Denise Marçal Rambaldi, Brazil

Photo: Dgkleiman Rambaldi

Photograph by Dgkleiman Rambaldi

Brazilian conservationist Denise Rambaldi is executive director of the Golden Lion Tamarin Association. She has achieved remarkable success in pulling back from the brink of extinction this highly endangered primate species that lives in the Atlantic Forest, one of the world’s most critically endangered biodiversity hotspots. Through a combination of political savvy and a passion for nature preservation, Rambaldi has united a spectrum of interest groups at all socio-economic levels to preserve and restore the region’s fragmented habitat while promoting sustainable development. This integrated “landscape” ecology approach has become a model throughout Brazil.

Under Rambaldi’s guidance, the golden tamarin population now numbers 1,500. There are tamarins in more than 31 private ranches and two federal reserves totaling 26,200 protected acres. The species has been removed from the IUCN’s Red List category of “Critically Endangered” (downgraded to “Endangered”). She has made effective use of the charismatic primate’s public appeal to gain the support of landowners and local governments in habitat preservation and improvement.

Rambaldi has also been a powerful force in creating a local consortium to protect the 370,000-acre São João watershed in Rio de Janeiro state. Today, the entire watershed is zoned as an Environmental Protection Area. Additionally, under her leadership, many private landowners are now conserving remaining forest areas and dedicating their forest fragments as private reserves in what amounts to the largest private conservation effort in a single Brazilian state.

She has worked tirelessly to help local people in the Atlantic Forest. Her association has achieved success in combating poverty while reducing the human footprint in the forest. Activities have included helping the residents establish and manage nursery production of tree seedlings for use in forest restoration and corridor creation. Rambaldi also initiated a program to train dozens of teachers in local municipalities and involve them in hundreds of projects that promote environmental consciousness.

Rambaldi’s enthusiasm, expertise, energy, and environmental policy skills are increasingly in demand within Brazil and overseas. She is helping national, regional, and local governments develop environmental policies for preservation and management of endangered species and protected areas, for combating invasive species, and for preparing for the effects of climate change.

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