Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) was born from the Locke family's desire to protect the forest remnants of their rural property in the municipality of Cachoeiras de Macacu, state of Rio de Janeiro. The Carmo farm (which was transformed into REGUA) was acquired by the great-grandfather of Nicholas Locke (current manager of REGUA), Hilmar Werner, in 1907, becoming a state reference in innovative agricultural production, commercialization of hardwoods and production of cachaça. It is also worth mentioning the expressive contingent of people leaving the slavery regime who, looking for support throughout the state, found at Fazenda do Carmo a place of work and shelter.
Landscape of degraded area resulting from the extraction of wood from the former Fazenda do Carmo (REGUA Collection).
Hilmar Werner was one of the pioneers in setting up the textile industry in the city of Petrópolis, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. His recognized passion for the property acquired in Guapiaçu resulted in important investments in land access to this area, which had extensive floodplains. The name Fazenda do Carmo refers to the Carmelite monks who left Rio de Janeiro in the mid-eighteenth century, crossing the Guanabara Bay and going up the Guapiaçu River to the last point of navigability, where they settled to begin their evangelization project until their exit at the end of the 19th century.
In the 1970s, Fazenda do Carmo was divided between Olga, Nora and Gerda, daughters of Hilmar Werner, who started to have their areas managed by their respective heirs. In 1995, with the aim of starting conservation work, an Avifauna survey was requested, in terms of bioindicators, from two specialists from the United Kingdom. After two years of research, they had a list of 400 species and this kicked off the development of the REGUA project. In 2001, the environmental NGO Associação Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) was formed with the institutional mission of conserving and protecting the Atlantic Forest of the Guapiaçu River catchment area.
First reforestation project at REGUA in 2006. Reconstruction of an old flooded environment (REGUA Collection).
Tapir (Tapirus terrestris) - © AGuapiaçu Project deer
Several programmes have been developed for REGUA to reach this objective, among them the restoration of degraded habitats, the control of hunting and predatory exploitation of natural resources through the daily patrol of park rangers in the forests, and scientific research. There have also been projects to reintroduce locally extinct fauna and flora species, with emphasis on the Southeastern Curassow (Crax blumenbachii), the Jacutinga (Aburria jacutinga) and the Tapir (Tapirus terrestris), with the support of different research institutions, and the environmental education work with neighbouring communities.
With the aim of achieving financial sustainability, REGUA also has a lodge that is highly sought after by nature lovers and birdwatchers from all over the world. With 487 species of birds to be found in this region. REGUA also offers accommodation and meals at more affordable prices for university students and participants in courses and workshops focused on biology and related areas. Currently, 20 higher education institutions have a partnership with the Reserve and more than 120 scientific articles have already been published.
Pousada da REGUA © REGUA
Foto Jovens-Guarda - © REGUA
Foto visita escolar - © REGUA
Focused on environmental education, in 2004 REGUA created the “Young Ranger” program, with the aim of raising awareness and changing the perception of young people in the surrounding area on issues related to the conservation of the Atlantic Forest. Young people aged 10-15, who are residents of the local communities of Areal, Estreito, Guapiaçu, Matumbo and Santo Amaro, enrolled in Elementary Schools, are the target audience of this programme and meetings take place once a week, from 14:00h to 16:00h, under the tutelage of the Coordinator of Environmental Education. Basic themes such as the importance of recycling, the reintroduction of species, the presentation of the rich local flora and fauna, the forest restoration programme, as well as predatory hunting are covered in this initiative. Artistic expression classes are also developed in order to enhance the learning of the content. Practical activities, such as the collection and analysis of the water quality of the REGUA wetlands, visits to the Nursery and to local communities to deliver a newsletter called the Green Bulletin are also frequent. We have found that these actions have reinforced the importance of protecting our region. REGUA also receives many public and private schools in the municipality to strengthen learning through field experience.
A milestone in the history of REGUA concerns the Guapiaçu Project, a programme supported by Petrobras Socioambiental, which took place at REGUA from 2013 to 2022. This boosted REGUA in gaining scale in the actions already developing, as well as helped to develop new experience. Thus, in addition to doubling the number of restored areas, the Guapiaçu Project created an integrated environmental education programme, strengthened the relationship with the local community through social mobilisation, reforested areas belonging to partner owners around the Reserve, carried out a survey of new areas for restoration and supported the Refauna project, with the reintroduction of lowland tapirs. Currently, we have other important partnerships, which take place through WWF-Brasil, which has already restored 20 hectares between 2021 and 2022 and has the objective of restoring another 30 hectares in the coming years, and with the International Institute for Sustainability (IIS), which will encourage enrichment activities with tree species and support fauna monitoring activities in areas already restored in the RPPN areas of REGUA.
WWF's Reforestation squad - ©REGUA
REGUA's field team - ©REGUA
Regional units of the Atlantic Forest Pact - © REGUA
Wetlands - © REGUA
REGUA had its Management Plan approved in 2021 and is proud of its trajectory. Its recognition takes place through the joint work of motivated and committed employees who are part of its team. REGUA had and still has important partners such as Petrobras, the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust, World Land Trust, WWF-Brasil, SOS Mata Atlântica, DOB Ecology, Saving Nature, Conservation International, Iniciativa Verde, Ecosia, IIS, INEA, Projeto Refauna, ASA, AMBEV, Três Picos State Park, among others, and several research institutions in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
REGUA is currently chaired by Nicholas Locke, great-grandson of Hilmar Werner, and vice-president Raquel Locke, his wife. REGUA has been cultivating public and private partnerships in this challenging task of conservation and throughout its history, it has gradually acquired rural properties to integrate into the Reserve so that the fragmented forest can be connected.
Nicholas e Raquel - © REGUA
Nicholas Locke and Raquel locke - © REGUA
Seedlings in the nursery - © REGUA
In 2014, REGUA was accepted as an Advanced Post of the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve (RBMA), the largest biosphere reserve in forested areas on the planet, effectively contributing to the establishment of a harmonious relationship between human societies and the environment in the Atlantic Forest area. REGUA also participates in the Pact for the Restoration of the Atlantic Forest, together with over 100 institutions from different sectors of society, the Mata Atlântica Network (RMA), the RPPNs Network and the Association of Seed and Seedling Producers of the State of Rio de Janeiro (For Seedlings Rio).
REGUA is now one of the largest restorers of forest ecosystems in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It stands out in this scenario with 470 hectares of restored areas and 700,000 seedlings planted, with a diversity of more than 500 species. The REGUA nursery has a production capacity of 100,000 seedlings per year. In it, most species have their seeds collected in the local forests, which highlights the importance of genetic recovery for their conservation, especially those considered rare and endangered. One of REGUA's main objectives with forest restoration, in addition to maintaining biodiversity and preserving species, is to contribute to the conservation of the upper Guapi-Macacu watershed (which encompasses the two main rivers in the region, Guapiaçu and Macacu), since this is an important human supply unit, responsible for supplying water to millions of people who inhabit part of the metropolitan region of the state of Rio de Janeiro.