In just 10 years, half of Paraguay’s pristine natural habitats have been lost. The country’s agricultural output has been booming, but at a massive environmental cost. Too many habitats are being destroyed all over the world, particularly in developing countries.
We want to reverse the trend in Paraguay, and we need your help.
Reversing the Trend
Para La Tierra (PLT) is a small not-for-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting threatened ecosystems throughout Paraguay.
Since 2010, we’ve been stationed at Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca (RNLB), a beautiful nature reserve located at the meeting point of two of Paraguay’s threatened habitats: the Cerrado and the Atlantic Forest. Both of these habitats have suffered dreadfully over the past two decades. Through the development of large scale agriculture, these once lush habitats have been converted into open fields for cattle pasture. Today, only fragments remain untouched but thanks to government regulations and projects like ours the majority of these fragments are now protected. Sadly, it’s too little too late. The large businesses have already staked their claim in these two habitats and are looking for a new habitat to exploit. The Gran Chaco is their next target.
Chaco, in the indigenous language of Quechua, can be translated to mean, ‘the Land of Great Hunting’ and contains a huge biodiversity. It is South America’s largest dry forest and is home to the largest mammal on the continent – the Guanaco. While the indigenous tribes call the land ‘el Gran Chaco,’ the conquistadors called it ‘El Verde Infierno’ or The Green Hell. Boasting the continent’s highest temperature and a myriad of thorny plants, the early settlers disregarded it as useless land. Unfortunately, this view has recently changed. Through developments in technology, agriculture in the Chaco has not only become feasible but it has become profitable. This has led to rapid development of the area and massive destruction of the habitat in the past few years. 10% of the Paraguayan Chaco wilderness was converted to cattle land in 2012 alone, displacing countless indigenous tribes that call the forest home. But, with your help, we can help put a stop to this movement.
What We Do
According to National Geographic, Para La Tierra has created a new model for conservation organizations. We understand that there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution to the worldwide destruction of habitats, but we firmly believe that this is a battle worth fighting. PLT is committed to the protection of threatened habitats through scientific research, community outreach and environmental education.
Through our work at RNLB, we have discovered over 50 new species for Paraguay. We have created the largest single-site reference collection in the country. We have published 19 scientific papers in international peer-reviewed journals. And our museum attracts over 1,000 visitors a year. In addition to publishing scientific papers, we promote conservation issues through public and social media, inclusion on Eco-Index, and news articles posted in large worldwide newspapers including Geo Mundo, Business India, The Times and The Daily Mail in addition to the IUCN and National Geographic websites. Our blogs receive over 500 hits a month. Our scientific papers have led to improved conservation plans and our media influence has helped raise the status of Paraguayan conservation issues to a global level.
Para La Tierra’s main focus in fostering change, encouraging conservation and protecting habitats has been to educate young people who live around the reserve. We’ve designed and implemented a customized environmental education curriculum for elementary and high school students. We’ve hosted on-site workshops for local community leaders designed to impart a new appreciation for their country’s amazing biodiversity. After PLT’s founder, Karina Atkinson, won the Rolex Award for Enterprise, PLT was able to build three chicken coops in the surrounding communities. This project has provided families close to the reserve a source of protein and income so they don’t need to enter the reserve to hunt for food.
The Next Generation
Students, graduates and professionals from all over the world have come to PLT’s ecological research center at RNLB for the chance to study the local biodiversity. These visitors are inspired by the beautiful wildlife they see. We have trained students from over 60 universities in a variety of field sampling techniques, preparing them for a future career in conservation biology.
Each year, we have grown to train more and more interns. The majority of former PLT interns continue to post-graduate education but others have found jobs at zoos, rehabilitation centers, and other conservation organizations using PLT as a stepping stone towards a career in conservation. Be a part of the next generation by clicking here – www.paralatierra.org/intern.html
Why We NEED You
This successful new approach to conservation has given PLT the drive to do more. Our mission is to protect ALL of Paraguay’s habitats by transplanting our model conservation organization to each environment in the country. Before the year is out, we plan to expand to a second field site located on a massive reserve in Paraguay’s fastest disappearing habitat: the Gran Chaco. As you read this, more of its vast landscapes are being burned down and converted into cattle ranches.
This expansion will create a huge variety of opportunities for PLT and ensure the conservation of the Chaco. With your help, PLT will:
- Run the first ever year-round research station in the Paraguayan Chaco, providing the scientific justification for the protection of the Chaco.
- Demonstrate the beauty and importance of this little-known habitat to a wider audience.
- Install a training centre for a new generation of young Paraguayan and international scientists.
- Conduct a scientific inventory of the Chaco’s flora and fauna leading to new discoveries for the region and the development of an informed conservation plan.
- Welcome interns who will carry out pioneering investigations into how life survives in this hostile habitat.
- Give tourists the unique opportunity to actively participate in nature conservation where they contribute positively to environmental issues.
- Promote Chaco conservation issues in the media, sparking further interest in its protection.
- Invite university biology classes to learn skills and gain experience that can’t be taught in a classroom.
- Engage with the local indigenous tribes, providing environmental education to their children and ensuring the survival of their culture.
A drop in the bucket:
For a £5 donation:
We will post a personalized thank you on Facebook or send you a printable PDF thank you to your email address.
A wildlife enthusiast:
For a £10 donation:
We will email you a high res photo of your choice (from UntamedPhotography.net) taken by a PLT staff member that you can print or set as your computer’s background.
A true supporter:
For a £30 donation:
In addition to the awards above, we will send you a Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca Bumper Sticker. See above.
A die-hard fan:
For a £70 donation:
In addition to the awards above, we will send you a PLT baseball hat.
A part of the team:
For a £125 donation:
In addition to the awards above, we will send you a PLT T-shirt.
A friend for life:
For a £350 donation:
In addition to the awards above, we will personally acknowledge you in our next scientific publication.
An honored guest:
For a £1,000 donation:
In addition to the awards above, we will give you a free five day stay at Para La Tierra (flights not included) to show you what your contribution has meant to us.
For a £5,000 donation:
In addition to the awards above, you’ll have PLT’s next new species for science named after you and we will give you and a guest a free five day stay at Para La Tierra (flights not included) to show you what your contribution has meant to us.
What We Can Do with Your Help
We would open a field site in the Gran Chaco, installing electricity, plumbing, and internet. We would stock the house with necessary amenities such as beds, a cooker, a fridge, and showers. This would provide us the bare essentials we need to begin welcoming students and professionals to conduct research in the Chaco.
We would be able to do all of the above as well as renovate a second building to open the first-ever natural history museum in the Chaco. It would be fitted with an air conditioning unit, dehumidifier and custom-made display units. An on-site museum would provide us with a place to store our scientific collection as well as a place to host educational workshops. Our museum at RNLB has been incredibly successful both as a scientific asset as well as an educational tool.
We would be able to buy specialist scientific equipment which would allow us to do more in-depth study on the local flora and fauna. This would include microscopes, radio collars, GPS trackers, GPS units, camera traps etc. This equipment would take our projects to the next level and advance our knowledge of Paraguayan flora and fauna.
We would be able to afford the purchase of a plot of threatened habitat to convert into a reserve. This would give us the freedom to manage a reserve with the sole purpose of conservation and investigation. Our first choice would be the land on which our flagship species – the White-winged Nightjar – lives and breeds. It is an endangered species with an estimated population size under 2,500. The land is currently owned by AgroForestal Rio Verde S.A. and they are using it for Eucalyptus plantations. With such a large sum of money, PLT would be able to provide protection for habitats in need of conservation.
Who We Are
Karina Atkinson – Karina graduated from an honors degree in Genetics from the University of Glasgow in 2007. After discovering the world outside of a laboratory, she committed herself to conservation biology in 2008 when she moved to Paraguay. Two years later set up the first Para La Tierra scientific research station in 2010. She is PLT's Executive Director and is currently studying for an MA in Zoology from Miami University, Ohio. In 2012, she was announced a Rolex Awards for Enterprise Young Laureate.
Paul Smith – Paul graduated with an honors degree in Zoology and has a MRes in Osteoarcheology. He moved to Paraguay in 2005 where he fell in love with the country’s diverse wildlife. He is the founder of Fauna Paraguay, Paraguay’s largest online photo database. He is widely considered one of the country’s leading authorities on Paraguayan habitats and fauna. He is now Scientific Director of Para La Tierra, and has written more than 20 scientific papers on the wildlife of Laguna Blanca.
Joseph Sarvary – Joseph came to Paraguay in 2010 to work with PLT as our first intern. He conducted an ecological study on a population of Broad-headed Spiny Rat, a Cerrado keystone species. He returned three more times before being hired as Intern Supervisor in 2012. He graduated from Tufts University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and is currently designing a scientific study to investigate the breeding behavior of the White-winged Nightjar.
Jean-Paul Brouard – JP is the latest addition to the PLT team. He has been hired as Museum Curator and Volunteer Coordinator. He has spent countless hours in the field in Southern Africa doing extensive field surveys on the Lepidoptera and Herpetofauna of the region. He has published numerous articles and contributed photographs into field guides in South Africa. He did a BSC in environmental management through UNISA. He volunteered at PLT in 2012 conducting an inventory on the butterflies of the reserve.
Rebecca Smith – Becca was first introduced to primates in 2008 as a volunteer in Namibia. She returned again to Africa twice more, eventually securing a position as Volunteer Coordinator after graduating from an honors degree in Zoology from the University of Edinburgh. Upon leaving Africa, she completed an MRes in Primate Biology, completing a thesis on rhesus macaques in Puerto Rico. After graduating in 2012 she took an internship in Panama with mantled howler monkeys and red-backed squirrel monkeys, before joining the PLT team as the Primate Project Leader.
WE ARE A REGISTERED UK SMALL CHARITY