In July, WFN Manager Danni Parks visited three Whitley Award winners working for the Brazilian NGO, IPÊ (the Institute of Ecological Research) as part of WFN’s annual Monitoring and Evaluation process.

Here is her account of the trip:
“The journey began with a visit to 1999 Whitley Award winner Claudio Padua and IPÊ’s headquarters in Nazaré, São Paulo. Here, I spent time meeting the team and understanding how the organisation operates on a day-to-day basis, overseeing 40 different projects in 5 Brazilian states. I also learnt about the education and training programmes provided at IPÊ’s certified education centre, which are building important in-country capacity for environmental protection across the research, business and conservation sector.

IPÊ Education Centre

IPÊ Education Centre

Next I travelled to the Pontal do Paranapanema to visit the black lion tamarin conservation work led by Claudio and Researcher, Gabriela Rezende, in the Atlantic Forest. The habitat here has been severely fragmented due to agriculture (primarily cattle ranching and sugar-cane) which has left several tamarin populations stranded in small ‘island’ patches. This increases their risk of extinction and in-breeding, which requires continuous monitoring and active management to prevent.

Black lion tamarin, Pontal

Black lion tamarin, Pontal

To help address this, IPÊ’s Laury Cullen, who received a Whitley Award in 2002, is working to reconnect forest fragments in the region. Over the last 10 years, Laury and his team have planted 1.4 million native trees to create a 700ha corridor – Brazil’s largest – connecting two priority remnants. This work has been done in partnership with local communities and land-owners that benefit from the sale of seedlings to the programme and increased income from taking part in reforestation activities.

Nazare community nursery - 1 month old seedlings

Community nursery for reforestation project

As a result of this work, the black lion tamarin has been down listed from Critically Endangered to Endangered on the IUCN Red List and the species is beginning to recover. Now the first corridor has been completed, Laury is expanding his work to create new corridors based on a region-wide plan to enable a multi-functional landscape where forest fragments and wildlife populations are connected.

The final part of my trip took me to the largest continuous wetland in the world, the Pantanal, to meet 2008 Whitley Award winner and tapir expert Patricia Medici, also of IPÊ. Here Patricia and her team gather scientific data to further understand lowland tapir ecology and substantiate the development and implementation of biome-based Action Plans for tapirs and their habitat in Brazil. Patricia also raises awareness of tapirs and the threats they face through national outreach and environmental education programmes targeting school children and land-owners.

Danni Parks and Patricia Medici collecting tapir data

Danni Parks and Patricia Medici collecting tapir data

After visiting three impactful Whitley Award winners and their projects, it was time to return to the WFN office to report to the team. Project visits are an important part of WFN’s due diligence and reporting process. They ensure funds are spent appropriately and enable staff like myself to gain first-hand experience of the conservation work taking place on the ground. This allows us to reflect on our own grant-giving procedures, make funding decisions, and share project insight with our supporters.”

During this visit WFN Awarded Continuation Funding of £35,000 over one year to Claudio Padua and £70,000 over two years to Patricia Medici to support further scale-up of their work.