Dr. Stuart Pimm, Founder and President of SavingSpecies, provides the following report on the progress for the golden lion tamarin restoration project after his December 2012 visit there:
At the end of November, I was invited to attend and present at the 20th Anniversary of the Golden Lion Tamarin Association. It was a wonderful event, celebrating 20 years of a programme that rescued the tamarins from the very brink of extinction — a couple of hundred individuals — to the 1700 in the wild now. And, of course, SavingSpecies played a vital role on this with our raising money for a key land purchase — Fazenda Dourado.
This was a hugely significant purchase. First of all, it connects the largest remaining block of lowland forest, Reserva União to forests elsewhere and uphill.
Second, the management of the Reserva now wants to include all the connected forests into one huge protected area and are making plans to do so. This will create 72 square kilometres of protected forest — a huge area for this part of the Mata Atlântica, which is so badly fragmented. The new director of the Reserva was hugely excited as he told me this — and very grateful indeed for our purchase making it possible.
Third, in a way I did not anticipate, our efforts have inspired and motivated our Brazilian colleagues to find ways to create other corridors. This was a very exciting meeting.
What was even more exciting was the visit to the land itself. I’ve tried to capture some sense of what our efforts here have achieved in three satellite images and two photos below.
The first satellite image is from May 2007. The existing reserve is the isolated block of forest, centred on the W 42 02 marker. In addition to holding one of the largest populations of the tamarin, our models predict this fragment has the largest numbers of endangered birds in all of the Americas. It probably holds the largest numbers of all other threatened species too — this is a very rich hotspot, in very serious trouble, and this is its best bit.
The forest to the west, just connects at the western end to a huge, mountain state park, at W42 10. Connecting all these pieces was vitally important.
The third image shows the same place this October. The reforestation efforts have mostly closed the gap. Indeed, it’s even better than it looks from this image, because in what appear to be open areas are hundreds of small trees – you can see them in you zoom in — that were planted this year. (The restoration is a combination of natural growth and deliberate plantings of the most open areas.)
Finally, images 4 and 5 have before and after shots, looking south, down the valley. In 2007, this was a very badly degraded cattle pasture, with the isolated forest on the left.
Now, the forest is coming back wonderfully quickly. Some areas have trees that are 4 metres tall already. Indeed, at the bottom end of the valley, most of the trees are already this tall. Where we stood in a cattle pasture a few years ago is now a rapidly growing forest.
And yes, tamarins are now able to disperse through it.
This has been a spectacularly successful project. Of course, we have a lot more such connections to make.