Land Purchase to Protect the Southern Woolly Spider Monkey
Southern Woolly Spider Monkey. Photo by Miguel Rangerl Jr./flickr.
The Atlantic Rainforest in Brazil is one of the world’s most threatened biodiversity hotspots. Originally spanning over 500,000 square miles, less than 10 percent of the forest remains. Rainforest Trust has been supporting Brazilian partner Reserva Ecologica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) for over a decade to purchase and protect this severely threatened rainforest.
By strategically purchasing rainforest acres in Brazil’s Guapiaçu Valley, which is about 40 miles from the metropolis of Rio de Janeiro, REGUA has created a secure 22,466-acre reserve that provides critical protection for many of the Atlantic Rainforest’s most threatened species, such as the Endangered Southern Woolly Spider Monkey. However, as development pressures from Rio expand into the valley, the integrity of the local ecosystem faces mounting challenges.
To combat this threat, Rainforest Trust is helping REGUA purchase a strategically-placed 1,992-acre parcel to expand the reserve to 24,458 acres. This titled parcel contains Endangered Southern Woolly Spider Monkeys and establishes a protected corridor linking properties previously acquired by REGUA.
Bare-throated Bellbird. Photo by Patricia van Casteren/ Flickr
REGUA Reserve, including the new parcel to be purchased, safeguards essential habitat for 60 mammal species, including Pumas, Ocelots, Jaguarundis, Three-toed Sloths and South America’s largest and rarest primate, the Endangered Southern Woolly Spider Monkey. There are fewer than 1,500 of these threatened primates left in the wild, and the species is expected to have an additional population decline in the coming years if its habitat continues to be fragmented. Additionally, the Vulnerable South American Tapir, which is currently extirpated in the State of Rio de Janeiro, will be reintroduced in the reserve before the end of the year. The South American Tapir is one of the largest mammals on the continent and is known for its importance in seed dispersal.
REGUA supports 466 bird species, 118 of which are endemic to the Atlantic Rainforest. Twelve bird species are listed as Endangered or Vulnerable, including the Brown-backed Parrotlet. Endangered Black-fronted Piping-guans will be reintroduced to the reserve in the near future. The reserve also supports 204 dragonfly and damselfly species, 73 amphibian species, 37 reptile species (30 percent of which are endemic) and over 100 species of orchids.
Atlantic rainforest converted to pastoral land. Photo by CIFOR
Urbanization, agriculture and deforestation all threaten the fragmented remaining Atlantic Rainforest. Fueled by development projects related to the World Cup and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, land prices in the Guapiaçu Valley have increased significantly. Proposed development projects threaten to further fragment forests in the valley.
Local schoolchildren visit REGUA. Photo by Will Freeman
Rainforest Trust’s partner REGUA recognizes that it can only succeed in protecting Atlantic Rainforest through collaboration with local communities. With an active education and community outreach program as well as workshop offerings for university students, REGUA has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to involving local citizens in their conservation work. All of REGUA’s nine forest guards come from the local villages. Some of REGUA’s best guards are former hunters and are excellent trackers; these guards play an instrumental role in successfully deterring poachers from the REGUA Reserve.
REGUA is strategically expanding its borders to protect wildlife in the Guapiacu valley. Photo by Sue Healy
Rainforest Trust will work together with REGUA to purchase 1,992 acres to expand the REGUA reserve and provide much needed protection for its endemic and endangered species. This parcel contains a population of Endangered Southern Woolly Spider Monkeys and will be suitable habitat for the reintroduced South American Tapirs and Black-fronted Piping-guans. This purchase is part of a larger strategic plan to expand the reserve throughout the entire Guapiaçu Valley and reconnect forest fragments, creating essential wildlife corridors.