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Local conservation aided by birding tour company…

Rick Simpson Birding Services http://www.rick-simpson.com is proud to have been invited to work with UBATUBABIRDS which is an association of people concerned about the conservation of the local forests and bird life and has been set up to enhance the profile of the these assets in and around Ubatuba, São Paulo State, Brazil.Atlantic rainforest is one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet with as little as 5-7% of the original extent surviving. Although it is officially protected it is under a lot of pressure from local human populations. Wholesale logging may be thing of the past, but people living near the forest edge still eat away at its perimeter, entering the forest to hunt, trap and collect its flora and fauna. The gathering of firewood too is a problem, not just with trees being cut or damaged but also the collection of dead and decaying fallen wood that is so vital to the ecosystem. It is this largely unnoticed destruction that Ubatubabirds is attempting to reduce, by educating the local community as to the value of what they have on their doorstep. Visits to schools and other organisations, for children and adults alike, visits to the forest to see the birds there first hand, re-orientation of hunters, trappers and collectors are all part of the work of Ubatubabirds. There are also plans for projects to survey parts of the forest seldom visited, to establish exactly what is there to be saved. These are all things that must be addressed. It is vital that the local people see the value of what surrounds them, and for this to happen they must also see the value that others, from outside the area, the state, the country and even the continent, place on this wealth of nature. To achieve this we need support from people and organisations that can be seen to be doing something to help. If the locals can see that this really is a resource worth saving, then, and only then, will it be saved.

When we talk about saving an area of habitat, it is often forgotten the impact this can have on the local community, the sacrifices they often have to make in respect of reining in their development and growth. It is often hard to persuade them that this is to their benefit; indeed we need to show them how this is to their benefit. The amount of work that Carlos Rizzo and others have already done in sowing these very precious seeds should not be underestimated, it is a battle, and one that can be very costly to the individuals concerned.We have also set up a database recording observations of the local bird populations. This is based on our own observations and also those of visiting birders who have been kind enough to report their findings to us. This database is an essential tool in the understanding of the avifauna of our local area.

Ubatuba is a small town of about 80,000 inhabitants nestling between the sea and the Serra do Mar. This mountain range is cloaked in Atlantic forest and is one of the last strongholds for many species. 80% of the area that constitutes Ubatuba is protected by the Parque Estadual do Serra do Mar a state run protection area. Ubatuba is well known to visiting birders and justifiably considered a birding hotspot. If we wish this situation to continue, then action must be taken before it is too late. Anyone who has visited and enjoyed the forest here, or hope to do so in the future, will realise what a precious commodity it is, and hopefully will join us in our fight to save it.The intention is to do this through…

Education: Both in school and in the wider community, getting people to understand the value of the diverse bird life they have around them and the pressure these wild populations face in the modern world.

Reorientation: Using the skills of hunters and bird trappers to protect rather than imperil the birds around the region. We want to make the depressing sight of thrushes, finches and saltators, in cages, a thing of the past.

Conservation: Helping people to make a place for the birds in the community, by planting bird friendly trees and shrubs, not disturbing breeding birds, feeding and encouraging birds into gardens and protecting the surrounding forests so there are birds to visit these havens.

Bird walks: Showing local people both adults and children the birds of their forests.

Ecotourism: Promoting ecotourism both within Brazil and abroad to the benefit of the local community and environment.

Surveying: Projects to study the forests to find out exactly what is there with a view to protecting it in the future. Areas that are not well known, or are seldom visited, and that are largely ignored by visiting birders. What lives there remains a mystery, who knows, there could be a small population of kinglet calypturas living on our very doorstep!What do we need?

Unfortunately money, principally. We need to be able to fund the various projects we have in mind; we need to buy materials for making presentations and displays; we need to fund publicity stands at public events; we need to support those doing the forest surveys.

Of course, we are also happy to receive donations of binoculars for our field trips, or identification field guides, we desperately need some equipment for recording bird songs and calls in the forests as an aid to identification.

We are also always interested in visitor’s observations to update our database and enhance our knowledge of local bird populations.

If you feel you can help us in any way then don’t hesitate to contact either Rick Simpson rsimbird@msn.com or Carlos Rizzo augriz@yahoo.com.br .

4th July 2014