Ibitipoca contains such diverse nature because it is in a transitional zone between different biomes; a mixture of the great flora and fauna diversity that is found within the Atlantic Rainforest and the fascinating geological features of the Cerrado. There is such a variety of twisted trees, orchids, cacti and bromeliads, the symbol of Reserva do Ibitipoca.
A substantial part of the original vegetation has been removed and turned into pastures. Much of the forests in Reserva do Ibitipoca are secondary growth full of pioneer trees growing on abandoned pasture.
The Reserve has focused its efforts on planting native trees in degraded areas and pastures full of brachiária (a nonnative dominant grass that impedes the growth of native species). Reforestation efforts also focus on connecting isolated fragments of Atlantic Rainforest to increase wildlife habitats. Special native tree species in this region are are given special protection are ipê, paineira, cedro, quaresmeira, sapucaia, manacá da serra, jacarandá e araucária.
Sadly, many species have gone extinct in this region as a result of habitat reduction and hunting from the local population to eat and protect their livestock. Today, as a result of a law in 1988 that prohibited hunting and the regrowth of forests, we have seem the return of many animals such as deer, Tayra, wild boar, ocelots and pumas.
Five years ago, biologist Elisa Girardi identified 33 mammal species in the area using camera traps, doubling the list of known regional mammals. There are also around 350 species of birds, 41 kinds of amphibians, and 4 primate species.
in 2002, a population of Brachyteles hypoxanthus, commonly known as Muriqui (people friend or quiet people in Tupi-Guarani), was found in the Luna Forest. It is the largest primate of the Americas and considered critically endangered by the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature). There is less than 500 individuals of this species left in the states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo, and around 900 total in the world. The Luna Forest was being illegally logged until the Reserva purchased the property. Through a partnership with the Federal University of Viçosa and Dr. Fabiano Melo, the President of the Brazilian Society of Primatology, Reserva do Ibitipoca is working with biologists and researchers to study and protect the Muriqui of Ibitipoca.
The Reserva do Ibitipoca also partnered with the environmental group CRAX, p of Belo Horizonte, to work towards reintroductions of once native but now regionally extinct bird species such as Jacutinga, Mutum, Macuco and the Harpy Eagle. Reserva do Ibitipoca is also a release area for animals captured by the government that have been injured and/or illegally trafficked.
The region’s rivers are often used for spawning Pirapitinga. From September to October, local people wait for this fish to work its way up the falls where it is easy prey. The Reserva has been active in raising awareness of this population’s ecology in the hope of ending this over exploration and allowing the fish to complete its reproduction cycle.
The white sands of the region remind many people of beaches, and rightly so. Over 600 million years ago, this area was beneath the ocean and eventually raised up to form the Serra of Mantiqueira. It contains the largest outcrop of quartzite in the world, the second is located in Venezuela.
The quartzite is a metamorphic rock, which underwent many changes due to high pressure and/or temperature, and is formed by quartz, the most abundant mineral in the earth. Due to its high permeability to water, mosses and lichens could grow on the rocks which formed the foundation of soil as well as allowed for erosion of the quartzite that created the beautiful canyons and caves and colored the water. The rock is also a good conductor of electricity and responsible for an unusually high amount of lightening activity.
The altitude in the region varies greatly, the inn is located at 900m, the highest point on the Reserva is about 1,500m (Hawk’s Rock) while the highest point in the State Park of Ibitipoca is 1,800m (Lombada).
The Waterfalls in the region are formed by the meeting waters of the Saltos River and Gavião Stream. The water is naturally red and crystal clear and fills our waterfalls and pools.
There are many waterfalls within Reserva do Ibitipoca, such as: