LOCATION: Serra Bonita mountain range, eastern Brazil
SIZE: 333 acres
KEY SPECIES: Yellow-breasted Capuchin, 11 other primate species, 330 bird species, and world's #1 diversity of butterfly speciesHABITAT: Moist Foothill Rainforest
The lush rainforest carpeting the Serra Bonita mountain range in eastern Brazil represents the last significant example of a unique habitat that supports rare and endemic flora and fauna. The area is at the heart of an urgent conservation initiative by our Brazilian partner, Instituto Uiracu, to strategically purchase private properties to expand the Serra Bonita Reserve.
Wildlife surveys across an area roughly five times the area of Central Park in New York City have found 458 species of trees, 330 species of birds, and the world's greatest diversity of moths and butterflies with a staggering 5,000 species at one site (more species than all of North America).
In addition, the area is home to 12 primate species including the Critically Endangered Yellow-breasted Capuchin. WLT-US is assisting Instituto Uiracu with the purchase and protection of 333 acres to expand the existing protected areas to a total of 5,000 acres. Through the incorporation of these new lands, this reserve will prevent the further destruction of this unique habitat, which contains the highest levels of biological diversity and endemism in Brazil. As part of one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world- Atlantic rainforests--it is currently considered as one of the highest priorities for global conservation efforts.
The properties being sold around the reserve are prime lands for deforestation and agriculture development. There is a high risk that farming cooperatives will acquire these properties if we do not act soon. Rich forest areas that are ideal for farming are often very expensive in Brazil, but our partner has negotiated prices of around $450 per acre.
The Serra Bonita Reserve is an innovative conservation model comprising an assemblage of private properties totaling 4,400 acres and located in the Serra Bonita Mountain Range. Instituto Uiracu was created to manage and expand this reserve with the long-term goal of protecting the whole Serra Bonita Mountain Range, located 25 miles west of the Atlantic Ocean and 10 miles from the small town of Camacan (pop. 23,892), and within a transition zone between tropical evergreen rainforest to semi-deciduous tropical forest. It comprises important lowland to premontane Atlantic Forest between 600 - 3,100 feet elevation.
Serra Bonita's distribution of protected native forests along an elevational gradient are providing an important refuge to many animal species that have benefited from the conservation efforts begun in 2003. Prior to that time, logging and hunting were commonplace and had been for decades. Ancient hardwoods rich in epiphytic life were felled, and native palms were cut to obtain their edible "hearts," thereby depriving the forest's animals of their dependable, abundant, and important supply of palm nuts. Traps and snares for wildlife in the forests were commonplace, as were hunters roaming with firearms in search of peccaries, agoutis, and armadillos. Spider and wooly monkeys were another common target, with the latter, the "muriqui," becoming locally extirpated.
This situation has been reversed over the past nine years of active conservation, and many threatened species have returned to the Serra Bonita. The puma (Felis concolor), is now common and its presence demonstrates that these prey species numbers have increased. Frequently seen primates include the capuchin, marmoset, and the titi monkies. The Yellow-breasted Capuchin (Cebus xanthosternos) populations have increased substantially since the Serra Bonita Reserve was established. Groups are frequently seen (up to 28!) around the research center and lodge, as well as by the rangers in other parts of the reserve. A group of the Golden-headed Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas) has also been observed.
To date, new species to science include: plants (40), birds (2), frogs (6), snakes (1), lizards (2), wasps (3), bees (2), and moths (>1,000). Preliminary studies carried out by Santa Cruz State University and New York Botanical Gardens have already identified over 1,000 vascular plants and indicate at least 15 undescribed plant species including one new species of orchid.
Map of the Project Area
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