Forests of Hope site - Serra do Urubu, Brazil

Red-headed Manakin at Frei Caneca reserve. Photo by Ciro Albano.
Red-headed Manakin at Frei Caneca reserve. Photo by Ciro Albano.


Site name: Serra do Urubu

Country: Brazil

IBA(s): IBA BR074

Location: Pernambuco State, Jaqueira and Lagoa dos Gatos Municipalities.

Site Area: approximately 1,100 ha at the Pedra D’Anta/Frei Caneca area, there are five additional key sites covering about 650 ha. Total forest cover in the wider region around Serra do Urubu was 11,091 ha in 2010.

Partner: SAVE Brasil -  


Values of the site

Serra do Urubu is one of the last significant remnants of the Atlantic Forest in north-eastern Brazil.  The Atlantic Forest stretches from north-eastern Brazil south along the Brazilian Atlantic coastline into coastal Uruguay, and inland into north-east Argentina and eastern Paraguay. The ecoregion is ranked as one of the top five of the world's biodiversity hotspots.

Serra do Urubu is an IBA of extreme biological importance located within Pernambuco State, where only 2% of the original Atlantic Forest cover remains. It is also part of the Pernambuco Centre of Endemism, arguably one of the most biologically important centres of endemism in the Neotropics.

The site is home to an impressively high number of globally threatened and endemic species, including: the Critically Endangered White-collared Kite Leptodon forbesi, Vulnerable Golden-tailed Parrotlet Touit surdus, Endangered Orange-bellied Antwren Terenura sicki, Endangered Scalloped Antbird Myrmeciza ruficauda, Critically Endangered Alagoas Antwren Myrmotherula snowi, Critically Endangered Alagoas Foliage-gleaner Philydor novaesi, Endangered Pinto’s Spinetail Synallaxis infuscatus, Vulnerable Buff-breasted Tody-tyrant Hemitriccus mirandae, Endangered Alagoas Tyrannulet Phylloscartes ceciliae  and Vulnerable Seven-coloured Tanager Tangara fastuosa. The Near Threatened Mantled Hawk Leucopternis polionotus and Long-tailed Woodnymph Thalurania watertonii also occur at the site. A total of 239 bird species have been recorded in the reserve so far.

In addition, there are 35 species of mammals, 23 species of amphibians, 65 species of bryophytes, 130 species of fern, 66 species of different orchids, and 39 species of bromeliads (the highest number of bromeliad genera known to occur at a single site). 

The most important site in the IBA is the area around Save Brasil’s Pedra D´Anta reserve, which includes three main properties:

  • The Pedra D’Anta forest reserve (360 ha) - purchased by SAVE Brasil in 2004. In June 2011, this site was declared a Private Natural Heritage Reserve.
  • The Frei Caneca Private Nature Reserve (600 ha). This reserve is a private property primarily containing primary forest, and currently owned by a sugarcane factory. It is also a Private Heritage Reserve.  The sugarcane factory has been protecting the remaining forests to maintain water flows from the watershed.
  • The Bernardina Forest private property (200 ha)
  • These three highly important sites encompass over 1,100 hectares of the largest and most important forest fragments in the Pernambuco Centre of Endemism.

Serra do Urubu Pedra d'Anta Reserve. Photo by Pedro Develey.


Key threats at the site include:

  •  Charcoal burning for domestic use and for sale
  •  Illegal logging and hunting
  •  Subsistence agriculture
  •  Forest fires (spreading from surrounding sugarcane fields and pastures)  

If these activities continue, the current forest remnants will become increasingly fragmented and degraded. This will cause further decline and possibly local extinction of the species populations that depend on them, as they become restricted to living in isolated forest patches, with no ability to migrate between them.


Historical conservation approach.

SAVE Brasil has had full ownership of the 360 ha Pedra D’Anta reserve since 2004. This reserve contains around 10 ha of remaining pasture and degraded forest, which are gradually naturally regenerating and 20.5 ha of reforested pasture. It lacks a management plan and at present, there is no sustainable funding source secured in order to ensure the reserve’s on-going management and protection activities. 

The Frei Caneca Private Nature Reserve is currently managed with the sole purpose of ensuring the maintenance of forest cover to protect the watershed to provide for the sugarcane factory on the property. The main objective of activities on the property is not conservation. In the absence of adequate management of this property for the conservation of the forest, threats to this forest are likely to increase.

Birdwatching tour at Serra do Urubu with local school children. Photo by Tatiana Pongluppi.

New conservation approach

The Atlantic Forest is severely threatened by habitat fragmentation and one of the main focuses of SAVE Brasil’s forest conservation activities in the region is thus to restore connectivity between remaining forest fragments.

As part of BirdLife’s Forests of Hope programme, SAVE Brasil is using land purchase, protection and sustainable management as a strategy to ensure the conservation of the threatened forest at this important IBA and of the wider region surrounding Serra do Urubu. Land acquisition in this area provides the most effective approach to conserving the forest. Indeed, ownership of the land by SAVE Brasil at Serra do Urubu will provide the experienced national NGO with more control over its management, thus ensuring the long-term future protection of this top priority forest site. In particular, SAVE Brasil’s current aim is the purchase and protection of the Frei Caneca and Bernardina Forest properties in order to expand the Pedra d’Anta reserve to cover over 1100 ha.

Once these properties have been acquired, a management plan will be drawn up for the reserve and extended to cover the additional reserve area. SAVE Brasil has been involving local people and communities in the reforestation efforts in and around the current reserve and it is expected that this will be replicated on any land acquired in the future. A good relationship with local landowners that are interested in participating in the efforts to reconnect some of the forest fragments through reforestation is also being developed.  Education and awareness-raising activities (visits to local schools, monitoring workshops, training local farmers in ecological agriculture) and site management/patrolling are also part of SAVE Brasil’s conservation work at the site.  Additionally, there are plans to establish a Local Conservation Group through the Lagoa dos Gatos Municipal Environmental Council, and sustainable financing options are being investigated for ongoing management at the reserve.

For more information about this site, please contact   

Read more about Forests of Hope Programme