Dr. Claudio Padua is cofounder, with his wife Suzana, of the Institute for Ecological Research (IPE), which works on conservation projects throughout Brazil.

Monday, 12 Jan 2004

BANGALORE, India

This week will certainly be one of the most important of my professional life. We will be creating, together with other organizations, an alliance of mid-size NGOs from all over the world. This alliance is an idea that several colleagues and I have been nurturing for several years. It is finally going to become a reality at a meeting of all the organizations in Bangalore, in the south of India. Sponsored by the American organization Wildlife Trust, it has been organized by the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation.

Suzana and Claudio.
Photo: IPE.

In the middle of our two-day journey to India, we made a stop in Wye, England. I say “we” because my wife Suzana is with me — we are partners not only in married life but also in our professional lives. Around 15 years ago, we founded the Institute for Ecological Research (IPE), a Brazilian NGO dedicated to conservation of the immense and spectacular biological and cultural diversity of my country. Our stop in England was linked to one of our activities at IPE: training young rural Brazilians in conservation science. Together with Wye College and the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, we’re organizing an Internet-based distance learning course we believe will be very important considering the immense size of our country and the difficulties faced by students far from major educational centers.

Our trip began with some of the missteps that are the drama of any traveller. We made a stop in Paris, and from there we had to go on to London without our baggage, which only arrived when we were preparing to leave for Bangalore. We therefore spent 36 hours in England in our travel clothes, using the flimsy single-use toilet kits and toothbrushes handed out on international flights.

But that’s water under the bridge, and at this moment I am in India, well-settled in a fine hotel and ready to participate in the workshop to create the Wildlife Trust Alliance. I am in the welcoming presence of my international colleagues, including Martin Acosta, coordinator of the Cuban Conservation Committee; Pablo Bordino, director of Aqua Marina in Argentina; Alida Madero, manager of Wild Ones/Los Jovenes Aventureros in Mexico; Lorena Calvo, executive director of the Center for the Conservation of Guatemalan Biodiversity; Ani Mardiastuti and Damayanti Buchori, leaders of PEKA Indonesia; Jon Paul Rodriguez, president of Provita in Venezuela; Rodrigo Medellin, director of the Institute of Ecology, University of Mexico; Prithiviraj Fernando, founder of a new research group in Sri Lanka; Mary Pearl, president of Wildlife Trust; and our host, R. Sukumar, managing trustee of the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation.

For the first part of the week, we are going to work together revising the framework for the Alliance. As soon as it is ready, it will be signed by everyone present. Then we will start work on a list of conservation actions we want to accomplish together and compose our first joint statement — a call for action that we think will have great international impact. For the second part of the week, Suzana and a smaller group will participate in a peer evaluation of the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, which will give us the opportunity to visit their field work. The ANCF works primarily to save Asian elephants and diminish the conflict between wildlife and humans.

Finally, my pre-event anxiety is beginning to diminish. Today we had our first session, where as usual, everyone said a few words about themselves. Although in this group we all know each other, it is still an important moment because it helps break the ice before such an important occasion. We met in a salon of the hotel, seated together at a big U-shaped table.

This was followed by a presentation by our host, Professor Raman Sukumar, about the work of his organization in India. After that, the president of Wildlife Trust, Dr. Mary Pearl (who was a Grist diarist a few months ago) and I explained the week’s agenda. The last event of the day was an exercise facilitated by Suzana, based on a German participatory planning system known as “ZOPP.” Through this exercise, we draw out from the participants their expectations for the week’s work, and our objectives as well. This will be useful principally to ensure that the Wildlife Trust Alliance is incorporating everyone’s expectations and thus following the right path.