Upon facing the horrors of documenting the genocide that happened in Rwanda, East Africa, 25 years ago, photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado returns to Brazil only to find another horrifying sight. Minas Gerais, a region he remembered as a thriving rainforest became a barren land. At that time, only half a percent (0.5%) of trees remained in the land and all the wildlife was gone.
“The land,” he tells The Guardian, “was as sick as I was.”
Then, his wife Lélia had an idea: they should replant the forest. In order to support this seemingly impossible cause, the couple set up the Instituto Terra, an “environmental organization dedicated to the sustainable development of the Valley of the River Doce,” in 1998. Over the next several years, the Salgados and the Instituto Terra team 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.
As the wildlife of the land returned, Salgado also felt reborn himself and considers that to be the most important moment.
See the amazing photos of the now-restored forest at My Modern Met.
(Video Credit: InstitutoTerra/ YouTube)
(Image Credit: Instituto Terra/ Facebook)