Rainforest Trust 2020: A Year in Review

2020 was a year of disruption and change for every person and organization, Rainforest Trust included. The need to protect our planet and nature has never been more urgent. Thanks to the commitment of our supporters and the extraordinary efforts of our partners, our vital conservation work around the world continued and over 1.5 million acres of precious habitat were protected. 

In March, almost all travel was suspended, ending tourism almost completely––as a result, we witnessed many of our partner organizations and local communities struggling with lack of revenue. Reserve staff were unable to leave quarantine, leaving reserves vulnerable, exposed to loggers and poachers.

Difficult times call for extraordinary measures, so Rainforest Trust mobilized and launched the COVID-19 Emergency Conservation Fund. More than $400,000 was raised to support our partners emerging COVID related needs including:  

  • YANI in Indonesia has implemented a total of 109 days of forest protection patrols in their Nantu Wildlife Sanctuary, removed more than 60 snares traps set by poachers and even saved a Babirusa.
  • Madagascar Primate Study and Research Group (GERP) launched 16 new community-led forest patrols in their reserves and provided hygiene kits to communities and local hospitals
  • Mision Tiburón in Costa Rica dedicated 3 people to continue patrols during the pandemic, along with boat fuel and protective equipment to ensure their team is safe while out conducting this important work.

Photo by Hirola Conservation Programme.

Endangering the lives of millions, COVID-19 was a warning sign from our planet. Zoonotic in origin, the pandemic is a direct result of our increasing contact with wildlife through deforestation and the destruction of nature––harmful human activity that also pushes us further into the climate crisis. The urgent need for conservation has never been greater and Rainforest Trust has doubled down on our commitments. This year alone we: 

  • Safeguarded over 1.5 million acres of habitat across the globe, protecting the homes of 614 threatened species.
  • Kept over 146 million metric tonnes of carbon stored in forests where it belongs–– roughly the equivalent to the emissions of 31,704,883 cars driven for one year, more than every registered car in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona combined.

Photo by Rainforest Trust.

In Asia, we saved over 754,000 acres and protected 135 threatened species, including:

  • Established two protected areas in the Himalayas of Nepal––the 176,630-acre Lungbasamba Landscape Biocultural Heritage and Ecotourism Special Conservation Zone and the 84,927-acre Topkegola Biocultural Heritage and Ecotourism Special Conservation Zone

    An Endangered Red Panda. Photo by Mathias Appel.

  • Safeguard over 106,000 acres of both aquatic and terrestrial habitat through the Aquatic Reserve of Pesut Mahakam Habitat in Indonesia, which protects a wide range of species, including the Critically Endangered Bornean Orangutan and nearly the entire population of the Critically Endangered Mahakam subpopulation of the Irrawaddy Dolphin.
  • Created 386,176-acre Imwabum National Park in Myanmar, providing protection for a diverse range of forest habitats for threatened species like the Critically Endangered Sunda Pangolin, Critically Endangered Chinese Pangolin, Endangered Red Panda and Clouded Leopard.
  • Expanded the YUS Conservation Area in Papua New Guinea by233,186-acres for the Endangered Huon Tree Kangaroo–– a project completely dependent on the indigenous communities, who will work together to safeguard resident species in perpetuity.

Endangered Tree Kangaroos. Photo by Jonathan Byers.

In Latin America, we protected over 569,000 acres of habitat and 205 threatened species, including:

  • Added a 202,028 acres to the Airo Pai Community Reserve––a critical step in our multi-year effort with local partner, CEDIA. This follows another 332,935 acres that was protected by CEDIA earlier this year. These projects help indigenous communities gain legal title to their cultural land and stop deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon.  
  • Protected the 28,766-acre Kokoi Euja Nature Reserve in the Choco forest of Colombia, which safeguards habitat for the endemic and Endangered Golden Poison Frog. It also highly benefits local indigenous communities, who can now maintain their land for future generations.

    Endangered Golden Poison Frog. Photo by Bruno Garrido Macias.

  • Ensured the survival of the recently discovered Critically Endangered Blue-throated Hillstar through a 110-acre protected area in Ecuador that encompasses their largest-known population. 
  • More-than doubled the size of the La Pampa del Burro Reserve in Peru, through a  256-acre expansion. Now totalling 503 acres, the reserve ensures the survival of rare species like the endemic Critically Endangered Peruvian Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey.
  • Continued our mission to save the rainforests of Ecuador through an 1,364-acre expansion of the Dracula Reserve for many rare and endemic orchids, as well as threatened species like the Critically Endangered Black-and-chestnut Eagle and the Brown-headed Spider Monkey––Ecuador’s most endangered mammal. 

Photo by CEDIA.

In Africa, we safeguarded over 645,000 acres and 61 threatened species, including:

  • Protected 640,000 acres of coastline and rocky reefs in Côte d’Ivoire, creating the first marine protected area in the country and safeguarding key habitat for Critically Endangered Hawksbill Turtles, Endangered Green Turtles, Critically Endangered Atlantic Humpback Dolphins, as well as Endangered Whale Sharks, Endangered Scalloped Hammerheads and many others.This protection allows our partner, Conservation des Espèces Marines, to help local communities maintain sustainable fisheries and increase tourism––highly benefitting the local economy.
    Baby Leatherback turtles make their way into the Dodo River on the Ivory Coast

    Leatherback sea turtles. Photo by Conservation des Espèces Marines.

  • Increased the size of Kenya’s Taita Apalis Forest Reserve, now spanning almost 10 acres of critical montane forest habitat for the endemic Taita Apalis–– one of the most threatened birds in the world. 
  • Doubled the size of the Onepone Endangered Species Refuge in Ghana, now safeguarding 2,132 acres of beautiful West African forests for the Critically Endangered Togo Slippery Frog, Endangered White-bellied and Black-bellied Pangolins.
  • Expanded the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya by 4,625 acres to bolster protection for 14% of the country’s Black Rhinoceros population and the world’s single largest population of Grevy’s Zebra, as well as African Elephants, African Wild Dogs, Reticulated Giraffes, Lions and Cheetahs.

From its start, 2020 has been filled with unprecedented challenges. Despite these, Rainforest Trust remained focused on our mission to safeguard habitat, save species, engage communities in conservation and create a brighter future for our shared planet.

Originally published by the Rainforest Trust: Source