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Report from the Murici Reserve, Alagoas, Brazil

by Andrew Whittaker
Birding Brazil Tours

February 2002

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 even there.

It is obvious that something must be done urgently to help this critically endangered site.

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 Whittaker
andrew [at] birdingbraziltours.com
Birding Brazil Tours
Manaus, Amazonas
Brazil


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 the area.

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:

In Brasília:

Ricardo Bonfim
ricardobm[at]uol.com.br
Ed. Sede do IBAMA – Administração Central
SAIN – Av. L-4 Norte – s/n
70800-200 Brasília, DF
Brazil

In Maceió:

Edlene Ferreira Lima Ataíde
Av. Fernando de Lima, 4023, Farol
57057-000 Maceió, Alagoas
Brazil

Feel free to send a copy of the document to me:

Jaqueline M. Goerck
birdlifebrasil[at]uol.com.br
Al. Grécia, 297
06474-010 Barueri, São Paulo
Brazil


Copyright © 1992-2012 John Wall