that the Jocotoco Foundation should actively investigate the possibility of protecting Antisana. From then on, Robert Ridgely and Pancho have pushed forward stubbornly to find a way to protect Antisana. In spite of many setbacks along the way, they have achieved success with the help of many new supporters for the idea, some of whom were very unexpected. As Robert Ridgely wrote recently,

“I’ve written a lot about Vólcan Antisana over the past ten years….Looking back over our early proposals, what has actually been accomplished does differ from what we first proposed, but the results are impressive. I am very pleased to report that no less than 264,382 acres around Antisana have been preserved forever. Not only has Rainforest Trust and Fundación Jocotoco been involved, but our initiative has garnered the support of the Ecuadorian government and the municipal government of the City of Quito. Our original plan was to buy out the outstanding land title claims for the vast Antisana Ecological Reserve (239,989 acres) and then to purchase two of the adjoining haciendas (Antisana at 17,710 acres and Contadero Grande at 979 acres). Because of our interest in the Antisana area, and subsequent to the direct intervention of Rafael Correa, the President of Ecuador, Ecuador’s Environmental Ministry was galvanized to purchase the outstanding land titles of the Antisana Ecological Reserve further down on the east slope. In addition, Quito’s municipal water authority moved to purchase Haciendas Antisana and Contadero Grande, a purchase finalized only recently. For Ecuador these two purchases are a very big deal: never before had an Ecuadorian government entity made such a large purchase for conservation purposes. Indeed few such large purchases for conservation have been made by a Latin American government anywhere.”

Thus the Antisana Ecological Reserve is now fully state owned–a huge accomplishment. But several large private farms bordering the western edge of the reserve, including the gateway Hacienda Antisana and Sunfohuayco, were also critical to purchase and protect.

Once again with the support and encouragement of Rainforest Trust and Fundación Jocotoco, the Quito Water Authority (EMAAP) moved to purchase the 17,710-acre Hacienda Antisana and 979-acre Contadero Grande in September 2011. Finally, the last purchase to complete the historic protection of the fragile Antisana ecosystem was completed just last week–the day after Thanksgiving–when Fundación Jocotoco purchased the 5,681-acre Hacienda Sunfohuayco. This last piece of a critical ecological puzzle adds protection for high Andean native paramo grassland and polyepis forest, a move made possible by Rainforest Trust and thanks to the support of The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the Bobolink Foundation, the Blue Moon Fund, and donors like you.

Due to a long history of intensive grazing, Antisana’s ecosystems are significantly degraded, and this affects an important part of the watershed that supplies water to much of Quito. Nonetheless Antisana has outstanding biodiversity values which make it amply worthy of protection.

The goal of Rainforest Trust and Fundación Jocotoco, in collaboration with various actors in Ecuador such as the Ministry of Environment, the Quito Municipality, the Quito Water Authority (EMAAP), the Quito Water Fund (FONAG), and EcoFondo is to begin the process of reversing and correcting the damage to these natural ecosystems and to return Antisana to its former glory. In time Antisana will serve as an example of an accessible but little-disturbed high Andean ecosystem benefitting the citizens of Ecuador and the world at large.

The conservation value of Antisana
Tropical Andean cloud forests such as are found at Antisana are considered the world’s number one biodiversity priority due to their species richness, endemism, and degree of risk; they harbor multitudes of rare and endangered species. On the other hand, the páramo ecosystem, although not as rich in species, harbors many rare and endemic species of fauna and flora which are threatened by grazing and fires.

The acquisitions of these haciendas will help control access to the reserve and will reverse the process of ecosystem degradation by grazing cattle and sheep. It will also help control the illegal hunting of the remaining populations of cougars, Andean wolves, condors, and ibis. The páramo areas have particular importance for biodiversity, including the only main populations of Andean Condor, Silvery Grebe, and Black-faced Ibis in Ecuador. The lakes, marshes, and bogs provide important habitat for both resident and migratory shorebirds as well as many special waterfowl. There are also important populations of big mammals such as Spectacled Bear, Puma, and Andean Wolf.

Antisana is one of the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) sites of Ecuador due to the presence of no less than three species of threatened frogs of the genus Pristimantis.

Overall, this integrated conservation area conserves one of the largest protected gradients in the world, stretching from 3,900 up to 18,875 feet above sea level, critically important in a time of climate change. Importantly, Antisana is connected to two adjacent protected areas, both of them very large: the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve to the north and the Gran Sumaco National Park to the East. Together with Antisana, this conservation mosaic safeguards 1.8 million acres of critical and biologically diverse Andean and Amazonian ecosystems.

The Antisana project, an unparalleled success years in the making, showcases an exciting and exemplary private-public partnership to purchase and save one of the greatest remaining wilderness areas in the Tropical Andes.

Please join us to buy and save more critical tropical habitats and make a real difference.

Resurgence of Wildlife at Blue-throated Macaw Reserve

Blue-throated Macaw: less than 400 survive
Maned Wolf: IUCN Red Listed
The Beni Savannas: a mosaic wilderness

An island of protected native habitat, purchased and saved by Rainforest Trust donors, in a sea of hunted and overgrazed cattle ranches is like a magnet for wildlife. Our job has been trying to ensure that we can accommodate them all. If last year could be thought of as the year herbivorous mammals discovered the protective advantages of our reserve, this year could be described as the year predators discovered those mammals. Jaguars, pumas, manned wolves, ocelots, jaguarundis, and possible bush dogs all staked claim in the Barba Azul Nature Reserve this year. This is all part of the succession of a natural ecosystem, but many of these mammals need a larger protected range to maintain natural populations.

Barba Azul Nature Reserve now protects 12,300 acres of forest islands, tropical savanna, marshes and a pristine freshwater ecosystem in Bolivia thanks to Rainforest Trust donor support in 2009 and 2010. We are galloping to keep up with natures pace to recuperate. It was glorious to see the tropical savanna flourish without the grazing pressure of 2,000 head of cattle. A diversity of tall grasses covering the landscape offer new breeding spots for the endangered Cock-tailed Tyrant, Black-masked Finch, and Sharp-tailed Tyrant. Pampas Deer, Marsh Deer, and Giant Anteater all becoming abundant in the plentiful grasses. But by the end of 2010, we were well aware the years of tall grass was building up a high fuel load potential for invading fires. All the surrounding cattle ranches yearly burn their grasses for fresh fodder for their cattle. Our protected landscape was now a threat to the savanna but also to the forest islands that are required by the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaws, the highest concentration of the macaws in the world with 35 to 110 birds using the reserve at any one time.

It took nearly a week to build 47 miles of firebreak surrounding and safely protecting the forest islands and dividing the reserve into 11 fire-safe segments. We dug barriers to basically create a flattened fire break trail, which then could then be easily mowed for long-term maintenance. A fantastic by-product of these priority firebreaks is that they will also serve as easy trails for accessing the complete reserve. The firebreaks will be our base trails, where we can then develop thinner foot trails to more specific habitats. The next step is to plan a patch-burn system to offer a mosaic of grassland habitat in the region and to avoid a build up of dead grass fuel that would burn too hot if ever alight.

There are many steps to taking a functioning cattle ranch and turning it into a sustainable nature reserve. We have completed a field station with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, and storage area. Each bedroom has four bunk beds to accommodate the maximum number of students and researchers. Our runway, which worked just fine for a simple cattle ranch, quickly became an obstacle once we started contracting the best small aircraft pilots in Bolivia for tourist visits. What was good enough for local pilots was in poor shape, in the wrong direction for the prevailing winds, and too short (400 yards) for the safest pilots. We have now completed a level, correctly positioned, and long grass runway (765 yards–7 football fields) to receive the most particular of pilots–which is what we want.

The protection effort is worth it as we see more and more animals take advantage of our safe home. This year we recorded Blue-throated Macaws daily using the different forest islands with seven pairs raising recently fledged juveniles. The threatened Orinoco goose bred at least 30 chicks along our protected Omi river. Small mammal numbers decreased clearly because of higher numbers of feline predators utilizing our hunter-free sanctuary.

This area is the only known site in the world with concentrations of the Blue-throated Macaw. Outside of this rare site, the Blue-throated Macaw survives in isolated pairs on private ranches with hundreds of miles between individuals. It is critical that we can protect as much of this area as possible. We need your help expanding the reserve to ensure the survival of this stunning macaw and to provide greater protection for the Beni’s threatened wildlife.

Click here to donate to help protect this unique reserve.

10,000-mile Bike Ride Benefits Atlantic Forest

Samuel Hagler: riding with purpose
Mr. Hans Swegen, fifth from right
Hope for Paraguay's Atlantic Forest

The acquisition of a 678-acre property in the Paraguayan Atlantic rainforest has been completed by Rainforest Trust partner Association Guyra Paraguay thanks to the support of Ride For The Trees by Samuel Hagler, Peery Foundation, Mr. Hans Swegen, and others. The new protected area, called the Swegen Forest, saves part of the San Rafael National Park that was privately owned by a colonist.

On January 1, 2009, Samuel Hagler set out on an epic journey in an effort to raise awareness about the plight of forests worldwide and to do his part to help protect one of the last remaining fragments of Atlantic Forest. For the next 16 months, Hagler endured countless trials including: bee attacks, extreme cold and heat, robberies, and illness.

“Ride for the Trees” was a 10,000 mile Environmental Bicycle Tour through 14 countries–starting at the San Rafael Reserve in Paraguay and finishing in Arizona in the United States. The more than year long adventure garnered $23,000 in donations from the Peery Foundation and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Hagler’s endurance and commitment have provided important support to the heavily depleted Atlantic Rainforest of Paraguay.

Since 2001, Guyra Paraguay has been buying private lands within San Rafael National Park to secure the future of this important site. By 2010 our partner had purchased 11 properties totaling an area of 16,697 acres. Mr. Swegen recently visited the area, and together with the Cacique Chaparro from Arroyo Moroti, walked in its primary forest. Swegen’s generosity, coupled with funds raised by Hagler during his ride, have led to these critical reserve additions.

The Swegen Forest will now be managed as a “socio-environmental condominium” in a joint agreement between Guyra Paraguay and the Arroyo Moroti indigenous community. The objective of this agreement is to commit both Guyra Paraguay and the indigenous community to protect the 678 acres for biodiversity conservation and protect the ancestral territories of the Mbya People, whereby only traditional uses and practices are allowed.

Rainforest Trust congratulates all involved for their incredible conservation efforts.