Rainforest conservation links
protecting the Amazon rainforest.
Conservation Society -
protecting the rainforests of Queensland.
Ecological Foundation -
rainforest purchase, education, political lobbying in Brazil.
Iwokrama - research and protection of rainforests
Mongabay - detailed up to date news about rainforest
Rainforest Concern -
protecting rainforests and cloud-forests in Ecuador and elsewhere.
( Ecological Internet ) link to all of the major rainforest conservation agencies.
Seacology - protecting rainforests on islands.
World Land Trust
purchasing and protecting wildlife habitats worldwide.
the most precious
environment on Earth
experience, described by Adrian Hoskins
It is 6.00am, and we are awoken by the raucous echoing call of a
troop of howler monkeys. They are perhaps 2 km away, but the sound
fills the forest around us.
Dawn is breaking
as we venture along a trail through the
primary rainforest. Mysterious butterflies flit around us. I spot where
they have settled, but their amazing camouflage makes them almost impossible to
locate. Some, like Taygetis angulosa, look
exactly like dead leaves. Zaretis itys
even has little "windows" in it's wings resembling the holes nibbled
by beetles. Others like Haetera piera,
Cithaerias pireta and
Ithomia agnosia are
almost entirely transparent.
Caligo Owl butterflies flit from one tree trunk to another. Their
wings have a feathery appearance, and are marked
with false "owl's eyes", enough to startle any
predatory bird, and give the butterfly a chance to escape.
Every butterfly species here has it's own distinct personality. The zebra-striped Colobura dirce sits motionless
on tree trunks as it feeds at sap runs, but if disturbed, instead
of taking flight it scuttles around to hide on the opposite side of
the tree. The striped hairstreak Arawacus
separata sits facing
sideways on a leaf, but as soon as you get within a metre, it
to show you it's posterior ! Like many other butterflies it seems to
take delight in taunting human observers, but it's odd behaviour is
simply a survival strategy - by rotating it narrows its profile and
is much harder for a predator to spot. Butterflies use many
strategies to hide themselves from predators, some use camouflage or
disguise, others such as the
Eurybia Riodinids, and the Nascus skippers, hide under
leaves, darting out periodically to investigate intruders before
disappearing again beneath another nearby leaf.
We come to a small glade, the site of a peccary mud wallow.
Hundreds of butterflies are swarming around us - gorgeous black and
yellow swallowtails, brilliant red and black Callicores,
luminous orange Julias, and Morphos - dazzling metallic blue butterflies the
size of saucers.
The muddy soil in the glade is carpeted with
male butterflies, which settle to imbibing the mineral-rich moisture.
They obtain vital chemicals this way, which they pass to females
during copulation. There are
so many butterflies here that it is impossible to walk without
treading on them. Amongst them are brilliant
metallic green Caria Metalmarks,
red Marpesia Daggerwings, black and orange
Riodina, and the stunning purple
Rhetus periander. At the edge of the
glade we watch a Starry Night Hamadryas velutina basking
head-downwards on a tree trunk. It is possibly the most beautiful
butterfly we have seen today, its large velvety black wings adorned with
hundreds of shimmering blue spots.
11.00am - It is hot now, and the forest resounds with the call of
giant cicadas. The sound begins as a slow hesitant clicking,
gradually accelerates to a rattle, then a hum, and escalates into a
haunting siren wail which fills the air for a few moments before
fading again into silence.
We have been here for 6 days, and seen nearly
300 butterfly species, several of them previously unknown to
science. Every step along the trails reveals exciting new finds -
huge helicopter flies, strange hemipteran bugs, weird beetles, stick
insects, and praying mantises.
little later we climb the canopy tower. As we ascend we notice
that every layer in the forest has it's own characteristic
butterfly fauna - Pierella Lady
Slippers and Taygetis Dead-leafs at
ground level, Tiger-mimics at about 3 metres,
Heliconius at 10-20 metres. Many
species, particularly the hairstreaks and metalmarks spend their
lives almost entirely in the tree tops, and only rarely descend to
After a tiring climb we finally
arrive at the top of the tower. We spend a relaxing half hour
watching red and green macaws, great egrets, snail kites and oropendolas flying past.
It's difficult to drag ourselves away, as the view across the vast
expanse of pristine rainforest is awe-inspiring, but it is time
for lunch, so we descend to ground level and slowly wander back
along the trails to our base. Unsurprisingly we are so distracted
by the myriads of butterflies seen along the route that we arrive
late, and are so busy talking about the marvels we have seen that
we barely find time to eat.
a group of
Dryas iulia males imbibing moisture from a sandbank on the
Rio Madre de Dios
In the afternoon we travel upriver by dugout canoe. Amazon
kingfishers swoop past, a harpy eagle hovers high in the sky above
us. On a nearby rocky island we see a caiman basking, and along the
riverbanks we see sun bitterns and the very beautiful capped heron.
Strings of bright yellow
butterflies fly in follow-the-leader
fashion along the river's edge. Sometimes hundreds
gather to imbibe moisture on the sandbanks, erupting into flight as
our boat passes. We notice how most species of butterfly congregate
with their own kind - there are clusters of
Marpesia Daggerwings, groups of
Heraclides Swallowtails, tightly packed clusters of
Protesilaus Swordtails, and gatherings
of bright orange Julias. Many different species arrive and depart
during the course of the day, until late afternoon when swirling
swarms of Eunica Purplewings oust
almost every other species.
We stop at various places along the river to explore the trails. Imaginary snakes
wait to strike from behind every tree -
but they are not all imaginary. Clambering up a riverbank we are
suddenly confronted by a gigantic anaconda with a massive head and
a body perhaps 8 metres
or more in length. Luckily for us it has already eaten - it's belly
greatly distended by the capybara which became it's breakfast
As the day cools down, we journey back along the river. Beautiful birds fly across our path - green ibis,
ringed kingfisher, striated heron, kiskadee, paradise jacamar. A giant
river otter inquisitively pops it's head out of the water next to the boat. A capybara, looking like an enormous guinea pig, looks across
at us from the riverbank. During the next half hour we see a dozen
tapirs, amongst the most enchanting and gentle of all animals, emerging
from the forest at different
spots along the riverbank.
Back at our base the light is fading fast, and the howler monkeys
roar again. We sit down for our evening meal, comparing notes about
the wonders we have seen, and agree that this is probably the most
wonderful place on Earth.
Rio Madre de Dios, Peru
The next morning we travel downstream for an hour, disembark from
our dugout, and get into a jeep. We leave behind the beautiful
pristine rainforest, travelling through secondary forest, and then
for several miles through cattle pastures, until we come to the town
where we catch a plane to our next destination.
For 4 hours we fly across what was
formerly rainforest, but all we see is a huge expanse of semi-desert. The forest has
all been burnt down and turned into cattle pasture, but the pasture
only lasts for a few years, and all that remains now is a barren
dusty landscape dotted with termite mounds. Looking down from our
plane we see a dead parched world, devoid of life.
We have been told that our next destination is an oasis - an
"island" of pristine rainforest that has miraculously survived amidst a
desert of failed cattle ranches in the state of Rondonia. Our plane lands and we board a
bus. For the next 5 hours we are driven across 200
miles of devastated land. The forest has gone, the cattle ranches
have failed, and the air is hot, dry and dusty.
By the time we arrive at our base we have a
feeling of the most intense grief. Many of us,
all grown men, are in a state of stunned silence, close to
tears. We have left the most wonderful and precious environment
imaginable, and now realise the full horror of what is happening in
Brazil. The foul air around us is thick with smoke, our eyes are
watering, and we are struggling to breathe.
Pristine rainforest deliberately burnt for conversion to cattle
The spot where we are now standing
was once the richest butterfly site known on Earth. Just 30 years
ago it supported over 1500 butterfly species, but now they are very
scarce. Within 5 years they will almost certainly be lost forever.
For 4 days we search the tiny fragment of forest that still remains
here, looking in vain for butterflies, muttering
in disbelief at what has happened here.
The incredibly rich forest, teeming with life, has been
devastated, the life is gone. The remaining tiny fragments protected as nature
reserves are under threat from land grabbing national and
international companies who seek to destroy the rainforest for quick
Please help to save what
little remains, by signing
and lobbying politicians.
Soybean plantation. 10 years ago
this was pristine rainforest.
square miles ( 2.6 million hectares ) of the Amazon rainforest is
deliberately burnt down every year, primarily to make way for cattle
These pastures are
very poor in nutrients, so support only very low densities of
cattle. The land is burned annually to promote new grass growth
and to destroy cattle parasites. The fires often rage uncontrolled,
setting fire to further areas of forest.
Deforested areas are
considerably hotter and drier than the rainforests. As a result the
average temperature of the entire Amazon region rises and the
humidity falls even more dramatically. This causes major changes in
the vegetation structure of the remaining areas of forest,
leading to reduced biodiversity even in protected areas.
Worldwide, 50,000 square miles of rainforest (
roughly the same area as Greece ) is deforested
Tropical deforestation accounts for 20 percent of
global carbon emissions.
Every second a slice of rainforest the size of a
football field is destroyed.
Every day 86,400 football fields of rainforest are
Every year 31 million football fields of
rainforest are destroyed.
Although they cover less than 2 percent of the
Earth's surface area, rainforests are home to over
50 percent of the world's plant and animal life.
A typical 5 square
mile area of Amazon rainforest supports 1,500
flowering plants, 750 species of tree, 450 species
of bird, and over 500 species of butterfly. But
soon it will all be gone.
The Amazon rainforests and the cloudforests of the Andes together
account for about 40% of all butterfly species on Earth. If
deforestation continues at it's present rate, the rainforests will
have entirely disappeared within 50 years, and almost half of the
world's butterfly species will by then be extinct, with nothing
more than museum specimens and photographs remaining.
learnaboutbutterflies urges every
person viewing this website to take immediate action - please
mongabay websites where you
can find more detailed information, and take part in
on-line petitions to save the Amazon
and the rainforests of Africa and Asia.
aerial view of fires burning in the southern
Deforestation in Rondonia, Brazil. Just imagine what the
2009 map looks like !