July 8th, 2011
Ecosia speaks with WWF’s biologist Luiz Antonio Coltro about his work in the field
Credit: Adriano Gambarini/ WWF-Brasil
It’s larger than the size of Switzerland. It’s one of the Earth’s last pristine tropical forests. And Ecosians are ensuring its protection, search by search.
It’s the 40,000 square-kilometre Tumucumaque Conservation Landscape in Northern Brazil.
Ecosia users have generated more than $351,000 (EUR) for the WWF’s work in the Amazon since December 2009 – and we just sat down with WWF conservation analyst Luiz Antônio Coltro to talk about his work in one of the largest blocks of protected tropical areas in the world.
Ecosia: What’s your title and job description?
Luiz: I am a conservation analyst from the Amazon Program of WWF-Brasil, a Brazilian non-governmental organization created in 1996 and part of the International Network Environmental Organization WWF. My work consists [of] managing all WWF-Brasil’s activities that are developed in the Tumucumaque region. Also, I’m in charge of establishing and maintaining partnerships with governments and civil society institutions to implement and consolidate our field projects in this region.
Ecosia: How many employees does WWF-Brasil have working in the Tumucumaque region, where are they located and what do they do?
Luiz: Two analysts are more directly responsible for this project, but we have around nine employees at WWF-Brasil who are somehow involved with activities in the Tumucumaque Conservation Landscape. They are all based in Brasília and travel to the region when it is needed. The staff is diverse and covers different needs of the project implementation, which goes from the Head of the Amazon Program and conservation analysts with expertise in different themes to the communication and administrative team.
Ecosia: Can you tell us more about why and how Tumucumaque is important today from both an ecological and geographical perspective?
Luiz: The region is important in the Brazilian context because it is the only portion of the Guyana Shield within Brazilian territory. Its biodiversity includes endemic species that do not occur in other regions of the Amazon and Brazil. Tumucumaque is also located [along] an international frontier, which requires great attention due to environmental and social problems, such as the traffic of wild animals and illegal mining, which requires integrated initiatives from different countries.
Ecosia: Can you describe some of the current projects in the region?
Luiz: Some of the current projects supported by WWF-Brasil in Tumucumaque are:
- Pedagogy Course in Environmental Issues that contributes to the improvement in the construction of interdisciplinary projects and at the same time raise awareness of students from the cities surrounding the Montanhas do Tumucumaque National Park of the environmental problems in their community. The course uses the National Park as a central reference [point] for environmental education.
- The establishment of a mosaic in the region aimed at consolidating an integrated management of protected areas and indigenous lands, maximizing joint efforts of conservation.
- The study of the current situation of small and medium scale mines in Amapá and north of Pará, to better understand the status of this environmental threat in the region and suggest some steps to mitigate the effects of this highly degrading activity.
- The management effectiveness assessment of state and federal protected areas (http://www.wwf.org.br/informacoes/bliblioteca/?21440/Efetividade-de-Gesto-das-Unidades-de-Conservao-no-Estado-do-Amapa).
Ecosia: How would you describe the overarching goal in Tumucumaque now?
Luiz: This conservation landscape represents a high-priority area for biodiversity conservation because it is one of the world’s most important opportunities for large-scale conservation.
The main goals of this project are related to the improvement of the relationship between people and protected areas (PA), therefore, most activities are developed with PA managers and local communities that live within or around PAs.
Ecosia: How is Tumucumaque different from other regions of the rainforest?
Luiz: Tumucumaque region has unique geographical and biological aspects. The region has amazing scenic attributes, including mountain ranges, known as inselbergs, and waterfalls in the Jari, Araguari and Oiapoque rivers. It protects the headwaters of the main water basins from the eastern Amazon and ensures the conservation of endemic species of plants and animals from the Guiana Shield. Some of the endemic birds are the Caica Parrot (Pyrilia caica), the GuiananToucanet (Selenidera culik), the Golden-collared Woodpecker (Veniliornis cassini), the Tiny Tyrant-manakin (Tyranneutes virescens), and the Cayenne jay (Cyanocorax cayanus). There are also endemic species of mammals, such as the Black spider monkey (Ateles paniscus), the White-faced saki (Pithecia pithecia), the Weeper capuchin (Cebus olivaceus), and the Short-tailed opossun (Monodelphis brevicaudata). The large, rich and pristine forests also harbour threatened species that were already locally extinct from other areas, as for example, the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja) and mahogany trees (Swieteniama crophylla).
Ecosia: What are the very current, real threats to the region, and how is WWF contributing to the solution?
Luiz: The most important threat is gold mining, which usually occurs in the headwaters and the upper and middle courses of rivers. The illegal extraction of gold in small mines located deep inside the forest is a threat to the physical integrity and quality of water, since the use of mercury is required for the amalgamation and selection of gold. The environmental destruction caused by mining, particularly gold mines located in small streams and headwaters, includes the removal of the vegetation, creating open and arid areas. Uncontrolled fishing and hunting are also constant threats to biodiversity conservation. WWF is developing a study to better understand the status of this environmental threat in the region and suggest some steps to mitigate the effects of this highly degrading activity.
Ecosia: What kind of funds and activities does it take to maintain a region like Tumucumaque?
Luiz: Since it is a very isolated rainforest region, the development of activities in Tumucumaque is challenging and requires significant resources if biodiversity conservation results are to be achieved and monitored. Since access to most areas is mainly by rivers or small planes, trips are long, difficult and expensive. Financial and human resources are essential to develop and promote research, monitoring and protected areas implementation and outreach. The promotion of sustainable use activities and capacity building are also key to maintain the high level of integrity of the forests in the region.
Other important aspect is to communicate and make people aware about the importance of this region for the conservation of biodiversity and landscape.
Ecosia: What has WWF achieved in the region so far?
Luiz: The research initiatives supported by WWF in the protected areas have produced unprecedented scientific knowledge and information for the region. This information, both biological and socio-economic, contributed to the development of management plans for state and federal protected areas.
The support to mobilize, create and train management committees contributes to establish an integrated management entity, where local institutions and populations contribute to the management and planning of the areas, thus enabling a greater protection of nature.
WWF-Brasil has supported initiatives for integrated management of protected areas towards better regional management. In the Tumucumaque region, WWF-Brasil is one of the partners [helping] to implement a biodiversity corridor, which [is intended] to integrate the management of all protected areas in the Amapá state. Another initiative supported by WWF-Brasil is the proposal to create a mosaic of protected areas, called Mosaic of Western Amapá and Northern Pará.
The contribution of WWF-Brasil to Amapá state government environmental policies has provided advances in recognition [of] the need [for] more harmonious and sustainable use of natural resources. WWF-Brasil has supported the construction of a document entitled “Plan of prevention and control of deforestation and burnings of the state of Amapa”, which proposes main actions [for] the state environmental policy.
Ecosia: What are you personally most passionate about in your work with Tumucumaque, or in the region itself?
Luiz: The most passionate aspect about my work is the opportunity to contribute to the conservation of a pristine region where human activities have not significantly impacted natural areas. It is still possible to support the discovery of new species in the name of science and also, to help forest dwellers maintain and value the resources of the forest and their traditional use. Inside the forest, it is possible to feel the strong and exuberant presence of the nature in all its plenitude.