REGUA (Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu) is a non-profit non-governmental association protecting one of the last stands of tropical rainforest left in the severely depleted Atlantic Forest in south-east Brazil. With only 7% remaining, the Atlantic Forest is one of the worlds most threatened ecosystems.
The Reserva Ecologica de Guapiaçu is located in the Serra dos Orgaos 70 kilometres north of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and was established as a private non-profit association in 2001 with a mission to protect the forests of the Upper Guapiaçu river basin. It will achieve its mission through land purchase and developing partnerships with local landowners, restoring damaged habitats, working with the local communities through an environmental education programme and encouraging inventory and research programmes.
REGUA receives funding from the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust and the World land Trust in the UK and the Rainforest Trust in the USA but the operational costs are now largely covered by income generated from the high quality lodge that was opened to visitors in 2005.
To the end of 2019 REGUA has purchased 16,911 acres and works in partnership to protect a further 10,072 acres, and has plans to expand even further to create a protected area around the entire valley. REGUA has also planted over 540,000 trees using seeds collected locally and grown in its own nursery, and has restored a 45 acre wetland on land that was drained for farming in the 1960s.
The REGUA reserve rises from 30 metres above sea level to about 2,000 metres, and this altitudinal gradient with its varying habitats supports an incredible range of species in every taxonomic group. By the end of 2019, 485 species of birds had been recorded at REGUA of which 62 are endemic to Brazil and 118 endemic to the Atlantic Forest. This list includes 12 species classified as threatened by Birdlife International and a further 29 as near-threatened. A recent study of odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) identified 208 species including an undescribed species, more than any other single area in the world. Mammals recorded include Puma, Ocelot, Margay, Oncilla and Jaguarundi but most importantly the Southern Woolly Spider Monkey (or Southern Muriqui) which is South America’s largest and rarest primate. REGUA has also commenced a reintroduction programme of Brazilian Tapir and to date 10 have been released with further releases planned, and in March 2020 the first Tapir to be born in the wild in the state of Rio de Janeiro for more than a century was captured on a camera trap. To date 444 species of butterflies have been recorded, but this excludes Hesperiinae and there are many more species still to be found at higher altitudes.