December 4, 2023

By Diane Jeantet | Related Press

RIO DE JANEIRO — Dozens of younger individuals kneeled underneath the scorching solar this week in Rio de Janeiro’s rural inside, planting a inexperienced hall that will probably be a future protected passageway for an emblematic and endangered species, the golden lion tamarin.

The 300 tree seedlings they planted this week — solely inches tall at current — will ultimately join two patches of forest collectively. It’s the newest in a sequence of incremental forest progress initiatives pushed by environmentalists, offering an ever-larger habitat for the monkey.

Till not too long ago, the naked and dry land they had been replanting belonged to a ranch proprietor who had torn down its bushes for cattle pasture.

Rampant deforestation over centuries has decimated this a part of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, the one place on the earth the place the small, copper-colored monkey whose face is framed by a silken mane could be discovered. With fewer than 5,000 people, it’s thought-about an endangered species.

“One of many greatest issues is the fragmentation of the forest,” stated Luís Paulo Ferraz, govt director of the Golden Lion Tamarin Affiliation, identified by its Portuguese acronym AMLD. “In any other case the monkeys begin mating inside their very own households.”

Ferraz says monkeys are too scared to cross the few hundred meters of naked land that typically separate two isles of inexperienced vegetation, fearing they could change into the prey of bigger predators, resembling huge cats. Therefore the necessity for inexperienced corridors.

Applauding their effort Friday was Sarah Darwin, the nice great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin. The British botanist was joined by a handful of younger naturalists who’re retracing the sailboat expedition taken by Charles Darwin almost 200 years in the past that led to his principle of evolution.

“He arrived within the Brazilian Mata Atlantica forest and had a second of readability … a peak expertise, the place he felt at one with nature,” Darwin stated as she entered the forest, identified for its astonishing range of mosses, ferns and different vegetation. Within the cover above, the small golden monkeys with lengthy tails had been leaping from one department to a different. “Some of the enduring experiences of his life,” she added.

Earlier than colonization by the Portuguese within the sixteenth century, the Atlantic forest biome coated 330 million acres (greater than 500,000 sq. miles) close to and alongside Brazil’s coast. Lower than 15% of that is still as we speak, in accordance with The Nature Conservancy.

Within the particular area of the Atlantic forest the place golden lion tamarins could be discovered, the forest is down to simply 2% of its authentic dimension, Ferraz stated.

Sugar cane and occasional plantations had been the principle driver of early deforestation. Then got here city improvement and cattle pastures. Within the Nineteen Seventies, when scientists started efforts to save lots of the species, there have been simply 200 golden lion tamarins left, in accordance with AMLD.

In Brazil, the animal turned an emblem for wildlife preservation, even that includes on the nation’s 20-real invoice.

In latest occasions, the science and conservation nonprofit has been buying land from farmers and cattle ranch house owners, which they then reforest, one patch at a time. They purchased a primary parcel of 137 hectares (339 acres) in 2018, and one other of 180 hectares (445 acres) in November.

The method is sluggish and costly, because it requires heavy and common upkeep, particularly within the first few years. However it’s rewarding.