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Terrorist Warning Prompts Quick Venue Change for Summer Veterinary Program
International Network of Environmentalists Facilitates Shift from Kenya to Brazil

Eleven days after the U.S. Department of State issued its May 16 warning against non-essential travel to Kenya due to increased security concerns, the Envirovet Summer Institute had pulled together a replacement itinerary in Brazil for the two-week “developing country” portion of the program.

[Envirovet participants]
Envirovet participants, including Dr. Val Beasley (right, front) and William Dean, Class of 2005 (right, standing), pose in front of a Brazilian waterfall.

Dr. Val Beasley, veterinary biosciences, is executive director of the 12-year-old Envirovet program. “It wouldn’t have been responsible to take participants to Kenya given the security climate there,” he says. “A combination of strong ties within the international community of ecological scientists and happy coincidences enabled us to make rapid plans for an equally rich program in Brazil.”

The Envirovet program consists of six weeks of intensive lecture, laboratory, and field experiences in terrestrial and aquatic wildlife and ecosystem health in developed and developing country contexts. It seeks to prepare veterinarians, veterinary students, wildlife biologists, and other scientists to handle the transdisciplinary, cooperative work required for effective wildlife and ecosystem health research, management, and long-term problem solving.

[Elder from the Xavante Tribe]
An elder from the Xavante tribe, which is partnering with a Brazil-based organization called ProFauna, explains the conservation efforts and concerns of his people to Envirovet participants.

Eighteen of the 23 participants enrolled had originally planned to go to Kenya, and of these all but one agreed to the change in plans. Participant Gonzalo Barquero, a graduate student in Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois, assisted in arranging the shift to Brazil.

Barquero is a junior director of a Brazil-based organization called ProFauna, which works with the government and indigenous tribes whose cultures have revolved around hunting for thousands of years. By helping restock wildlife, such as peccaries, so that the prey base is abundant, multiple species of native wildlife and the entire ecosystem can recover. ProFauna agreed to be one Envirovet host this summer and worked with Dr. Beasley to develop a program rich in locales, perspectives, and experts.

Conservation biologist Dr. Charlie Munn, formerly of the Bronx Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Society, also played a key role in “Envirovet Brazil.” Dr. Munn is the founder of Tropical Nature, a U.S.-based nonprofit that conserves forested habitats essential for wild macaws, monkeys and other species through the planning and implementation of model ecotourism projects.

[Sloth]
Sloths were among the animals observed in Brazil.

Working together, Beasley, Munn, and Barquero forged an impressive program featuring lectures from experts in conservation programs at national parks and preserves, zoos, environmental institutes, and a model industrial wastewater treatment plant that provides clean water for wetlands and the coastal environment to support large numbers of waterfowl as well as other species.

The new itinerary for the developing country portion of the program incorporated four biomes in Brazil, including the semi-arid shrub land called Cerrado, wetlands of the Pantanal—one of the world’s most well-known biodiversity “hotspots”—dry tropical forests, and tropical rainforest.

Like the Kenya trip it replaced, the Brazil trip addressed issues of land and water use, planning for wildlife and human needs, and effective conservation and conservation medicine. Among the wildlife species that the Envirovet group studied in Brazil were piranhas, Amazon River turtles, caimans, emus, toucans, macaws, capybaras, jaguars, other cats, and monkeys.

The first four weeks of the Envirovet program were held in Florida and Georgia at White Oak Conservation Center, St. Catherine’s Island, and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution as planned.

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