Award winner 2023
Location: Chile

Tomás Rivas Fuenzalida

Tomás Rivas Fuenzalida is a Chilean conservationist dedicated to protect South America’s rare raptors. He tracks down bird nests to study their populations and trains local people on novel agroecological techniques to minimise human-raptor conflict.


Tomás has made it his life’s mission to safeguard rufous-tailed hawk and help them coexist peacefully with people. Raptors such as the rufous-tailed hawk are the largest living aerial predators and play an important role in their ecosystems. As humans take up more and more natural areas for living and agriculture, raptors have started to include domestic animals in their diet. Farmers retaliate attacks on their poultry by shooting the raptors. Tomás figured out that, together with habitat loss, this human persecution is the main threat to the rufous-tailed hawk’s existence and is committed to finding a solution.

Tomas developed a special technique for detecting nests of this cryptic species, paving the way for collecting knowledge about the population, ecology and habitat requirements. He was the first to find rufous-tailed hawk nests in Chile in 60 years and continued on to find many more. Tomás also discovered that the global population of rufous-tailed hawks is concentrated in three Chilean regions and thanks to his research, the species was declared as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Tomás co-founded Fundación Ñankulafkén with the aim to set up long-term and large-scale conservation efforts for the rufous-tailed hawk and other threatened South American raptors, such as the black-and-chestnut eagle. They do this through scientific research, environmental education, and providing coexistence solutions. Tomás is working on pioneering agroecological techniques to minimise raptor attacks on poultry, such as designing safer poultry coops with vegetation roof covers. He educates and works together with farmers to minimise raptor attacks on poultry and thereby protecting the rufous-tailed hawk and black-and-chestnut eagle from the farmers’ persecution.

Vision and Approach

Understanding raptors and their needs are crucial for their conservation. Tomás has been studying the rufous-tailed hawk and other rare raptors for many years and made important discoveries about their populations. Tomás believes that humans and raptors can coexist if the right tools are provided, and aims to implement his human-raptor conflict solutions across South America.

Impact of the Future For Nature Award

With the FFN Award prize money Tomás will:

  • Mitigate human-raptor conflict in Chile and other South American countries by providing agroecological solutions allowing locals to protect their poultry and minimise raptor attacks.
  • Develop a programme to reintroduce the rufous-tailed hawk in central Chile, working from his first successes of breeding the species in captivity.

"Tomás Rivas Fuenzalida brings a novel agroecological approach to conserving highly endangered raptors within remote rural farming communities. He has shown a remarkable commitment to searching for and protecting isolated breeding pairs of extremely rare eagles and hawks, over a geographical area larger than Europe. His tenacity in continuing his effective work with limited or no firm funding support is a model for young naturalists."
Brian J. Huntley, member of the International Selection Committee