Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas

The Black lion Tamarin Conservation Program, carried out in Pontal do Paranapanema by IPÊ, will receive for two more years the contribution of the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) for its research, environmental education and species conservation activities.

DCF has supported the program by several cycles since 2005. From 2017 to 2020, the Fund funded the installation of artificial hollows, environmental education actions and stock support in the Atlantic Forest Corridor, the largest in Brazil, reforested by the Ipê. The hollows were a major evolution for the project, helping to understand the dynamics of tamarin movement and use of the corridor and fragments close to it. All this because, for black lion tamarins, food sources (fruits, insects and small vertebrates) and roosting places (tree holes) are vital components of the habitat that directly affect the number of individuals that can use and live in one area. However, the trees in the corridor, being younger, do not have natural hollows. To promote the use of these areas restored by the tamarins, one of the actions of the project supported by the DCF was precisely the installation of artificial holes, wooden boxes that function as shelter and dormitory for the species. Another advance of the project was the use of GPS in tamarins, in backpacks installed on individuals for monitoring, whose support from Disney made the first tests of this technology possible.

For the next few years, the program will continue with the action fronts of Research, Environmental Education and Conservation.  Field research includes monitoring the groups that will be part of population management.

“It is important to say that everything is part of a process thought and planned jointly by a group of specialists, with the approval of the responsible government agencies. Initially, we will assess the feasibility of translocation for each population, to define which of them will be part of this strategy [already used by the Program since 1995]. Based on the identified needs, we will design strategies and protocols, which are approved by a Technical Advisory Group linked to the PAN, to finally carry out the movement of groups of tamarins among these populations. We are very happy to follow this new stage, involving several actors in favor of this important step for the species”, says biologist Gabriela Cabral Rezende. All research and conservation actions with the black lion tamarin support and are in accordance with the National Action Plan (PAN) for the Conservation of Atlantic Forest Primates and the Black-headed Sloth, which is part of the national strategy and global biodiversity conservation.

As in previous years, the Environmental Education actions will take place in public schools in strategic municipalities for the protection of the tamarin, in Pontal do Paranapanema. One of the most relevant activities is to bring scientific information and train teachers for environmental education initiatives in the classroom. Teaching materials on the subject are already being produced.

As a complementary action for the conservation of the black lion tamarin, the program will continue to mobilize society by bringing knowledge about the species and developing methods that can help maintain the life of this animal, which is a symbol of the state of São Paulo. The planning for the installation of safe passages for the tamarins is already underway, crossing roads that cut through green areas for the use of the species. These passages connect to the forest corridors to guarantee even more space for the tamarins and other species that inhabit the region, providing security for them to move through the landscape.

The Program is also supported by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation/Re:wild and the Whitley Fund for Nature.

The Associate Professor of the Administration Department at FEA/USP and Coordinator of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Third Sector Administration (CEATS), was elected by IPÊ as the new vice-president of the institution. She now takes the place of Claudio Padua, founder of the Institute, who currently remains on the IPÊ Council and as Rector of ESCAS – School of Environmental Conservation and Sustainability, which she also helped to create through the NGO.

“The choice for Graziella Comini could not have been any better. Extremely knowledgeable about the Institution, its needs and challenges, she was already playing a fundamental role for us as a counselor and teacher. With our school, it helped to bring innovation in themes that are dear to us, such as entrepreneurship, to the socio-environmental area. Now in the vice presidency, it will be even more important for our development”, says Eduardo Ditt, executive director of IPÊ.

Graziella joins a team with a majority of women in the institution. “More than 56% of the leadership positions in the institution are composed of women and now I share this responsibility with them, in an entirely female presidency”, comments Suzana Padua, president.

Economist, with a master's, doctorate and professorship in administration from the Faculty of Economics and Administration of the University of São Paulo, FEA/USP, Graziella Comini has a specialization in the Harvard Business School and the University of Bologna. In addition, he coordinates the Professional Master's Degree in Entrepreneurship at FEA/USP and is Brazil's representative in the SEKN – Social Enterprise Knowledge Network. She is also an advisor for socio-environmental projects and social businesses in Brazil. Develops projects related to social entrepreneurship, impact business ecosystem, social business and social innovation.

"It's a great honor and responsibility to occupy the position of Vice President of IPÊ, an organization based on ethical values ​​and technical excellence in the socio-environmental area, my objective is to expand the educational aspect so that the knowledge generated at IPÊ can be even more disseminated in different sectors (first, second and third sector). IPÊ has the capacity and competence to dialogue with different actors and serves as a driver for socio-environmental innovations”, says Graziella.

For 10 years, in the Atlantic Forests, researchers compared forests used by herbivorous mammals, including the lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris) and the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), and areas in which these animals have been barred from access due to exclosure plots (fences). The main conclusion is that the areas used by these herbivores show lower loss of diversity than fenced areas.

The new study on tropical forests has generated an article recently published in the Journal of Applied Ecology of the British Ecological Society (BES). The research was performed at Morro do Diabo State Park, in the far west of the state of São Paulo. The work warns of the importance of conservation of animals that are facing extinction. The lowland tapir, for example, is classified as Vulnerable in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List throughout its distribution range. The white-lipped peccary, in turn, is listed as Critically Endangered in the Atlantic Forest.

Patrícia Medici, coordinator of the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative (LTCI) at IPÊ (Institute for Ecological Research), authors the article alongside Nacho Villar, a researcher of the NIOO-KNAW Dutch Institute for Ecology. “In this study, we recorded the results of a first experiment on the effects of conservation and protection of large herbivores on the maintenance of biodiversity in tropical forests and, to the extent we know, in any other forest biome. The study shows that large herbivores play an important role in the deceleration of the loss of forest diversity”, says Medici.

According to the study, mature forests with great diversity were those that benefited the most from the presence of large herbivores. “The results show how forest composition is severely affected when the animals are excluded from the biome, a sign of what may be happening in a series of other fragments of the Atlantic Forest, one of the most endangered biomes on the planet,” points out the researcher.

With the launching of the Decade on Restoration of the United Nations (2021 -2030), the results of this study also serve as guidance for future initiatives on forest conservation and restoration. “Conservation of these animals and trophic rewilding (without human participation) are gaining momentum as important tools to restore forest ecosystems and avoid the acute effects of global changes on biodiversity. However, such nature-based solutions are not yet recognized as a conservation option, especially in tropical forests. We believe that this study strengthens the strategic aspect of following in this direction,” points out the researcher.

Such findings demonstrate that species conservation and the restoration they promote may be more efficient in protecting against strong declines of diversity in the long run, particularly in well preserved tropical forests with high levels of forest diversity. “Throughout the 10 years of the study, the abundance of plants in the initial stage of germination, their recruitment and species richness fell by some 20% or more, providing a unique natural experiment to test the functional significance of large herbivores to avoid the collapse of biodiversity in the long run,” says Medici.

Researchers also observed whether large herbivores have a different effect on mature and secondary forests. “This is an important question and has not yet been explored in trophic rewilding. In secondary forests, we identified ca. half the number of species when compared with mature forests. In secondary forests, the results show limited protection by large herbivores against the loss of diversity. Long-run regional environmental changes place the restoration of such secondary forests at risk, and their transition to more mature and diversified forests,” says Nacho Villar.

Details of the research in practice

The discoveries are the result of monitoring 200 m2 of Atlantic Forest in Morro do Diabo State Park, São Paulo, Brazil, between 2004 and 2014. "We studied the potential role of large herbivores against the collapse of plant diversity through time, examining their effect on the abundance of plants in the initial phase of germination, as well as species richness and diversity, the temporal diversity and the rate of change of forest composition. These animals contribute directly to the plants in the forest understory, through seed dispersal and how they affect plants in the early phase of germination. Thus, biodiversity strongholds are highly sensitive to the disappearance of animals like the lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris) and the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), for example," explains Villar.

Medici's team established 200 plots in the monitored area, including 100 fenced plots to prevent the access of large herbivores, and 100 control plots, where there was no restriction to the entry of the animals. In order to understand the possible differences in the maturity of the forest, the fenced areas were divided into two large groups, being 25 pairs in areas of mature forest, and 25 pairs in secondary forest.

For insulation of the areas (exclosure plots), the researchers used wooden posts and poultry netting (2x2 cm). The exclusion areas had the following dimensions: 3 meters in width, 6 meters in length, and 1.20 meter in height. A 20 cm opening was maintained along the bottom of the plot, allowing for the entry of small terrestrial mammals, such as rodents and marsupials. Within the exclosure plots, a central sampling area of 1x4 m was established, and it was divided into four 1x1 m quadrants.

Control plots that were not fenced were 1 m wide and 4 m long, divided into 4 quadrants of 1x1 m. For each exclosure and control plot, each of the 1x1 m quadrants was chosen randomly for sampling throughout the study.

Forest sampling

In the monitored quadrants, all plants with a diameter of over 10 cm and diameter ≤ 5 cm were marked with PVC tags and received reference numbers. This methodology permitted the subsequent sampling of the same individuals. New plants that germinated during the study and complied with the criteria were incorporated into the monitoring protocol.

Throughout the first five years of the study (2004-2008), the researchers measured the plants twice a year, in the early rainy season (October) and in early dry season (April). From 2009 to 2012, data collection took place once a year. The final measurements took place in 2014, ending 10 years of data collection, with a total of 14 measurements. “We followed the fate of 7,287 plants and traced the decline of diversity over 10 years,” points out Medici.

Threats and opportunity

The conservation of large herbivores and the restoration of forests affected by them, especially tropical forests, is a challenge due to a series of threats that these animals face. According to the researchers, advances in this direction must consider measures for species protection. “Effective management of the landscape, protection and conservation aimed at increasing the populations of these animals and the facilitation of dispersal and movement between remaining forest areas are strategic. Furthermore, it is worth pointing out the need for reintroduction and translocation initiatives, given that large extensions of mature forest, rich in diversity, are currently being deprived of these animals due to hunting, roadkill and so many other threats.” 

Based on the results, the researchers point out that the active restoration of neotropical forests with large herbivores may, in fact, be the most efficient solution to improve the state of conservation of many species of large herbivores, contributing to the diversity of tropical forests in the long run. “We suggest that the measures begin in mature forests and then proceed to secondary forests with high levels of diversity.”

The Brazilian Pantanal suffered immense wildfires in 2020, affecting almost a third of the biome. The Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative and the Giant Armadillo Conservation joined forces to help fundraise for urgent mitigation purposes in 2020, but also collaborated to create long term preventive measures through the creation of community-based fire brigades.


Face the various social and environmental challenges in degraded areas of permanent preservation (APPs) and water recharge in the Rio Doce Basin (in the states Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo), IPÊ started the Education, Landscape and Community project, with the purpose of supporting soil regeneration and water conservation in influential areas from the basin, through community involvement and agroecology development.

Operating for the first time in Espírito Santo, the Institute takes to rural settlements in Alto Rio Novo and Águia Branca counties (areas of influence of the Rio Doce Basin) the successful social technology that it developed over 20 years ago with farmers in Pontal do Paranapanema, in the far west of the state of São Paulo. Among the actions there are environmental education, training and rural extension, with the application of sustainable productions such as agroecology.

The initiative is part of the School and Community Integration action line, carried out by IPÊ and its school, ESCAS - University of Environmental Conservation and Sustainability. In its edition in Espírito Santo, the project is now working to benefit 143 small properties in four rural settlements selected due to the potential of scale and applicability of the activities.

“School and Community Integration is a very interesting means of implementing a socio-environmental agenda for transformation. Through ESCAS, the IPÊ school, we bring education tools to the population, combining our expertise in science and social mobilization for real change. This is the principle adopted, even at Pontal do Paranapanema, where we have been working with communities for almost 30 years”, explains Eduardo Badialli, project coordinator.

Among some of the main activities of the project is the implementation of IPPs (Individual Property Projects) that contemplates forest restoration in rural landscapes and sustainable rural production in family farming.

Field activities with the communities started in August 2021 and will continue for two years. The work is in partnership with the Renova Foundation.