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Photos | The Jaguar Ecological Preserve | Ecotourism & Biodiversity Preservation
Atlantic Forest Corridors | Stop the Burning in the Amazon! | Our People

Atlantic Forest CorridorsBrazil's Atlantic forests are 60 million years old. They thrived for 20 million years before the Andes rose up, reversed the flow of the great river, and the Amazon Basin was formed. Consequently, the highest biodiversity on the South American continent is found here. It is often compared to Madagascar, both for its unique biodiversity, and its threatened existence. With around 97% of the original forest gone, that which remains is in "islands" of forest, surrounded by grazed hillsides, sugar cane and coffee plantations.

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The Caratinga Biological Station is a private reserve covering over 2,000 acres in the eastern part of Minas Gerais. For nearly 20 years, an ongoing research project has studied a group of Muriqui, Brachyteles arachniodes. Formerly known of as the Woolly Spider Monkey, this is the largest primate in the Americas, and the largest mammal endemic to Brazil. The problem is that these, and the other three rare primate species that occur here, are experiencing a growth in their population. Within ten years, they are likely to outgrow their forests.

Forests cover the tops of hills throughout the region. Farmers, ranchers, and villages left these to protect the watersheds. The Focus Conservation Fund is working with the Caratinga Biological Station to build corridors between these forested hilltops and the Station.

A couple of factors work in our favor. Unlike most of the Amazonian soils, the land here will reforest if left fallow and grazing is not allowed. Land left to return would do so relatively quickly. The other factor is that the primates in effect choose which trees they want to grow. Seeds from fruit the Muriqui eat pass through its digestive system. These seeds grow 20% to 30% faster than seeds that have not made the journey. A small nursery is growing trees from these seeds. By collecting more seeds and increasing the size of the nursery, we will have fruiting trees to add to the natural forest that would return. These will help draw animals to the newly forests.

We can negotiate corridor lands with landowners. With fences to keep cattle out of some of the areas, we can also fence crossings through the corridor that the cattle can use for shade. This will provide a benefit for ranchers. Work done in the area by Eduardo Veado, the director of the Caratinga Biological Station and a number of the FCF Scientific Board, has made protecting the Muriqui popular, and we expect to be able to negotiate land easily. For a relatively small amount of money, we will actually increase the amount of this rich forest and the amount of habitat the endangered primates and other endemic creatures can use.

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