Instituto Marcos Daniel (IMD) was established as a private non-profit organisation in 2004 to carry out scientific research and biodiversity conservation, and to communicate and encourage a sustainable society in Brazil. IMD’s vital nature conservation work in the region is based on approaches from Conservation Medicine and the One World – One Health concept, and shape IMD’s between human, animal, and environmental health as interconnected. This approach is transdisciplinary and relates to IMD’s mission in pursuing a healthy environment to all living beings, by promoting the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem protection.
IMD has grown to become one of the most prominent non-governmental organisations in the Espírito Santo state of Brazil and has ongoing partnerships with Rainforest Trust, American Bird Conservancy, SAVE Brasil and Parque das Aves, and the Conservation Planning Specialist Group (CPSG) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
It has focused its efforts on addressing conservation issues in the Atlantic Forest biome. This region is faced with an alarming rate of deforestation and is Brazil’s most threatened biome, having lost 80% or more of its original primary vegetation.
IMD engages the public with conservation issues through communication and environmental education initiatives and is at the forefront of establishing reserves in high ecological value areas in the Atlantic Forest. Its various projects focus on researching and tackling the threats facing species such as tapirs, caimans, bromeliads, sea turtles, and multiple bird species.
WLT’s partnership with IMD began in 2023, with support for its project to expand the Kaetés Reserve in collaboration with fellow IMD supporters Rainforest Trust and American Bird Conservancy. This project aims to provide additional protection to one of only two known populations of Cherry-throated Tanager, a Critically Endangered bird with an estimated population of fewer than 25 individuals. The reserve expansion will also benefit the Buffy-headed Marmoset (a Critically Endangered monkey), the endemic and Critically Endangered Caetés Catfish, as well as many other threatened species.
IMD started working in the Caetés region in 2016, conducting the first investigation of the occurrence of the Cherry-throated tanager in partnership with Rainforest Trust. In 2020 it began a conservation programme which had four objectives: define the historical and current areas of occurrence, study the natural history, identify the threats, and conduct an environmental education and community engagement programme. IMD successfully acquired the 285-hectare Kaetés Reserve in 2021 which includes one of the two known locations where the highly threatened Cherry-throated Tanager still survives.
Areas surrounding the Reserve remain threatened, however, from illegal deforestation driven by expanding agricultural activity as well as eucalyptus and pine tree plantations which require a lot of water and bring risks of wildfires to the area. The importance of extending the protected area in this landscape is heightened by the threat of illegal land subdivision and associated forest clearance for the construction of condominiums for country houses.
With WLT’s support, and in collaboration with the Rainforest Trust and American Bird Conservancy, IMD will extend the Kaetés Reserve by 351 hectares. Doing so will secure the IMD’s rights over three plots of land which will be given the time and respite needed to regain their ecological status as a humid old-growth forest.
The proposed area is formed by mountainous Atlantic Forest, a specific kind of forest found at an altitude of 800 to 1,400 metres above sea level. The area contains many springs which feed the Castelo River, the most important hydric resource for the local population. Once the land purchase is completed and the Kaetés Reserve expanded, the knowledgeable and experienced staff at IMD will work to regenerate the land. This will make a key contribution to collaborative efforts to reconnect forest in the Pedra Azul-Forno Grande Ecological Corridor, a network of protected areas and private reserves established through public policy by the state government. Due to the nature of land tenure allocation in the region, this work requires delicate collaboration with local landowners.
IMD is engaged in a series of important environmental education programmes, including engaging people in conversations around the issues of hunting, bird trafficking, and the harvesting of palm hearts in the area. Since January 2020, IMD has been working with city halls, agricultural promotion agencies, schools, and other actors with the purpose of improving the community’s environmental perception of conservation. It also runs an environmental education programme at seven rural schools around the Kaetés Reserve and carries out a “Birding at school” strategy.
Threatened animals and plants
The expansion of the Kaetés Reserve will help prevent rapid deterioration and loss of biodiversity in one of the richest areas of this rare highland Atlantic Forest biome. This is vital for the survival of at least two species on the edge of extinction, the Cherry-throated Tanager and the Caetés Catfish.
Additionally, there live six globally threatened birds in the Reserve. These include the Endangered Vinaceous-breasted Amazon and the Golden-tailed Parrotlet which is classified as Vulnerable. A panoply of diverse mammals found only in the unique and richly biodiverse treescape of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest will also benefit from more land being placed under the stewardship of the IMD. These include the Three-toed Maned Sloth, and possibly the last remaining population of Buffy-headed Marmoset,that have yet to hybridise with other marmoset species.
In 2014, IMD won the Tião Sá Prize from the Vitoria municipality for best scientific work on conservation.
In 2022 IMD members were awarded the Augusto Ruschi commendation, the state government’s highest honour for those who work in the environmental sector.
Other projects and activities
Project Caiman is an IMD initiative in partnership with Arcelor Mittal Tubarão dedicated to the research and conservation of the Broad-snouted Caiman, a symbolic species of the Atlantic Forest.
The Vem Passarinhar Capixaba project
The Vem Passarinhar Capixaba project is an initiative led by IMD to promote environmental education and citizen science through birdwatching in the State of Espírito Santo. It forms part of a national movement, which emerged at the Instituto Butantan’s Bird Observatory in 2014.
In 2011, IMD began its tapir conservation project with a mission to develop a conservation plan for the species in the Espiríto Santo State’s Atlantic Forest region. Since 2018, this successful initiative led to it becoming an independent NGO, Pro-Tapir Institute.
This project is focused on the conservation of bromeliads throughout the Atlantic Forest. Bromeliads are important to the ecosystem due to their ability to accumulate rainwater between their leaves, providing a micro-environment for many animals. Through this project, IMD engaged students and rural residents to promote sustainable management practices toward the conservation of bromeliads and other organisms that rely on them.
Chelonia mydas Project
Since its foundation, IMD started researching sea turtle health through an ecological approach. Espirito Santo State homes the second largest rookery of loggerhead turtles and the largest of leatherback turtles in the south Atlantic. These species suffer from issues relating to certain human activities, particularly water pollution and IMD is focused in identifying and clarify how this affects sea turtle health in Brazil.