Brazils most endangered forest is not the Amazon.

While the world is deeply concerned about the increasing deforestation of the Amazon, another unique forest in Brazil has almost disappeared. The Atlantic Forest is only 12 percent left. By comparison, about 83 percent of the Amazon is still standing.

Once upon a time, the Atlantic Forest covered much of the Brazilian coastal region. Today, 70 percent of Brazilians live there. From the original forest there are some tufts left here and there.

Ilha do Cardoso Island, in the state of Sรฃo Paulo, is one of those places. The entire island is protected area. Biologists Roberto Fusco Costa and Bianca Ingberman often come there.

โ€œThis is one of the largest contiguous remains of the original forest,โ€ says Fusco, as the rain drains into the forest. Between the showers, he goes deeper into the woods with his colleague and wife Ingberman. They‘re going to place a camera trap, hoping to register large mammals.

Check out the report Correspondent Marc Bessems made with the two biologists in the Atlantic rainforest:

โ€œThis project has been running for a few years now, and we hope to continue for a long time to come. We want to know which animals survive here, and in what quantities. That’s important to help them and protect them,โ€ explains Ingberman. โ€œWe‘re mainly looking for three big mammals: the tapir, the witlippekari and the jaguar.โ€

It is very important to protect these species because they have an important function, says Ingberman. โ€œThe tapir, for example, eats large seeds and spreads them over a long distance.โ€ His wife replenishes him: โ€œThat’s why they call the tapir the gardener of the jungle.โ€

Jaguar spotting

The couple have been placing dozens of camera traps in places like this in recent years. Very sometimes they register a jaguar, the largest predator in the continent. โ€œWe think there are only 300 copies left in the Atlantic Forest,โ€ Fusco sighs while his wife turns on the camera trap.

The Atlantic Forest has been under pressure for years, but under President Bolsonaro the situation worsened, biologists think. โ€œOver the past three years, we‘ve seen an increase in deforestation in the Atlantic Rainforest. We see it’s encouraged,โ€ says Fusco.

The biologists say that these days they even find traces of illegal mining in protected areas, something that was hardly present in this part of Brazil for a long time. That phenomenon is also a major problem in the much larger and remote Amazon region. โ€œAs the current government does not bother to protect the Amazon, it does nothing for the Atlantic Rainforest,โ€ Ingberman sighs.

โ€œWe need to protect the Atlantic Forest and restore as much as possible,โ€ says Fusco. โ€œThe fate of this primeval forest serves as a warning: we must prevent the Amazon from looking like this in the future: just a few small, scattered tufts of rainforest.โ€

Tourist Potential

On the way back, biologists emphasize the importance of the forest for the environment. โ€œLook around: it‘s breathtakingly beautiful here. Think about the tourist potential,โ€ says Fusco. โ€œAnd don’t forget how important the Atlantic Forest is for the water supply of this part of the country, the most densely populated part,โ€ his wife replenishes.

It‘s quiet while biologists make their way through the bromeliad bushes. Then it clears up, and the enthusiasm returns to the scientists as well. โ€œLook there, in that puddle,โ€ Fusco says. The two biologists bend down and study a paw print. โ€œIt’s hard to see in the water, but I think a crab-eating fox walked here. Great.โ€

Earlier, ECCEIT made this Amazon rainforest explainer on 3: