Learning and sharing wildlife knowledge is key to fuelling local people’s passion for their natural environment and securing the long term success of conservation projects, as shown by Brazilian ranger
Living with his wife in the local Lagoinha community, 52 year-old Messias Gomes da Silva walks an hour from his village to the Guapi Assu Reserve. Here Messias works as a reserve ranger, helping protect over 18,000 acres (about 7,284 hectares) of Atlantic Rainforest in south-east Brazil, nestled on the slopes of the Serra dos Órgãos mountains in the coastal state of Rio de Janeiro.
The Guapi Assu Reserve is run by REGUA (Reserva Ecológica de Guapi Assu), a World Land Trust (WLT) partner organisation. Through the Keepers of the Wild appeal, WLT is helping to fund wages and resources for Messias and two other REGUA rangers.
One important part of Messias’ job is accompanying and assisting researchers at the reserve. Nicholas Locke, director at REGUA, said:
“Many researchers come to REGUA and we deliberately ask the rangers to help them with their work, as an opportunity for them to learn and study nature.”
Nicholas explained that improving people’s wildlife knowledge often leads to better understanding of conservation. He said:
“Often people only begin to understand the importance of protecting wildlife when asked: how would tree species disperse their seeds if there were no animals left in the forests?”
Showing how the natural world is interdependent helps people understand the importance of protecting wildlife, dispelling many commonly held prejudices about perceived dangerous or unimportant animals.
Through studying wildlife, the rangers soon become conservation ambassadors; teaching other local people in surrounding communities about the importance of protecting the natural environment. The rangers often host local school children and visitors at the reserve, showcasing the beauty of the Atlantic Rainforest and sharing their wildlife knowledge. Messias said:
“The most pleasurable part of my job is taking visitors on walks in the forest, as they seem to share the same love for nature. This gives me a lot of encouragement to continue working towards the protection of the Atlantic Rainforest.”
To encourage the rangers’ pride in their work and to ensure community involvement, REGUA organises an Open Day at the reserve every year. Nicholas said:
“The Open Day is an important event locally, paving the way for people to see what goes on at REGUA. It also offers the staff a chance to be proud of their achievements. It is at events like this that you realise the importance of working together.”
“All the rangers have been instrumental in making REGUA a productive and successful local conservation organisation. The rangers are involved in all of REGUA’s work – from habitat and wildlife protection, to education, restoration, research, and sustainable income generation. They provide determination and confidence – ultimately, they are responsible for the project’s success.”