Hawkmoths of  Brazil  by Alan Martin

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The Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA)

The Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) is located in the Serra dos Orgaos about 70 kilometres north of Rio de Janeiro and was established as a private non-profit association in 2001 with a mission to protect the biodiversity of the upper Guapiaçu river basin. REGUA currently protects over 25,000 acres of forest from 35 metres to over 2,000 metres above sea level.

Whilst the prime objective has been to provide protection from deforestation, hunting and exploitation of forest products, REGUA has also been working to restore areas that have been damaged through poor land management in the past. In the 11 years to 2016 over 400,000 saplings grown from seeds collected in the forest have been planted, and a 45 acre wetland has been re-created on land that was drained in the 1960s. As well as restoring its own land, REGUA hopes that its successes will demonstrate to other landowners that habitat creation and restoration is possible and practical in this area of south-east Brazil.

Right from the start, REGUA realised that its conservation work could never succeed unless the local residents supported and understood the importance of protecting the unique and threatened environment in which they live. REGUA employs a part-time education officer who works with the local schools and communities, and each year a growing number of children, teenagers and their parents visit the reserve to learn about biodiversity, habitat restoration and broader environmental issues.

By the end of 2016, 476 bird species including 61 endemics to Brazil and 117 endemics to the Atlantic Rainforest have been observed within the reserve boundaries, and these include 12 species classified as ‘Threatened’ and 26 as ‘Near-threatened’ by Birdlife International. The reserve is also home to several small troops of the rare Muriqui or Woolly-spider Monkey, the largest primate found in the Neotropics.

Whilst the early research at REGUA was largely focused on birds, subsequent studies on a wide range of species from arachnids to zooplankton have confirmed the quality and range of biodiversity found in the major forest blocks and the wetlands.  REGUA’s location close to Rio, and its excellent study facilities make it a an ideal place to conduct field research and consequently REGUA has developed good working relationships with both Rio and Sao Paulo Universities. There is now a wide range of research projects in progress, from establishing detailed inventories of the many taxonomic groups found in the reserve, to more complex and long-term studies such as evaluating the impact of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity.

Most of the funding for the project has come through two UK-based charities, the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust and the World Land Trust, however in order to diversify its funding REGUA has established a Bird Lodge overlooking the new wetlands. This Lodge provides comfortable accommodation for individuals and small groups keen to explore the reserve’s network of trails accompanied by REGUA’s two excellent bird guides, and to see for themselves REGUA’s important conservation work.

Further information on REGUA and details of how to visit the reserve can be found at www.regua.org.