Making way for the giant anteater
The Faber-Castell forests in Brazil are teeming with diverse fauna. This hasn’t happened by chance: the animals that live here have been protected over the last few decades. Thanks to some very careful planning, the diversity of species has even shown a clear increase over the years. We offer a bit of insight into this world of pumas, anteaters, and birds with special needs.
Every evening the birds sit in a tree that stands in an open area, a few hundred meters away from where the forest begins. This tree is no accident, as forestry engineer Kelen Pedroso explains. The tree is quite deliberate, and so is the open space around it, hence the birds. "Some species of birds can only fly short distances, others pass through the area on their flight paths," she says. The trees help the birds fly over and provide them with a welcome resting place. Pedroso works in the Faber-Castell forest in the southwest of Brazil, in the state of Minas Gerais. The area covers 10,000 hectares of forest set aside for the manufacturing of pencils and crayons. Faber-Castell produces over two billion pencils a year, the largest share of which comes from the pine trees here in Brazil. The trees are felled when they are fully grown. "But we always leave a few trees on purpose," Pedroso says. For the birds, the trees are, in a sense, resting trees.
One nest with 21 Rhea eggs
Experts have been recording and analysing the degree of biodiversity on Faber-Castell's properties since the early 1990s. The animals are counted using hidden cameras or small amphibian traps. As a result, it’s been possible to collect meaningful statistics that span a 30-year period. The number of different mammal species has almost tripled in that time, from 30 to about 80 species. The number of bird species has doubled to about 270. Last year, workers came across a nest containing 21 giant Rhea eggs. "We stopped work at that site as a result," Pedroso says. These large birds, much like an ostrich or an emu, would not have been able to return with people around and moving the nest to another location would likely have resulted in the birds not finding it again. When trees are felled, Faber-Castell employees always clear away from the road towards still-standing forests, so that any animals that might have been in that spot can retreat in peace. Given the long growth cycle of the trees, many of the pine forests are largely untouched for years. Wood is a raw material that needs time, patience, and rest.
Snapshots of the giant anteater
The habitats of native animals are untouched, native forest areas. Native forests have scrub and undergrowth, which the pine nurseries do not have. In addition, pines have few branches and are also regularly pruned, since each branch eye would reduce the quality of the wood in pencil production. This means that larger animals use these pine forests as a corridor from one native area to the next. The motion camera has repeatedly taken photos of cougars, and occasionally of impressive giant anteaters. These creatures don't have the adjective in their name for nothing: they can reach lengths of about two meters. A while ago, some of our employees also came across a 13-meter-long strangler snake. "A local zoologist said he had rarely seen such a specimen in many decades, and when he had, it was in inaccessible nature reserves," Pedroso says. This is just one of the indications that wildlife in the area is intact. Another such indicator is the more than 200 different species of ants. Insects in particular are a helpful indicator of bio-diversity levels.
An insight into biodiversity
Education and training
At the same time, the large area with its many pine forests and native woods is by no means an enclave – it borders other properties where livestock are raised or otherwise used for commercial purposes. Before Faber-Castell began operating its own forest, excessive farming also took place on this land that depleted the soil. To promote nutrient cycling and protect the soil from erosion, needles and branch residues are now left in the forest during management. "For decades, we have been involved in education and training here in addition to our own work. We educate people about sustainable use and about environmental issues," Pedroso tells us. Experts from Faber-Castell visit schools in the area or talk to the owners of neighbouring properties. They are not always necessarily happy with the nature reserve next door. "Recently, a neighbour complained that wild pigs were running across his farmland from our property," Pedroso says. "I explained that there's nothing we can do about it – that's nature."