[crb_slide image=”https://www.rainforesttrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/moema.jpg” credits=”Photo by Moema Becker” title=”” text=””]
[crb_slide image=”https://www.rainforesttrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/monkey.jpg” credits=”Brown Howler Monkey Photo by Bruno Miranda” title=”” text=””]
[crb_slide image=”https://www.rainforesttrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/landscape.jpg” credits=”Serra Bonita Sunset Photo by Bruno Miranda” title=”” text=””]
Moema Becker, who recently became executive director of Rainforest Trust’s Brazilian partner Instituto Uiraçu (IU), has spent much of her life working to protect Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest. A passionate environmentalist and artist, Moema has been working with IU since it was established in 2001.
She spoke with us recently about the plans to expand the Serra Bonita Reserve Complex, a group of privately owned Reserves operated by Instituto Uiracu, the challenges of being a conservationist in Brazil, and why protecting the Atlantic Rainforest is more important than ever.
What are your goals as executive director of Instituto Uiraçu?
We have a donor-supported three-year plan for institutional development, which includes hiring five people who have volunteered with the IU for years, as full-time employees. They will be working formally as our Directors of Environmental Education, Communication, Scientific Research, Land Stewardship and Management. They are deeply knowledgeable of the project, and deeply committed to it, so they are key personnel to keep and help build the long-term sustainability of the IU. We also hope to add another park guard to our staff to increase protection efforts.
To reach our long-term sustainability goals, we need to improve the facilities used for tourism and visitation, as we expect this to be our main source of income to keep the Reserve running. The goals related to this are the construction of a visitor center and expansion of our hosting facilities.
We are also excited about expanding our conservation efforts and have set an ambitious goal of growing the reserve by 1,000 acres each year, for the next 2 years – and even more in the future. Eventually we want to have 18,500 acres under protection.
Of course, as the executive director, I abide by the decisions of the IU´s Consultative Board, but our Board is very supportive of these efforts.
How are your conservation efforts going at present?
Thanks to Rainforest Trust’s support, we are negotiating the purchase of three parcels surrounding the reserve. Two of these parcels are quite large and contain extensive tracts of rainforest. Once added, these properties will increase the reserve by about 600 acres.
In past years, Rainforest Trust has provided us with great opportunities to expand Serra Bonita. We hope this partnership will continue in the coming years not only in terms of expanding the Reserve, but also in building the long-term sustainability we are aiming for.
What are some of the greatest challenges you find as a conservationist in Brazil?
Brazil, as you may know, is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for conservationists. When I began my work in conservation, illegal logging was rampant in the area around Serra Bonita. When I took action to report these activities to the authorities I began receiving death threats. On multiple occasions people entered my home while I was away. During this time I was also working hard, along with other environmentalists, to have an environmental official added to our municipal cabinet. This really upset logging interest and the threats intensified.
Eventually things reached the point that I needed to leave Serra Bonita. I used this opportunity to move to Brasilia and finish my education. While there, the federal authorities finally took action against loggers. In a raid, the federal police removed all of their equipment and arrested the four largest timber bosses. Since their arrest I’ve been able to return to Serra Bonita and things have been better.
What inspires you to keep working at Serra Bonita?
Creating Serra Bonita was my parents’ dream and they have done an incredible job of making it a reality. They took an enormous risk, sold everything they had, and moved to Serra Bonita to protect this special place. It’s a great privilege for me to continue their work.
Aside from my family’s connection, Serra Bonita really is an incredible biological gem. Over the years dozens of scientific studies have been conducted at the reserve and the results have been astounding. Recently new amphibian, reptile and insect species have been found. And there is no question that much more remains to be discovered in time.
Because over 93% of the Atlantic Rainforest has been destroyed, the reserve’s role in protecting the forest’s unique flora and fauna is absolutely critical. The reserve is a constant reminder of what we’ve lost and what remains. This is something that we can never lose sight of.
Learn more about Instituto Uiraçu: www.uiracu.org