Biologist Karina Atkinson has spent more than six years helping to transform a little-known reserve in Paraguay into a model of scientific conservation and sustainable tourism that benefits the local community.
Karina Atkinson describes Paraguay’s Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca, an 804-hectare area at the confluence of three major ecoregions, as being “like paradise” with its diversity of plants and wildlife, including a number of rare, threatened and endangered species.
The solutions to everyday problems here, which are different from those that occur in the Western world, are so simple and logical – it’s this approach to problem-solving that really attracts me about taking on the project in Paraguay.
Inspired to stay after completing her stint volunteering on a science programme, the Scotswoman co-founded Para La Tierra, the non-governmental organization that has come to the aid of the reserve and impoverished local communities. Through a combination of research and community engagement, she and her colleagues have provided the scientific basis for the conservation of the reserve’s species and habitats.
Much has already been achieved: local landowners have been persuaded to reduce the impact of their agricultural activities on the habitat; the local community is now more aware of the need to protect animal species; and ecotourism has gained a footing, with hundreds of people visiting the reserve daily in high season.
Atkinson estimates hundreds of people have benefited from the work of Para La Tierra. Her team has established a strong foundation in environmental stewardship among the youngest members of the community, forging local and international partnerships to improve livelihoods and help achieve conservation goals.
Unfortunately, the reserve is up for sale and her work is under threat. She is seeking donor funds to buy it.
People who have benefited directly or indirectly from Atkinson’s work at Para La Tierra
Temporary volunteers and professional scientists who have worked at the reserve
Research projects that have been carried out