The Association of Friends of Funchal Ecological Park (AAPEF in Portuguese) was created in 2002, being its founder José Raimundo Gomes Quintal, bachelor in Geography, who since then assumed the presidency of the Association, post that he still holds in 2016.
This is the first Madeira Association recognized as an Environmental Non-Governmental Organization (ENGO n.º 99) of local scope. The objectives of AAPEF are inserted within the scope of nature conservancy and maintenance of insular biodiversity, with special incidence on the endemic flora of Madeira archipelago, essentially the one developing in the highest elevations of the island.
The start of the activities of this Association were centered on the top of the Pico do Areeiro, at 1800 m above sea level and one of the highest points in Madeira island, where a noteworthy, continuous job of planting endemic species characteristic from that area has been conducted as a way of holding the accelerated erosive phenomena patent there, consequence of the unorganized ovine and caprine grazing that over the centuries has compromised the ground cover, adding to the episodic and cyclic devastating fires. At the same time, the plants installed there would work as diffusing species, in a way of favoring the natural regeneration of surrounding areas. The planting works were, and continue to be, executed by the associates and by a vast number of volunteers that during the weekends go up to the mountain top.
Progressively, the intervened area recovered its original ground cover becoming a real “mountain oasis” of great botanical and aesthetic value. The plants used for the effect by the Association came mostly from nurseries located at the Funchal Ecological Park, property of Funchal City Hall (CMF in Portuguese), as well as from nurseries from the Regional Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources.
The official headquarters of the AAPEF is situated in a small building located at the Jardins Públicos do Monte donated for this purpose by the CMF.
In 2005, the Association acquired the terrains named as Montado do Cabeço da Lenha located between Poiso and Pico do Areeiro, contiguous to Funchal Ecological Park, where they installed the Environmental Education Field Cabeço da Lenha. As a support infrastructure, an old mountain shelter existing in this site was used, property of Madeiran doctor Rui Gomes da Silva, sportsman and dedicated climber of the Madeira Mountains. At this Environmental Education Field, the associates and supporters proceeded to the removal of the invasive species present there, mainly eucalyptus and Genista, replacing them with indigenous species of the Madeiran flora. In this field, a nursery was also installed for reproducing the indigenous plants destined to the planting works carried out by the AAPEF.
The great fire that occurred in Madeira in August 2010 seriously affected the area that had been intervened by the Association in Pico do Areeiro as well as reduced to ashes the installations of the Environmental Education Field Cabeço da Lenha and the surrounding area. Everything then had to basically start again from the initial starting point.
Simultaneously with the planting activities and biodiversity recovery actions in the field, the AAPEF develops regular dissemination and awareness activities at schools and the insular community through performing conferences, talks, and writing and photography contests. However, the hiking activities through nature regularly organized, through levadas (water channels) and sidewalks are what take the associates and supporters into contact with the Madeiran Laurisilva forest (relict of a former widespread laurel forest-type), the mountain ecosystems, and the insular rural world. These recreational and educational journeys are assumed as the primary vehicle of knowledge and dissemination of biodiversity and cultural identity of Madeira.
The logo of the Association is composed of a Snow well, the only currently existing in Madeira at the top of Funchal Ecological Park, that in times served to accumulate the snow fallen during winter which was then transported to Funchal city to serve as ice in hotel units and hospitals. The other element integrating the logo represents a leaf of a laurel tree, characteristic of the Laurisilva forest of Madeira.
Henrique Miguel de Figueiredo da Silva da Costa Neves
Ana Virgínia Arrôbe Valente da Silva