Instituto Uiraçu is a Brazilian non-profit non-governmental organisation whose mission is to preserve, recuperate, protect and conserve ecosystems in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest in accordance with a universal eco-centric vision. Since its foundation and registration under Brazilian law in March 2001, IU has been developing an innovative conservation model centred on the Serra Bonita Mountain Range, situated in the Atlantic Forest Central Biodiversity Corridor in the State of Bahia.Why the name Uiraçu ?
The Uiraçu (Harpy Eagle) is one of the most impressive of the World’s birds. Its Brazilian name comes from the indigenous Tupi language (uirá = bird + açu = large). Its scientific name, Harpia harpyja was created by the Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus, inspired by the Harpy, a monster from Greek Mythology that was half woman and half eagle. This majestic bird was still found in the Serra Bonita Mountain Range up to the 1970s. Today it is all but extinct in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest.
The organisation was named after this bird for various reasons:
• It soars to high altitudes and at a distance has a wide vision of its territory;
• It possesses extremely acute eyesight (eight times sharper than a human being’s) so it focuses on its target with precision;
• It looks very noble;
• It is rare and is extinct in the Serra Bonita Mountain Range, but may be persuaded to return.
Naming the organisation after the Harpy Eagle is a way of expressing concern over the bird’s extinction and the urgent need to preserve its habitat. Today the bird has become a symbol of IU’s pursuit of the preservation of the many threatened and endangered species of flora and fauna in the region.Instituto Uiraçu's Team
IU’s activities are conducted from its office in the town of Camacan, Bahia by a Board of Directors headed by the President and consisting of the following members:
• Executive Director;
• Director of Environmental Education and Defence of Ecosystems;
• Director of Scientific Research.
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IU promotes the protection, conservation and research of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, facilitates environmental education at the local level and participates in local and regional forums that promote the creation and implementation of mechanisms and public policies directed at the protection and conservation of the biome. It conducts its activities through three directorships.
Defence of Ecosystems
This directorship is responsible for the management and expansion of private protected areas in the Serra Bonita Mountain Range. It has three main aims:
a) To consolidate and effectively protect the Serra Bonita Reserve Complex, through patrolling and monitoring the area by a team of park rangers with the support of government environmental organisations.
b) To expand the protected area with a medium-term goal (2015) of extending protection to the 7,500 hectares (18,525 acres) which comprise the Serra Bonita Mountain Range.
c) To develop other conservation actions in the area of influence of the Serra Bonita Reserve Complex in order to halt the destruction of remaining forest fragments. This includes the promotion of:
- • The restoration of degraded areas,
- • Compliance by rural landowners with environmental legislation (including the implementation of “Legal Reserves” and “Permanent Preservation Areas” which are obligatory under Brazilian law),
This directorship is responsible for promoting the generation and sharing of knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Activities are centered on the Serra Bonita Mountain Range which represents a type of vegetation that has been subject to surprisingly few studies and where therefore knowledge is sparse.
The knowledge generated by these activities is essential for:
• the definition of the Serra Bonita Reserve Complex’s management plan;
• the selection of priority areas for acquisition and expansion of the Serra Bonita Reserve Complex;
• the definition of conservation actions in the Serra Bonita Reserve Complex’s area of influence.
The Serra Bonita Reserve possesses excellent research facilities. These comprise a Research Station and a Lodge with high quality accommodation. These facilities benefit from good access, well maintained trails and guide service. The Research Station and Lodge are non-profit making, with all income generated going towards the maintenance and conservation of the Reserve.
This directorship has three responsibilities.
a) Enhance IU member’s understanding of the organisation’s mission, objectives, structure and functioning, environmental legislation, public policies and concepts of ecology and conservation;
b) Promotion of outreach activities which aim to raise awareness in the local community with respect to local environmental issues and the conservation of local biodiversity. This is done through courses, seminars, workshops, exhibitions, campaigns, and organised visits to the Serra Bonita Reserve Complex’s nature trails.
c) Development of research into alternative environmental education methods and dissemination of the results in partnership with other organisations.
“Man is part of Nature, not something contrasted with Nature” (Bertrand Russel, 1925 - What I Believe)
In an eco-centric vision, Nature is highlighted as the Planet’s central theme and man is part of it. This vision juxtaposes the anthropocentric ethic adopted by traditional European and Middle Eastern cultures which see mankind as the center and lord of the Universe and consider Nature to be subordinated to its interests. Two basic principles are common to this vision: firstly, all beings, including man, have a right to live; secondly, it is impossible to preserve humanity if Nature is destroyed. In other words: we are all in the same boat. Either we save everyone or everyone drowns. Furthermore, in the eco-centric vision humanity is held responsible for the well-being of the Planet since humans comprise the only species conscious of what is happening and it is they who might destroy it.