Click to read: Saving the Mata Atlantica

Saving the Mata Atlantica

Laury Cullen graduated from the Durrell Conservation Academy in 1992 with a graduate certificate in Endangered Species Management. Since then, he has built an inspiring career working to recover the Atlantic Forest with our partner organisation in Brazil, the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (IPÊ). Laury says his training at Durrell was the springboard he needed to launch his exciting career in conservation. 

The Atlantic Forest, or Mata Atlântica, once covered a vast area stretching more than 1,000,000km2 across Brazil. Over time it has been gradually chopped down for timber and cleared for extensive farmland. This has had a devastating effect on the rich diversity of wildlife, most of which is found nowhere else on Earth. The human impact has been so severe that less than 7% of this once lush forest now remains.
Laury began working for IPÊ in 1990 and is now the Project and Research Coordinator for the organisation. His mission is to preserve the Atlantic Forest by protecting its unique wildlife, restoring habitat and engaging local communities in conservation. 

Laury was inspired to join a Durrell training scheme by the founder of IPÊ, Dr Claudio Padua, who was the first-ever trainee at the academy from Brazil. “Claudio is so passionate about Durrell’s work and how his time at the academy in Jersey influenced his career,” says Laury. “He kept emphasising to me that the training would give me a complete range of skills in endangered species recovery and managing conservation projects. Claudio was also keen to highlight that I would grow my confidence and make valuable international connections. I knew that the Durrell Endangered Species Management Graduate Certificate would be the perfect springboard for the rest of my career.”
In the three decades working at IPÊ, Laury has helped to reverse the destruction of the Atlantic Forest through engaging local communities. He works with small landowners to develop the best agroforestry techniques. In this management system, trees and shrubs are grown among crops and pastureland to revive degraded soil and provide habitat for endangered wildlife. He is also helping to replant the largest reforestation corridor in Brazil, of which Durrell is a key partner. This project aims to connect areas of fragmented habitat, which are tended by hundreds of local families generating more income for the region. Laury's work at IPÊ has helped develop new income sources for farmers so that people can live in harmony with the natural world.

Laury says he learned many valuable lessons through his training at Durrell. “I remember the moment when I learnt that habitat can be rebuilt from small fragments with strong support from landowners. Also knowing how people and animals use the landscape allows us to identify priorities when it comes to restoring habitat. I also learnt that, as an institution, your presence in an area is key. IPÊ has been in the Atlantic Forest region for the last 30 years safeguarding continued funds, community participation and management of this long-term programme.”
Laury's inspiring work has gained him significant recognition in the conservation world. In 2002, he won the prestigious Whitley Gold Award, which recognises conservation heroes who create a lasting impact by working with communities in biodiversity-rich countries. He also went on to win the Rolex Award in 2004, which supports exceptional individuals with the courage and conviction to take on some of the significant challenges impacting our planet.
When asked what he would say to anyone considering training at Durrell, Laury said, “You will be in direct contact with the world’s leading experts in species conservation. Many of the people you meet are managing their own recovery programmes, both overseas and on-site at Jersey Zoo. Through training and hands-on experience, you will learn skills from conflict resolution and community-based conservation techniques through to project management and leadership. Durrell is the best place for acquiring all these experiences.”

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Posted 19 February 2021

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