Part of the success of Parque Das Aves is down to the amazing the staff they employ. The Environmental Education Coordinator for the park, Juliana Ebling, is also the President of the Brazilian Environmental Educators Association, and affiliated with the Government policy makers.
Along with Park Director, Carmel Croukamp, I found out more about how education is key to conservation and sustainability.
Juliana and Carmel explained that the city of Foz Do Iguaçu, where the bird park and Iguassu Falls are located, has been through huge change. In the 1970s , when Itaipu Dam and the hydro-electric plant was built, it was one of the largest construction projects in the world. It still is the largest hydro-electric plant, in terms of power output. The project brought workers from around the world, and the population in Foz shot up from 20,000 people to 120,000 people.
When the construction ended 10 years later, there weren’t enough local jobs. Unfortunately, smuggling, poaching and unscrupulous tour operating became popular career choices. But Juliana has been pushing for change, and it’s starting to take effect.
After 2 years of trying to get into universities, Juliana was recently invited to give lectures on conservation and environmental education to students studying at the Foz College of Tour Guides. Her lectures focus on the importance of educating during guiding. “When young environmental educators take their learning to more people, to the people they teach and guide, and to the other parts of Brazil, that’s when we see attitudes towards the environment change on a large scale. And that’s the most rewarding part of the work.”
Juliana is also in charge of the school education program. The aim is to connect the birds and nature to aspects of the children’s lives. They’ll first teach what birds need to be healthy, and then ask, “what do little children need to be healthy?”
It helps the children understand that we are part of nature too. It’s the humans that need the help understanding: “Nature does not need us, but we need nature.” When Juliana received a letter from one of the children saying, “I made a new friend today – the toucan!” she knew she is doing a good job.
Parque das Aves was in the process of hiring 5 new environmental educators and wardens for the park when I was there. It will be their role to help educate and inspire the hundreds of thousands of tourists that visit Parque Das Aves every year.
Interested? Read more here:
Part two: Overcoming Adversity – Parque Das Aves
Part three : How to fund a bird park – Ask a 13 year old