Conservationists look to put Rio de Janeiro on ecotourism map
By Andre Coelho
Rio de Janeiro, Apr 12 (EFE).- Environmentalists see preserving the natural beauty of Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay as a way to promote sustainable development centered on ecotourism.
Spots such as Tres Picos State Park, which tops out at 2,316 m (7,598 ft), offers a very different kind of attraction from the beaches, monuments, and nightlife of Brazil’s second city.
The park’s pathways converge on an imposing jequitiba rosa tree that stands 40 m (131 ft) tall, has a diameter of 6 m, and is estimated to be between 800 and 1,000 years old.
It is one of the few jequitiba rosas to have survived the indiscriminate logging that has made the Atlantic Forest Mosaic Brazil’s most-threatened ecosystem.
The area is counting on ecotourism to “foster initiatives with positive impact” for communities and the hospitality industry, Thiago Valente, director of projects for the foundation run by Grupo Boticario, Brazil’s largest beauty products company.
Not far from the park is the Guapiaccu reserve, a former cattle ranch reforested with more than 720,000 trees and transformed into a vast nursery for various native species of flora and fauna.
Guapiaccu has become a refuge for capybaras, cormorants, and herons, with paths and overlooks for visitors, an inn for those who want to spend the night, and a biological research center.
The reserve was founded by Briton Nicholas Locke, great-grandson of the original owners of the ranch.
He says that his aim is to revitalize the region based on the principles of protecting species from habitat loss and ensuring “hydro security” for one of Rio de Janeiro’s main sources of water.
The pathways of Guanabara Bay are part of a trail that extends 4,000 km (2,500 mi) down the coast to Rio Grande do Sul state, across mountains, forests, beaches, and islands.
“The potential of these regions is enormous and one of the principal objectives is to valorize the local productive chains linked to ecotourism and create standards for environmental restoration on the route,” says Chico Schnoor, national coordinator of the Atlantic Mosaic Trail project.
One of the other reserves on the bay, Guapimirim, included mangroves that have remained much as they were when the Portuguese first arrived on these shores.
The visitor can watch anhingas in flight and gray dolphins chasing swarms of fish.
Alaildo Malafaia, a fisherman who leads the Fluminense Mangrove Cooperative, said that Guanabara Bay generates “much income” without compromising the natural beauty. EFE ac-wgm/dr