The EDGE of Existence programme invests in conservation at a grass-roots level by helping aspiring conservationists in developing countries to take the lead in researching and conserving their local EDGE species.
One of the most effective ways in which the EDGE of Existence programme is working to secure the future of EDGE species is by helping to build conservation capacity in regions in which they occur. This is achieved though awarding two-year Fellowships to future conservation leaders - EDGE Fellows - working on poorly-known EDGE species.
Micaela Camino is one of our current EDGE Fellows. We find out how she is working for wildlife.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Buenos Aires is a big, a huge city, far away from green areas. But since I was a child, I heard stories about the jungle, the indigenous people, the mountains and even about Antartica because my parents travelled a lot when they were young.
When I was 15 I started travelling through my country and other countries of South America. From hitchhiking and sleeping in the houses of local families, I got to see how our culture, that is dominant in a lot of places, is just one option among many others. I also learned that nature is everywhere. It is a mystery that I love and that occupies all my attention.
I met many different people living close to the environment and saw the incredible species of my continent and my country so I fell in love with Nature.
But as I grew up and kept on travelling, I also understood that there is a lot of work to do because we do not know many things about nature and because the extractivism expands fast and local people alone cannot stand against this force.
So I studied biology and kept on travelling. When I finished my course I worked in different areas until I made it to the Chaco. Chaco is an amazing, magical place. There is something surreal in the trees, in the animals, in the colours, in the people.There is almost no information about the region so I knew that I was staying.
I was going to work in the Chaco, this biodiversity and culturally rich region that keeps the largest forest of the North of the country and where almost no research or conservation actions are implemented.
How did you hear about the Edge Fellowship and what were you doing before you became an Edge Fellow?
Before becoming an EDGE Fellow I was doing my Ph.D. focused on habitat selection of peccaries. I saw the critical situation of the Chacoan peccary and saw the EDGE programme as a good opportunity to focus on this species. I heard about the programme through my advisor, Mariana Altrichter.
Which animals or areas do you specialise in or work on?
I work in the dry Chaco, I study large terrestrial mammals, with particular attention on peccaries.
What is the focus of your EDGE Fellowship and what made you want to study in your current field?
The focus of my EDGE Fellowship is developing actions for the long-term conservation of the Chacoan peccary of the Dry Chaco.
The species is seriously endangered and according to my previous work, conservation actions focused on this species are urgent. Also, I think that locally, the species can be used as a flagship.
What is the best thing about your job/role?
There are many great things about my job. The first one is the Forests. When I am in the forests looking for tracks, observing Nature, I feel my roots in this World. My own roots. I can feel how I am part of a larger being, and how the Mystery of Nature is Infinite.
The second great thing is local people. We work with local peasants and indigenous people who have different perceptions of the world, so when you can really hear what they are saying you grow in levels that you did not even know they existed.
Have there been any particular highlights during your fellowship so far?
1) Local people actively participating of the conservation of the species
2) The species still being present in the territory
3) Policy makers and other decision makers being more aware of the importance of the species and its habitats
4) Creating a forum, with other stakeholders, for the conservation of the habitats and forests of the species
5) Being invited to be a member of the Peccary Specialist Group of the IUCN
How important do you think the Fellowships are to support conservation, especially local conservation?
I think the fellowship is great because it gives us the opportunity to frame our efforts in a larger network and share our experience with other fellows or members of the team. This is very important because working in conservation can be hard and being part of a larger network feels very different than working only with small local teams.
The EDGE Fellowships are aimed at providing early-career conservationists, biologists and zoologists with the funding and mentoring to help them get a foothold in their sector.
You can also work for wildlife by becoming a Wildlife Champion - champion an area of our work and help ensure a future for wildlife.