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Birders and Conservationists Enthusiastic about New Parks

By Paige, Nicaragua, May 2011

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Most visitors to Brazil’s lush, wealthy Brasilia State come to enjoy the fantastic beaches, such Praia de Forte, Costa de Sauipe, and Itaparica Island, as well as the rich cultural milieu, historic architecture, and wild festivals of the state capital, Salvador.

Birders and other wilderness tourists eager to explore one of the world’s most biodiverse places, however, head inland, to the richly forested and, until recently, woefully unprotected, interior.

Since 2003, Brazil has set aside some 768,488 square kilometers (297,000 square miles)—the area of Central Europe—as national parks and other conservation areas. However, only 8% of its lush Atlantic rainforest, a biodiverse ecosystem key to the country’s efforts to become fully carbon neutral, is protected. In 2010, former President Lula da Silva responded by creating four new wilderness refuges, set to expand further in early 2011.

The newly protected tracts of wilderness total 65,070 hectares (161,000 acres): Alto Cariri National Park and expanded Pau Seguro National Park, protecting Atlantic rainforests accessible from popular Porto Seguro; Serra das Lontras National Park concentrating remarkable biodiversity in a scenic coastal mountain range; and Boa Nova National Park and Boa Nova Wildlife Refuge, which sprawl across Atlantic jungles, dry tropical forests, and the semi-arid caatinga.

These new parks, which are already being developed for tourism, are great news for travelers and conservationists. They can thank an international birders, in particular the organization Save Brasil, for making a flap. For decades, this group has been working with Brasil Flora, CL Brasil, and CEFP to protect two Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Boa Nova is home to 396 recorded birds including 31 threatened or endangered species such as the slender antbird and narrow-billed antwren. Birders in Serra das Lontras have spotted 330 species, 29 of which are threatened, such as the acrobata. The new national park is also a biodiversity hot spot for endangered plants and mammals.

These protected areas have been popular birding destinationsfor years, which is why eagle-eyed visitors couldn’t help but notice that cacao plantations, logging, and expanding human settlements threatening a region they treasured for its endemic and endangered species. Though they won an important victory for their feathered friends, it is bittersweet; only 2.6% of the original Boa Nova forest remains intact.

Brazil is home to more than 1,800 recorded species, about 10% of which are threatened and at least 234 endemic. Flocks of birders supported Save Brasil, and you can help by making the effort to visit these remarkable wilderness areas. Guides (currently required) and tours are usually geared to birders, but with a bit of advance notice can organize all sorts of trips into Brasilia’s interior.

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