Despite a clear ban on illegal wildlife trafficking, the capture and sale of wild animals is financially attractive and therefore booming in the Ribeira Valley. This activity threatens not only the diversity of species, but also the ecological balance of this protected area. Furthermore, it is estimated that up to 90 percent of these traded creatures do not survive the miserable conditions they are subjected to between their capture and final destination.
Various species, native to the Atlantic Forest, can be found on the Red List of Threatened Species, including the tiger cat (oncilla, gato-do-mato-pequeno, leopardus tigrinus) and the lion tamarin (leontopithecus). The latter of these is a very rare sight around the forest today and this rarity makes the lion tamarin an even more desirable prey for poachers.
Birds are likewise highly sought after, especially parrots. They are often captured and hidden from authorities in all sorts of outrageous transport containers. Depending on the size of the capture, animals are hidden in objects including cardboard toilet paper rolls and milk cartons (around 2 years ago 150 birds, hidden from environmental authorities in milk cartons, were confiscated on the road between Iporanga and Barra do Turvo). Many of these illegally captured creatures suffocate or succumb to stress in these minuscule containers en route to, oftentimes European, destinations.
The Brazilian government is battling against illegal wildlife trafficking. Environmental police forces arrest dealers but lack the appropriate species-specific infrastructure to house, care for, and reintroduce the confiscated, and at times injured, wildlife back into their natural habitats. Oftentimes the “freed” animals are left to spend the rest of their days vegetating in small cages.
Our project to care for, house, and re-release wildlife has continuously grown since its founding in April 2012. In response to the large and growing demand, we have decided to build a professional Wildlife Rehabilitation and Reintroduction Center.
The new facility will enable species-specific and professional care for the animals until the point at which they are ready to be returned to the wild. An appropriate site for the new center in the Reserva Betary (a privately funded natural reserve and research center) has been provided courtesy of its founder, Dr. Sergio Luis Pompéia. The above map of the Reserva Betary marks the location of the Center in green.
The 4-hectare site is approximately seven kilometers away from Iporanga. Through Sergio’s generosity we are fortunate enough to establish our center within a natural reserve. The necessary construction rights are also being gratuitously provided.
This facility will enable wildlife confiscated from illegal trafficking to once again experience freedom in their natural habitat. In Brazil this type of facility is referred to as a ASMAS (Area de Soltura e de Monitoramento de Animais Silvestres). The construction of such centers is closely monitored and regulated by the Brazilian government and calls for a good deal of administrative requirements.
Our project supports not only the local authorities in their fight against illegal animal trade, but also gives the captured animals a second lease on life. Our work also indirectly benefits the entire Ribeira Valley. An intact Atlantic Forest encourages Ecotourism, which in turn could be a stable source of income for the people of the Ribeira Valley. In protecting the forest and its wildlife, we also support much-needed economic development of this region. If every resident earned a reasonable income, there would be far fewer poachers here. In this sense, our project supports and protects not only the local fauna of the Atlantic Forest, but also the economic progress of this poor and isolated region.
We also seek to contribute to the education of the local community, particularly children and adolescents. Together with local schools, we organize presentations on the care and needs of local wildlife. This is our way of spreading thoughts of wildlife preservation to the next generation.
We have founded a Swiss organization in order to financially secure the long-term success of the afore-mentioned objectives. We are seeking committed, nature and animal loving allies to financially and morally support this important work and we pledge in return mindful handling of all funds.
Our project supports not only the local authorities in their fight against illegal animal trade, but also gives the captured animals a second lease on life.
In 2016, after many official permits were received and government requirements were fulfilled the construction of the building finally started. The land needed to be partially excavated with heavy equipment, but thanks to generous donations and some volunteer helpers, the construction phase progressed quickly.
The structural work was completed in early 2017. Our wildlife release station consists of a reception area, a kitchen, a small veterinarian practice, a bedroom with shower/toilets for trainees, a storage room for animal food and a terrace.
Poachers in the wildlife reserve area have been unsettled by our presence. We are immediately notified by the local population when injured wildlife are identified.
We maintain close relations with the local communities (Quilombos), and inform them about the devastating consequences of poaching for the region. The leaders of these communities are our allies against poaching and we jointly organize information evenings and defense strategies.
Isaias, our technical manager, applied for the operating permit from the „Secretaria do Meio-ambiente“ in São Paulo (as soon as the wildlife station interior is completed). Following an inspection of the facility, the government authority will grant the operating permit, which finally allows us to take care of animals and return them into the wild on a larger scale.
Prior to the release, animals are equipped with rings (birds) or chips (mammals), allowing them to be observed for several months. Reports are regularly submitted to authorities.
Isaias has begun seeding and planting vegetation as wildlife food. Banana trees, papayas, passionfruit, manioc, sugar cane and other local bushes grow well. Our enemies are the ants that may strip bushes bare in one night.