Conserving golden lion tamarins in Brazil: A model for success
The golden lion tamarin (GLT) is one of the world’s most threatened primates. Endemic to the lowland coastal Atlantic Forest of Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil, the GLT’s current distribution is restricted to the São João River Watershed – a region of no more than 3,000 km2 located about 100 kilometres from the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area. Even in its reduced state the Atlantic Forest has enormous social, economic, and environmental importance. It is still one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth, containing about 7% of the world’s species and an astonishingly high level of species that can be found nowhere else. It provides environmental services such as an adequate supply of fresh water and erosion control, which support the economy and quality of life of 70% of the Brazilian population – more than 120 million people.
Since 1983, scientific monitoring of the entire wild population of tamarins, their habitat and threats has been conducted. Incorporating this current knowledge into the best predictive models, it is concluded that in order to conserve GLTs in perpetuity: by the year 2025 we must establish a viable population with 2,000 GLTs living freely in a landscape of 25,000 hectares of connected and protected Atlantic Forest habitat.
The Golden Lion Tamarin Association (Associacau Mico-Leao-Dourado, AMLD) is a Brazilian non-governmental organization that was created in 1992 to achieve this goal. AMLD has built a locally-based team of about 40 Brazilians who provide a multitude of partners in the region with technical guidance, co-ordination and training needed to restore and sustain the forest landscape for both tamarins and people. These stakeholders include local landowners, teachers, community leaders, government agencies at all levels, and the decision-makers for land-use planning.
As of December 2009 the group has achieved: 1,600 GLTs now living in the seven largest remaining forest fragments; 10,604 hectares are permanently protected by two federal biological reserves and 21 private reserves; and 18,750 hectares of forest are connected by planted corridors. More than 100 rural properties are participating in the management, restoration, and protection of GLTs in their natural habitat. Ecotourism has become the principal economic activity of 10% of the rural landowners of the municipality of Silva Jardim. The São João River Watershed Committee has incorporated key aspects of the forest conservation objectives into their strategy, financed by water users, for maintaining the region’s clean water supply. GLTs are recognised nationally as a symbol of Atlantic Forest conservation and adorn Brazil’s $R20 bank note. The GLT is also a strong candidate to become the ‘mascot’ for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
AMLD attribute this success to:
Their systematic approach - investing heavily in state-of-the-art science and conservation practice to determine goals, evaluate progress and adjust as necessary.
Their long-term commitment - changing human behaviour, restoring wildlife species and landscapes can only be accomplished over the long-term and that requires vision, uninterrupted dedication and persistence, and cultivation of partnerships with all stakeholders.
Their teamwork and capacity building - the team includes biologists, wildlife managers, GIS technicians, specialists in environmental education and extension, and foresters and experts in environmental law and policy. Productive collaborations are also maintained with local and international universities, zoos and conservation organisations, and Brazilian government agencies at all levels. They also invest heavily in empowering the participation of local people of all economic and educational backgrounds.
AMLD would use the St Andrews Prize money to help pay the salaries and benefits of their wildlife managers to continue to monitor the wild population of tamarins – essential for evaluating their progress in achieving goals as well as guiding their actions. ‘If AMLD is able to secure funding of US$123,779 per year, this will allow the team of seven wildlife managers to monitor and manage the wild population. We can and will conserve golden lion tamarins in perpetuity and protect over 25,000 hectares of Atlantic Forest, the biodiversity it contains, and the water it provides,’ says Denise Rambaldi, the AMLD Secretary General.
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