Wildlife Corridor Is a Road to Survival for Animals in Brazil's Atlantic Forest

A golden lion tamarin perches on a branch with an infant on its back. Eric Gevaert/Shutterstock

Brazil's Atlantic Forest once covered around 330 million acres, a swath of land roughly twice the size of Texas. Today, more than 85 percent of that land has been cleared, leaving a fragmented area that puts a great deal of pressure on the remaining wildlife.

A way to lessen that fragmentation has emerged, however, thanks to the efforts of three conservationist organizations. SavingSpecies, Brazilian NGO Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado (AMLD) and the Netherlands-based DOB Ecology have purchased the land necessary to create a wildlife corridor stretching across a busy highway that will allow wildlife to circulate out of a biological reserve located in what's left of the Atlantic Forest.

The corridor will connect the Poço das Antas Biological Reserve to a 585-acre patch of land on the other side of the four-lane highway. The new land will go through a reforesting process; much of it is currently pasture. According to Mongabay, construction of the bridge began in April.

"It's healing a tear in the forest in the place with the greatest number of threatened species," Stuart Pimm, the chair of conservation at Duke University and the president of SavingSpecies, told National Geographic.

The number of species living in the forest has drastically declined since the 16th century when humans first colonized the forest, according to a 2018 study. More than half of all mammal species have been decimated with pumas, jaguars and tapirs being the hardest hit.

"These habitats are now often severely incomplete, restricted to insufficiently large forest remnants, and trapped in an open-ended extinction vortex. This collapse is unprecedented in both history and pre-history and can be directly attributed to human activity," said Carlos Peres, a biologist at the University of East Anglia and a lead author on the study.

The new wildlife corridor couldn't come at a better time. It's good news for animals like the golden lion tamarin (pictured above), a New World monkey species that has struggled due to habitat loss and is considered endangered. The protection of this monkey has been one of the core goals of the wildlife corridor project.

"This fragmentation and infrastructure cut off tamarin populations from each other," Pimm said to Mongabay. "Since tamarins live their lives in trees, even high in the forest canopy, a 'bridge in the canopy' from one forest to another is necessary for the tamarins to connect to each other."