Report from the Murici Reserve, Alagoas, Brazil
I have just returned from a very wet Northeast Brazil where again I visited
the superb Murici Reserve while leading a
VENT birding group. I started
making annual visits to this rich Atlantic rainforest to see its unique birdlife
in February 1996. My last trip had been in May 2001. [AW's
1999 Report] [AW's
2000 Report] Every visit has made me depressed due to the continued
deforestation, hunting, burning and lack of protection to this, without doubt,
Brazil's most seriously threatened area.
I am sure most of you know why Murici is so important ornithologically.
However, here is a brief round up. The now circa 6,000ha of Atlantic rainforest
are isolated on a small ridge in the mountains of Alagoas state, completely
surrounded by a sea of sugar cane. This woodlot holds the only known site (after
much searching in the state in other suitable habitat) for two species -- the
Alagoas Foliage-gleaner (Phylidor novaesi) and Alagoas Antwren (Myrmotherula
snowi) both critically endangered. Also, the area hosts another
13 threatened bird species including the recently described Orange-bellied
Antwren (Terenura sicki) and Alagoas Tyrannulet (Phylloscartes
ceciliae) as well as yet undescribed subspecies of Red-stained
Woodpecker (pers obs) and Dendrocincla fuliginosa taunayi which is
endangered and certainly deserves full species status.
This year, for the first time, I was very optimistic about the Murici
situation. Two years ago I had seen for myself the great effort of Jaqueline
Goerck of Brazil's BirdLife International at the reserve. Later, I had noted
with excitement the very encouraging report in the September 2001 World
Birdwatch pp 21-23 that on 29 May 2001, 6116 ha of Murici was finally
declared an "Ecological Station."
Nevertheless, on entering Murici this year I was amazed to be confronted with
the same situation that has greeted me over the years -- to my horror, continued
devastation. Along the entrance road, the secondary growth had been recently cut
down, along with some big trees, to create additional, poor cattle pasture.
Countless new, well-used roads radiate into the forest from the main road.
Felled trees and fresh-cut fence posts were lying alongside the road ready to be
taken out. Cattle are now entering the reserve. Once again I heard a hunting
shot. For the last three years, we have not heard the endangered Solitary
Tinamou, which was once common here.
The IBAMA guard explained that he is powerless against the two big local land
owners, who continue destroying this most important area. He said that they do
not listen to him, but send in men to cut down trees and then use tractors to
pull out the timber. Historically, a chain across the entrance road stopped
traffic, but it has been taken away. Furthermore, the local land owner has moved
his fence across to the other side of the access road.
The IBAMA guard advised me that the IBAMA chiefs had come from Maceió in 2001
and talked about marking out the limits of the reserve. However, they never
returned, and nothing is planned. He said that the local land owners have powers
It is obvious that something must be done urgently to help this critically
I am open to any suggestions, but I strongly feel that we should try to do
something as soon as possible. Possibly BirdLife International Brazil or another
conservation organization could put together an official document providing for
real protection of this precious area.
On a brighter note this year we were able to locate at least one Alagoas
Foliage-gleaner. It was not seen last year.
Let's all hope we can see some positive news on Murici in the near future.
andrew [at] birdingbraziltours.com
Birding Brazil Tours
04 March 2002 - Update from Jaqueline M. Goerck, BirdLife Brazil
As reported by Andrew Whittaker, Murici is now a reserve in the protected
area system of Brazil. It is called Murici Ecological Station. When BirdLife
engaged in the challenge of protecting Murici, we knew how difficult it would
be, but we decided this could be the last chance for Murici. The creation of the
reserve was the first positive result after 20 years of conservation efforts in
I share with Andrew the frustration regarding the slow implementation of the
reserve which means that effectively the situation remains the same as before.
However, BirdLife International, the Brazilian NGO SNE, WWF, and many other
conservation organizations in Brazil are engaged in helping IBAMA (the Federal
Environment Institute in Brazil) design and implement an action plan for the
Ecological Station. But anyone with experience in conservation (especially in
countries like Brazil) will appreciate the fact that it is not easy to change an
area with a complex situation like Murici. There are too many political,
economical, and social factors to it.
I would also like to clarify that the person that talks to Andrew and calls
himself an IBAMA guard does not hold this position. He may have once worked for
IBAMA in the past, but if he did, this is no longer the situation.
My suggestion is that each one of you who has visited Murici recently and has
witnessed any kind of destruction write directly to IBAMA, both in Brasília and
in Maceió. [JWW: All correspondence to IBAMA should be written in Portuguese.]
This will assure that the IBAMA officials, who in practice are the only
authorities who can patrol the area, receive a formal report of the situation at
Murici. They depend on such reports to determine what needs to be done. The
addresses and names of the contact persons are:
Ed. Sede do IBAMA – Administração Central
SAIN – Av. L-4 Norte – s/n
70800-200 Brasília, DF
Edlene Ferreira Lima Ataíde
Av. Fernando de Lima, 4023, Farol
57057-000 Maceió, Alagoas
Feel free to send a copy of the document to me:
Jaqueline M. Goerck
Al. Grécia, 297
06474-010 Barueri, São Paulo