Located in the middle of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tijuca National Park exemplifies nature’s persistence and the impact of human intervention in conservation. This urban forest, which covers around 39.58 square kilometers, is the world’s largest of its sort, providing a verdant oasis amid a bustling city. However, Tijuca National Park’s history is not only one of natural preservation but also of extensive human rewilding initiatives that have brought it back from the brink of ecological devastation. 

Background History:

Tijuca Forest’s history is inextricably related to Rio de Janeiro’s development. By the early nineteenth century, large coffee plantations had killed most of the ancient Atlantic Rainforest (Mata Atlântica), causing severe erosion of the soil and watershed degradation. Recognizing the environmental disaster, Brazil’s Emperor Pedro II made a bold step in the 1860s by launching a vast reforestation campaign. Under the direction of Major Manuel Gomes Archer, imprisoned workers and laborers planted approximately 100,000 trees, marking one of history’s first large-scale reforestation efforts. 

In Rio de Janeiro, the destruction of the Atlantic Forest during the next 200 years proved almost fatal to the new settlement. The rivers that supplied water to the city had dried up, and drought was on its way. Emperor Peter II in the nineteenth century proposed a solution: restore the forest. So, in the 1860s, landowners and city inhabitants who lived on forest property were expropriated, while enslaved Africans were made to plant over 100,000 trees. However, they did not reintroduce many of the plant and animal varieties that once flourished in the forest. 

Tijuca Forest’s Modern Importance: 

Tijuca Forest was named a national park in 1967, and it is separated into three non-contiguous areas: Tijuca Forest west of the city center, Carioca, which houses the world-famous Cristo Redentor statue, and Pedra Bonita and Gávea mountains facing the beaches. Tijuca National Park has subsequently become the country’s most popular, with over 3.5 million tourists each year. 

“Imagine Rio without the forest, just the bare mountains and the seas; Rio would no longer the wonderful city,” said Fernando Fernandez, a professor of ecology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and co-founder of the conservation organization Project Refauna. 

The Rewilding Mission:

Tijuca National Park’s rewilding has been a complicated and ongoing process. Initially, the emphasis was on replacing native trees to help stabilize soil conditions and restore watershed services. Today, the problem includes maintaining and improving biodiversity, regulating invasive species, and encouraging sustainable human-nature relations. 

The significance of Seed Dispersal:

Tijuca’s lofty trees are failing to grow since the forest depleted of numerous seed-spreading creatures that once thrived there. “If you don’t have the animals, you don’t have the trees,” explained Catharina Kreischer, a Project Refauna researcher. 

Lacking them, the forest will turn into “a fragmented forest that is a tangle of trees of every size” and will unable to capture as much carbon, which is required to slow down climate change. Tall trees should connect overhead in a healthy forest, resulting in a healthy forest canopy, however they do not today. “What shows you that the Atlantic Forest is at its peak is that if you stand upright in the forest, you can observe someone else 50 or 100m away from you,” he stated.

Reviving Fauna:

While most forest restoration programs across the world include “rewilding” by importing headline-driving predators such as wolves or bears, Project Refauna likes to begin small. “The majority of individuals that think about reintroducing species think about threatened species,” Fernandez stated. “With Refauna, we intentionally engage with non-endangered creatures [that were moved somewhere when the habitat cleared].” 

According to Kreischer, trees produce beautiful, delectable fruit that attracts hungry animals, which subsequently ingest the seeds and discharge them somewhere else, expanding the plant species throughout the forests. However, several of the seed-spreading species vanished from this specific area of the forest after it cut and have never come back. That is why Project Refauna intends to bring fauna back to Tijuca because a forest is more than just trees; it also includes creatures.

Community Involvement: 

Community engagement and education are critical for successful rewilding efforts. Tijuca National Park’s closeness to Rio de Janeiro provides an exceptional chance to engage urban communities in conservation initiatives. Educational programs for school and community groups emphasize the value of the forest, instilling an awareness of stewardship in locals. 

The park acts as a living laboratory for institutions and research organizations, allowing for investigations into tropical ecosystems, climate change, and biodiversity conservation. These coordinated initiatives contribute to better scientific understanding and forest management methods. 


Tourism in Tijuca National Park is a two-edged sword. While it offers important cash for preservation, it also increases the risk of environmental damage. Sustainable tourism techniques are critical for balancing these objectives. To reduce the ecological imprint, park authorities have established procedures such as dedicated tracks, visitor educational initiatives, and rigorous human activity restrictions. 

Policies and Administration:

Effective governance is critical for the long-term success of rewilding activities in Tijuca National Park. The Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) manages the park in collaboration with several stakeholders, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local communities, and foreign partners. 

Strong legislative frameworks, appropriate resources, and political determination required to support conservation efforts. Policies supporting sustainable land utilization, pollution prevention, and climate action have a direct impact on the park’s well-being and resilience. 


Tijuca National Park represents promise and serves as a model for urban restoration around the world. Its metamorphosis from a deforested desert to a flourishing urban forest demonstrates the effectiveness of human-led conservation initiatives. The ongoing effort to maintain and improve Tijuca’s biodiversity in the face of urban demands and climate change problems exemplifies the dynamic, adaptable nature of contemporary conservation. 

The park’s success is dependent on ongoing involvement from the community, environmentally friendly tourism, creative use of technology, and strong policy support. As Rio de Janeiro develops and evolves, so do the methods for protecting Tijuca National Park. This landmark urban forest shows us that coexistence between nature and modern life is not only possible but also necessary for our future.