Since 2004, SAVE Brasil (BirdLife in Brazil) has been working to conserve the last remaining forests in the Serra do Urubu, in the municipality of Lagoa dos Gatos, Pernambuco state, northeastern Brazil. The Serra do Urubu Important Bird Area (IBA BR074) is home to a rich and unique biodiversity, including two of the world’s most threatened birds: Alagoas Foliage-gleaner Philydor novaesi and Alagoas Antwren Myrmotherula snowi. Conservation work began with the purchase of a 362 hectare property, today known as the Pedro D’Anta Natural Heritage Private Reserve, which is adjacent to the Frei Caneca Natural Heritage Private Reserve. Combined, the two areas protect 1000 hectares of Atlantic Forest.
In 2008, SAVE Brasil undertook education activities focused on the conservation of the Endangered Orange-bellied Antwren Terenura sicki. These activities established a communication channel with the community of Lagoa dos Gatos, and as a result, in 2009, the Centre for Conservation Education Serra do Urubu was established. The Centre’s mission is to raise awareness of the importance of the Serra do Urubu and its rich and unique biodiversity, and to engage the local community in conservation in the region.
According to SAVE Brasil’s environmental education team “We can see the interest of the local community in being part of environmental causes in the municipality. As an example, all the schools in Lagoa dos Gatos presented topics related to the environment during the September 7th celebration of Brazilian Independence.” The presentations covered issues such as deforestation, actions needed for the conservation of the Atlantic Forest (including SAVE Brasil as a lead organization in the region), recycling of materials to protect the environment, the importance of sustainable water use, and poorly planned development as the primary cause for contamination and damage to the environment.
Among the highlights of the celebrations was the civic parade, during which one of the classes from the municipal school paraded with native plants donated by SAVE Brasil. These plants were then planted in the municipality to promote reforestation of urban areas. Serra do Urubu was also highlighted as a paradise in peril, as was SAVE Brasil’s role in the conservation of the site, and a clear message was transmitted about how nature conservation is the responsibility of everyone. It is hoped that the activities carried out in Lagoa dos Gatos will be used as examples in other regions of Brazil to help preserve the environment!
In addition to these activities, in collaboration with the local Association for the Protection of the North-east Atlantic Forest (AMANE), two birdwatching training courses were undertaken during 24-27 October 2011. The first course was held in Murici (Alagoas State) and was attended by 20 school teachers who showed much interest in using birds to inspire students to protect nature. The second course was held in Lagoa dos Gatos, and was attended by 32 people, many of whom were teenagers. Murici is another IBA (BR122) of vital importance for the conservation of some of the most endangered species in the country.
The birding courses generated a lot of motivation among the participants. Tatiana Pongiluppi, environmental education advisor at SAVE Brasil says “Our challenge is to maintain the interest of the community in the monitoring activities, and establish a local group of birdwatchers to monitor birds of these two priority IBAs”.
Conservation actions at Serra do Urubu have been made possible through financial support from Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation, Conservation Leadership Programme, Disney Friends for Change, Marshall-Reynolds Foundation, Ministério do Meio Ambiente – Brazil and Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.