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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 8,200 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.

The FSC-C017601 certification guarantees that the production chain can be traced from raw material to finished product.
About 40 years ago, Faber-Castell decided to establish its own forests here in Brazil. This region is a savannah with little or no rainfall for six months of the year, and the soil is dry. The Pinus caribaea hondurensis, a Caribbean pine, thrives here despite the conditions. It can survive droughts and grows quite fast since it only takes twenty years for the pine to reach maturity. Not all of the area here is pine. About a quarter is native vegetation and is not used for timber production. "We farm according to FSC® certification," Pedroso explains. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) only awards its certificates only to those who manage forests in a sustainable and socially responsible manner – and that means, for example, protecting plants and animals. 

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.


Our biodiversity programme in Brazil

"Forest management is organisation, but it's also conservation," Pedroso says. This versatility, she says, was the reason she decided to study forestry engineering. "Forest is an economic sector unlike any other," she affirms. "I was fascinated by the sustainability aspect right from the beginning. The mixture of administration and working with nature."

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.


Animal protection measures alone are not enough, because the animals also need an intact ecosystem. The native savannah area here is amazingly diverse. There are palm groves, dense bushland, flowing waters and fern landscapes. The various plants and tree species are also counted and protected, and the water quality of the area is checked regularly. The small streams in particular are of vital importance for a complete ecosystem, and in many other countries around the world, these small waterways are filled in or straightened for more productive land use, but on the Faber-Castell site they remain untouched.

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."