Couple Spends 20 Years Planting Forest, Countless Endangered Animals Return


When an acclaimed photojournalist returned to his family's land in Brazil, he was expecting the thriving oasis of his boyhood memories, instead, he found ruins. He and his wife decided to take action and the results are miraculous.

Founders of the environmental organization Instituto Terra, Brazilian couple Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado and Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado have spent the last 20 years planting and restoring a 1,750-acre forest to transform a barren plot of land into a thriving oasis.

This plot of land in Minas Geraisland was actually the very land Sebastião grew up on. Once his family’s cattle ranch, Bulcão Farm was “a lush and lively sub-tropical rainforest [that] had suffered [over the years] from rampant deforestation and uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources,” Daily Mail reports.  

Together, the Salgado’s devised a plan to heal the land by replanting the lush forest.

At the beginning of this vast undertaking in 1998, Sebastião spoke of the then barren land, “Here there was once much water and many fish. And today? You see the earth barren, dry. There is nothing left. It’s all over.”

Skip ahead to 2008, 20-years-later, and Bulcão Farm’s transformation was nothing short of a miracle. Sprawling land that was once barren, sick, dying—now alive, vibrant, thriving.

“In 1990 we acquired the land that had belonged to my parents. We decided to replant the forest. Our project lies in the heart of the Atlantic Forest…We have managed to plant over a million saplings,” Sebastião shared.

In total, they planted 2.7 million trees! Lélia added, “With the woods growing back, and the trees flourishing, the animals have returned. 30 species of mammals have come back, 168 species of bird and 15 species of reptiles”—many of which are endangered.

Now a Private Natural Heritage Reserve, Bulcão Farm’s “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,” Real Farmacy reports.