How One Ashoka Fellow Has Made Systems-Changing Impact on Brazilian Biodiversity

Dener’s determination is common across all Ashoka Fellows and is rooted in their resolution to never accept the injustices or social and environmental problems that their countries face, no matter how large. Indeed, these social entrepreneurs will not stop until they have made a significant dent in resolving them. In wildlife conservation in particular, their drive is critical, because results are not immediate.

Ashoka Fellow Clóvis Borges from Brazil has been working since the 1980s for the protection of the red tailed parrot -- which thanks to his efforts has gone from being a ‘vulnerable’ species to an ‘almost endangered’ species. His organization, Wildlife Research and Environmental Education Society (SPVS for its acronym in Portuguese), has worked for the protection of biodiversity in the southwest region of Brazil since the early 1980s.

Initially, SPVS focused on supporting the local environmental organizations and engaging them into a network so that they could integrate efforts and influence public policy -- in effect, professionalizing the environmental sector in the region. The Climate Observatory - one of the organizations that SPVS created - is today one of the major organizations in the region working with the local governments on policy changes.

Ashoka Fellow Clovis Borges has used artificial nests to increase the reproduction of the red tailed parrot in the northern coast of the Parana state and the southern coast of Sao Paulo - the only habitat of the red tailed parrot in the world.

In the past three decades SPVS went on to pioneer other conservation mechanisms, including income-generating models for local communities, payment for conservation services model to locals, private natural reserves, and integration of landowners of urban areas containing native vegetation. One of SPVS’ latest innovations is the LIFE (Lasting Initiative for Earth) certification, which seeks to incorporate biodiversity conservation into the practices of businesses through voluntary conservation actions. The certification is unique in the world in that it makes recommendations of conservation activities that generate impact that is directly proportional to the negative footprint that a company makes.

Five companies have been certified in Brazil, including O Boticario, the second biggest cosmetic company in Brazil, and the initiative is now replicating to Paraguay. According to SPVS, the potential of the certification is huge, given that 40% of the global economy is based on products sourced from biodiversity or its ecological processes.