December 16, 2018: 2018 has been such a wonderful year for SavingSpecies, and we’re extremely grateful for your support. Next year promises to be even more exciting, for we have new projects, several of our corridor projects are at critical stages, and some nearing completion.
We now have corridor projects in Colombia, India, and Sumatra (Indonesia), and three each in Ecuador and Brazil, with other projects likely to come online soon. For the first time, we started actively monitoring our restoration efforts with drones, camera traps, and gigapans, in addition to utilizing our satellite imagery.
The media were kind — including a full page spread in the New York Times.
We recruited our first executive director, Erin Willigan, and with some wonderful supporters, we both visited almost all our projects.
That’s such a breathless list that I can only share some personal highlights of our work.
Highlights of Our Work
Indonesia: Sumatra—we launched a new corridor program by helping our local partner Leuser Conservation Forum (FKL) purchase 37 hectares. Our long-term goal is to develop substantial connections in the Leuser Ecosystem of Aceh and northern Sumatra for elephants, orangutans, rhinos, and tigers. The new corridor will allow these and other threatened species—under threat from habitat loss and poaching—to safely access and traverse a river and the protected forests north and south.
Ecuador: Chocó Rainforests—we continued to make purchases with our partner Fundación Jocotoco, including connecting two isolated protected areas forming an approximately 4,500 hectares of contiguous protected land. In addition, we were able to acquire hundreds of hectares to help block the construction of a logging road by an aggressive logging company. Construction of this road threatened to eviscerate thousands of hectares of untouched, delicate forests that are home to numerous endemic and threatened species. Also in jeopardy were vulnerable communities of indigenous people.
Galapagos Islands, San Cristobal Island—with our partner Jatun-Sacha Foundation we launched a significant multi-year effort of land conservation and ecological restoration. Our project provides a critical 10-hectare foothold for restoration and invasive species eradication, specifically to help the critically endangered Galapagos petrel (Pterodroma phaeopygia). The parcel we protected in April 2018 is located high in the Miconia flora-zone where Galapagos petrels nest and is just the first of what we hope will be other acquisitions to help recover this magnificent species.
Colombia: Cloud Forests of the Western Andes—with our partner Fundación Colibrí, we are completing a major 1,000-hectare purchase that protects endemic Dracula orchids, threatened hummingbirds, and the recently-discovered olinguito. This acquisition extends protection from a river valley up an elevational gradient to include a large swath of primary forest near the border of other protected areas. At SavingSpecies, we do not brag about how much land we have bought, but how much forest we have reconnected. This project alone will connect 10,000 hectares of isolated forest to more continuous forests to the west.
Brazil: Guapiaçu Watershed of the Atlantic Coastal Forest of southeast Brazil—we launched a new programme with our partner REGUA to protect an ecologically significant region of the Mata Atlántica. Our first purchase concluded in November and made a vital connection that is strategically invaluable to conservation. This 50 meter-wide corridor connects the valley floor to a 2,500-hectare forested ridge higher in the mountains. It helps protect an important watershed that harbors many threatened species and provides ecosystem services to Rio de Janiero.
Atlantic Forest, Fazenda Igarapé. Following the success of our first project in Brazil with our partners The Golden Lion Tamarin Association we launched and implemented an even more ambitious programme of acquisition and restoration this year. After forest cover came back within just a few years of our first project there, golden lion tamarins soon used it to disperse to new homes.
We next set our sights on the second major reserve, Poço das Antes. That needed two miracles: land on the north side of one of Brazil’s busiest roads to reforest and a habitat bridge over that highway to connect that land to the reserve on the south side. Through the generous support of our Netherlands-based partner DOB Ecology we raised the funds two years ago. Our partners bought the land with those funds in January, and work on the bridge started last month.
Measuring Our Impact
SavingSpecies, keen to measure our impact and further contribute to conservation science, was awarded a special grant to do field work this year. So, in June I set off with students from Duke University to put camera traps into the forests around the world that SavingSpecies has helped restore.
Simply, our reforested corridors work — and they work far more quickly than I expected. We now have camera traps in Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, and Sumatra.
For example, in Ecuador the first trap we set-up captured an ocelot walking past on the very first night. It’s a lovely, if not a particular rare cat, but I was thrilled. It shows that even after three years, the still-growing forests provide habitats through which birds and mammals can pass — places that would have been unsuitable when it was cattle pasture.
To help the world see how our conservation and science impacts biodiversity, we now have a YouTube channel for SavingSpecies. Please subscribe to it!
These camera trap data are grist to our science mill of analysing which species use the corridors as the forests grow back, of course. But I find them enormously fun — baby monkeys playing, a family of porcupines in Sumatra, a family of otters in Brazil, a pair of sun bears, some unusual and very hard to spot birds, too. (I’ve never seen the Malay banded pitta — they’re gorgeous — and we filmed two of them.)
We also flew drone missions across most of our sites to get high resolution images of our work. We’re still running the software to stitch together the hundreds of images taken into a huge, seamless image of the projects — and we’ll post links when we’ve done.
I also took gigapans — hundreds of images that are stitched into one. Click here to see one from Colombia. It’s hard to line up single images taken years apart, but much easier with gigapans that can cover a 360 degree view. Comparing this composite photo to the one we took just a few years ago shows how well the forest is coming back on the hillside to the right of the cabin.
Oh, and I could go on, but I’ve used up my word limit. To learn even more, visit explore our website and see the new and expanding projects we have.
And please consider a donation to SavingSpecies. Your support is essential to expanding our mission to connect, protect, and restore forests and habitat for biodiversity.