Reccemag: Every year, the Earth loses about 18 million acres of forests. Such significant changes in the environment affect not only humans but countless animal species have to leave their natural habitats and seek home somewhere else.
Nearly 30 years ago, Brazilian photojournalist, Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado returned from East Africa, where he was on location documenting the horrors of the Rwanda genocide. After this traumatic experience, he was looking for peace in the lush green forest of his native land in the Minas Gerais area of Brazil.
However, what he saw there was even more devastating — over a few years, a rich forest had turned into a severely damaged and dusty landscape with dried-up rivers and without any trace of wildlife. The land was only 0.5% covered in trees. Salgado was shattered.
At this time, his wife Lélia made a near-impossible proposal. She believed that their forest could be restored to its former glory if they put all their effort into it. Sebastião supported her idea and the couple decided to replant the entire area with a species that once flourished there.
Over the next several years, the Salgados and Lélia slowly but surely rebuilt the 1,754-acre forest, transforming it from a barren plot of land to a tropical paradise.
Now a Private Natural Heritage Reserve, hundreds of species of flora and fauna call the former cattle ranch home. In addition to 293 species of trees, the land now teems with 172 species of birds, 33 species of mammals, and 15 species of amphibians and reptiles—many of which are endangered. As expected, this rejuvenation has also had a huge impact on the ecosystem and climate. On top of reintroducing plants and animals to the area, the project has rejuvenated several once dried-up springs in the drought-prone area and has even positively affected local temperatures.