BirdLife: The Magazine June 2017 - Page 52

PREVENTING EXTINCTIONS CHERRY-PICKED REFUGE Over 85% of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest has been felled – but life clings to the fragments that remain. A newly created reserve will ensure that one of these fragments, and the Critically Endangered tanager that lives there, can endure for the foreseeable future Alice Reisfeld J ust five hundred years ago, the Atlan- tic Forest formed a thick green blanket across the east coast of Brazil. Then settlers arrived from Europe, sparking one of the most terrifying rates of deforestation the world has ever seen. Today, plantations and quarries stand where 88% of the Atlantic Forest once proudly stood. All that remains of this vital ecosystem today are scattered patches of degraded, frag- mented forest. The decimation of the Atlantic Forest is an on- going tragedy for biodiversity. Despite only be- ing a fraction of its former glory, the Atlantic Forest is still home to a huge number of plants 52 Cherry-throated Tanager Nemosia rourei. Photo Ciro Albino 0 PLANTATIONS AND QUARRIES STAND WHERE 88% OF THE FOREST ONCE PROUDLY STOOD and animals – enough, in fact, to rival the more famous Amazon. Even in its current state, new species are being discovered all the time in the fragments that rem ain – or in the case of the Cherry-throated Tanager Nemosia rourei (Crit- ically Endangered) – rediscovered. This colourful tanager was known only from a single specimen, shot in 1870, for many decade before its dramatic rediscovery in the 1990s. How- ever, the species remains staggeringly rare, with an estimated global population of less than 200 adult birds. It may be that there are further pop- ulations out there, skulking in as yet unexplored BIRDLIFE • JUNE 2017 fragments of the depleted Atlantic Forest, but for now all we can do is protect the habitats that host the populations we do know about. In May this year, there was a major advancement on this front – the establishment of a 1,688 hec- tare refuge protecting one of the last strong- holds of this beleaguered species. The newly created Águia Branca Private Reserve now rep- resents the second largest private protected area in the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo. SAVE Brasil (BirdLife Partner) has been active in the region since 2005, and has supported Grupo Águia Branca (one of the country’s larg- est transportation and logistics companies) in the creation of this private reserve, which is lo- cated between two state parks, Forno Grande, and Pedra Azul. For many years, SAVE Brasil has also been working alongside the state govern- ment for the creation of a 4,300 hectare wildlife refuge adjacent to the private reserve. The pub- lic consultations were held in April 2016, but the process is still ongoing. This area, which is recognised by BirdLife as a priority Important Bird & Biodiversity Area (IBA), is home to over 250 bird species, of which six are globally threatened: none more so than the Cherry-throated Tanager. The Cherry-throated Tanager occurs primarily in the canopy of humid JUNE 2017 • BIRDLIFE The newly created Águia Branca Private Reserve. Photo Pedro Develey/ SAVE Brasil 0 THERE MAY BE LESS THAN 50 INDIVIDUALS IN THE WORLD montane forests at elevations between 850 to 1,250 metres. Single individuals or groups of up to ten birds can be found and they are occa- sionally associated with mixed-species flocks. The population is estimated at only 50-249 in- dividuals. Sadly, occasional records are always of small groups of two or three individuals ob- served at the same site, which indicates that the same individuals are observed over and over again. Therefore, there may be less than 50 in- dividuals in the world. The Caetés region is also important for five other globally threatened birds: White-necked Hawk Leucopternis lacernulata; Brown-backed Parrotlet Touit melanonotus; Golden-tailed Par- rotlet Touit surdus; Vinaceous Amazon Amazona vinacea; and Bare-throated Bellbird Procnias nudicollis. Threatened mammals also occur in this region, including Buffy-headed Marmoset Callithrix flaviceps (Endangered), and Brown- throated Sloth Bradypus variegatus. The creation of the private reserve represents an important victory for the long-term conservation of the these species, and it is hoped that it will accelerate the process of creating the proposed public protected area, conserving a total of 6,000 hectares of a unique Atlantic Forest habitat. Now, that really would be the cherry on top. 53