Credits: Proyecto Sebraba
Award winner 2020
Location: Venezuela

María Fernanda Puerto-Carrillo

The current crisis in Venezuela has made conservation work hard and often dangerous. María Fernanda is one of the last ones standing and even more passionate and determined to achieve greater impact than before. During the last 12 years she is completely committed to protecting the jaguar, which is currently under immense pressure due to illegal hunting for retaliation and habitat loss.

María Fernanda is the founder of NGO Proyecto Sebraba. Her main objective is to minimise conflicts and threats faced by jaguars in the south of Zulia state, one of the most dangerous places in the country. Her perseverance resulted (amongst other things) in alliances with large landowners. Their joint goal is to establish adequate management of domestic animals to avoid predation and to minimise the hunting of the jaguar for reprisals. At a national level she has created alliances to communicate the importance of the jaguar through educational talks and to develop strategies to minimise the human-wildlife conflict. She received her Bachelor degree in Biology at Zulia University in 2013, and is currently finishing her Master in Ecology at the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific research (IVIC).

Vision and Approach

To María Fernanda it is evident that to save this big cat in the region south of Lake Maracaibo it is key to work together with the local community, landowners and institutions such as INPARQUES. María Fernanda aims to work on several measures such as developing alternative ways for management of livestock that minimise losses due to predation by jaguars, establishing an ecological corridor that increases connectivity between the two national parks in the region and to promote the sustainable consumption of natural jaguar prey by the local community.

María Fernanda also believes that the conservation of the jaguar must move beyond the local areas where the scientific works is being done. It can generate important alliances and replicable strategies in different regions of the country and with other countries, where this big cat lives, in order to link different jaguar populations.

Impact of the Future For Nature Award

With the FFN Award prize money María Fernanda will:

  • give continuity to conservation and research projects, which includes purchasing equipment for monitoring the jaguar and its prey;
  • implement methods to avoid livestock predation and introduce alternative livelihoods;
  • carry out ‘The path of the jaguar’ programme at schools to highlight the importance of the jaguar as a top predator in the ecosystem.

“Maria Fernanda is an early career conservationist working in some of the most challenging conditions imaginable (political, economic and social). In these conditions maintaining a continued presence, collecting data on the socio-ecological needs of the species and addressing the most persistent and immediate threats through a collaborative, constructive and socially-appropriate approach is vital.”
Annette Lanjouw, International Selection Committee