The lush rainforest carpeting Serra Bonita mountain range in eastern Brazil represents the last significant example of a unique habitat that supports rare and endemic flora and fauna. The area is at the heart of an urgent conservation initiative by our Brazilian partner, Instituto Uiracu to strategically purchase private properties to expand the Serra Bonita Reserve.
Serra Bonita's distribution of protected native forests along an elevational gradient are providing an important refuge to many animal species that have benefited from the conservation efforts begun in 2003. Prior to that time logging and hunting were commonplace, and had been for decades. Ancient hardwoods rich in epiphytic life were felled and native palms were cut to obtain their edible "hearts", thereby depriving the forest's animals of their dependable, abundant and important supply of palm nuts. Traps and snares for wildlife in the forests were commonplace, as were hunters roaming with firearms in search of peccaries, agoutis, and armadillos. Spider and wooly monkeys were another common target, with the later, the "muriqui", becoming locally extirpated.
This situation has been reversed over the past nine years of active conservation and many threatened species have returned to the Serra Bonita. The puma (Felis concolor), is now common and its presence demonstrates that these prey species numbers have increased. Frequently seen primates include the capuchin, marmoset, and the titi monkies. The Yellow-breasted capuchin (Cebus xanthosternos) populations have increased substantially since the SBR was established. Groups are frequently seen (up to 28!!) around the research center and lodge, as well as by the rangers in other parts of the reserve. A group of the Golden-headed Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas) has also been observed.
To date, new species to science include: plants (40), birds (2), frogs (6), snakes (1), lizards (2), wasps (3), bees (2), and moths (>1,000). Preliminary studies carried out by the Santa Cruz State University and New York Botanical Gardens have already identified over 1,000 vascular plants and indicate at least 15 undescribed plant species including one new species of orchid.