Thursday, June 26, 2008

Restoration and Redemption on Hunchback Hill


At 125 feet, Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro stands tall and proud on Corcovado, the highest peak in Rio. There is not a more defining image of Rio and this statue of Jesus looms large over this beautiful city -- the silhouette can be seen from miles away.

Corcovado means "hunchback" in Portuguese and this monolithic granite dome rises up out of the Tijuca forest some 2300 feet above Rio. It's breathtaking and humbling at any angle and from any religious perspective.

The panoramic views are stunning. Looking across the city to the right you can see another much beloved granite-domed peak - Sugarloaf Mountain. Looking up from the city this statue seemingly floats in the air as an ever-present sentinel seen for miles around Rio.

Capuchin monkeys and tufted-eared marmosets frolic on the fringe of the forest and romp around the periphery of the statue wedged out of the forest growth.

New world vultures riding swift thermals are almost a permanent fixture to the aerial landscape.

It's an otherworldly place. Corcovado and Tijuca, like that cordillera of distant hills beyond Sugarloaf, is home to the some of the last remaining 7% of Mata Atlantica - the Atlantic Rainforest -- one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. That only 7% remains is heartbreaking, on any level, really -- but to be witness to the diversity present is gut-wrenching when considering the losses.

Dancing around this cascatinha (Portuguese for little waterfall) like whimsical little ballerinas was an untold number of resplendent birds and metallic butterflies. The Atlantic Rainforest stretches for about 8000 miles along the east coast of Brazil and, according to Conservation International, is among the top 5 biodiversity hotspots on Earth.

The diversity of flora and fauna is almost incomprehensible - 250 species of mammals, 340 amphibians and reptiles, 1023 birds, including this Toco toucan (Ramphastos toco) that momentarily posed, and some 20,000 species of trees. Don't just breath it in -- take a picture -- its disappearing at an alarming rate due to deforestation from agriculture and real estate expansion.

The Tijuca forest where we stand today, however, is a bit of a success story. At 8000 acres, it is reportedly the largest urban forest in the world and was once completely deforested and turned into a coffee plantation. In 1861 the Emperor Don Pedro II returned the land to the city and employed the first forest administrator - who, with only the help of six slaves, painstakingly hand planted 100,000 seedlings from existing Mata Atlantica forest -- taking 13 years. It is now a national park in Brazil. In the 1970's - on the recommendation of ecologists and biologists, once endemic amphibians, reptiles and mammals were reintroduced to the park in order to restore the ecological balance.

Corcovado and the Tijuca forests of Rio serve as a fitting tribute to both the power of redemption and restoration. Hopefully the success will spread to other parts of the Brazilian, Paraguayan and Argentine coastal forests.

The Nature Conservancy has been working in the Atlantic forests of Brazil since 1991 and has "an ambitious plan to protect and restore 30 million acres of this magnificent forest by 2015". I'm heading over there now to off-set the carbon footprint my work creates.

For more on the Atlantic Rainforest -- head over to the Nature Conservancy. For more beautiful skies -- visit Wiggers World.

30 comments:

Rachel said...

These pictures are beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nancy said...

Fantastic pictures and information!

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

Gorgeous, T.R. An interesting post and wonderful skywatch pictures.

Lana Gramlich said...

Amazing photos & wonderful news. Thank you! :)

SandyCarlson said...

Wow. These are nothing short of spectacular.

kjpweb said...

You sure get around. And I thank you for what you do! Love the pictures.
Cheers, Klaus

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

T.R., this is a wonderful post, from beginning to end. The photos are superb, of course, but the information in your narrative, especially that about the rainforest, is outstanding. It is my hope that everyone who visits this post will take time to read, and ponder on, every word.

Thanks for your visit to my Dam Bridge post. I'm always honored to have you visit.

Anonymous said...

Spectacular!!! what a post!!! full of amazing shots. what else can i say!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm back ...
Oh no, cried blog world ... he's back!

But guess what, I'm so happy. If I didn´t rejoin SWF I would never have the chance to see this great photo!

Old Wom Tigley said...

Just to let you know I have visited and seen your post. I thank you for joining in this week and being part of the Sky Watch community.
Tom :O)

I'm marking this down for a revisit so I can spend time reading through when I have more time... excellent pictures.

Petunia said...

This statue is a marvelous landmark. You have a very great SWF post here today:)

Petunia's SWF

jennifer said...

AWESOME SkyWatch post. The photos and the information was great.

Have a lovely weekend.

Jen

Oh, and the monkey looked a little scary!

For The People said...

That is an Awesome set of photos. Great job!

Patty said...

Oh I love these they are all beautiful

AphotoAday said...

Those first two shots are simply amazing!
Hope you are having a great skywatch Friday.

karen said...

You are simply wonderful! I can't believe I've missed out on all this glory for so long. I'm glad we're going to be friends again. You're a fantastic artist!

babooshka said...

Absolutely stunning collection. The first is just the most awesome site

Anonymous said...

Ok... I'm taking the first flight from Istanbul to Rio de Janeiro! :-)

Beautiful photos dear T.R.!

I wish you a perfect week-end!

Anonymous said...

Very dramatic and beautiful photos. Interesting post.

Alan said...

Great SWF post. Lots of info there. Beautiful shots.

Shimmy Mom said...

Wow, gorgeous shots. My favorites are 1, 5 and 6. Thanks for sharing.

JC said...

I'm speechless!! Most wonderful site and the pictures are spectacular. Have a great weekend.

chrome3d said...

That must be the one of the most striking photos I´ve seen from Corcovado- Jesus. Brilliant way to start. The whole story was excellent too.

Suzi-k said...

what a brilliant post! On so many levels, it is a great Skywatch, a wonderful journey, a visual feast and a wake up call all in one! Those granite plugs are amazing, there are many in Zimbabwe too, we call them Gomos and they are a definitive aspect of the Zim landscape.
if you go along with the continental drift theory, the volcanic band that formed those could have been the same one that formed the Zim ones... i must read up about that!

John said...

Great captures for sky watch!
Have a nice weekend.

Doug Taron said...

tr, you've outdone yourself. This is a truly magnificent post. The combination of your gorgeous photos with such timely prose is profound and moving. I have a special reverence for this ecosystem, though I have never been there, because it is the home of the Fluminense Swallowtail. That butterfly was my favorite in a coffee table book that I received as an eighth birthday present and that influenced my ultimate career path. I hope that you continue to enjoy your trip.

Selma said...

The restoration project is such good news. How unforgivable if the rainforest was completely destroyed. Today you have given me hope.

Mary said...

Anyone can take a photo. But not like you can. What an insightful and artful eye you have.

Love it.

Mary

Juhi said...

Your pictures are absolutel wonderful...a delight to the eye!

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