Renowned Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia have turned their family estate in Minas Gerais, Brazil into a green sanctuary for over 500 endangered species, UNILAD’s Lucy Connolloy reports
Their menagerie includes 293 plant species, 172 bird species and 33 animal species, some of which were on the verge of extinction.
But the grass has not always been so green on their side of the fence. Back in 1994, Sebastião returned home from Rwanda, where he had been covering the horrific genocide against the Tutsi. During the one hundred days of slaughter, as the BBC reports, Hutu extremists killed 800,000 people.
The sight that the Brazilian photographer found at home was almost as shocking.
“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed. Only about 0.5% of the land was covered in trees. Then my wife had a fabulous idea to replant this forest,” he told The Guardian.
According to Science Insanity, the first important milestone of their environment restoration and conservation project was in 1998. Back then, they founded Instituto Terra – the organisation which tirelessly worked to bring the barren wilderness to life.
The first seeds were sowed in December 1999.
At that time, the couple could only afford to hire about twenty-four workers. Fortunately, hundreds of volunteers have joined their cause since the first seed was planted.
For a start, they had to toil tirelessly to eradicate all of the invasive plant species that had overgrown the land.
As you can see here, the couple and their team managed to fully restore the tropical rain forest in just over 15 years.
Asked what’s keeping him going, Salgado explained:
“Perhaps we have a solution. There is a single being which can transform CO2 to oxygen, which is the tree. We need to replant the forest.”