2010 National Geographic / Buffett

Vitor Osmar Becker and Clemira Ordoñez Souza, creators of the Serra Bonita Reserve, Brazil, received the Conservation Leadership in Latin America National Geographic / Buffett Award, in 2010. They received the prize of USD 25,000 at a ceremony at National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, June 9, 2010.

The award, established through a grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, recognizes the excellent work and contribution made during a lifetime by the winners, bringing advances to the understanding and practice of conservation in their countries.

Using their retirement funds and all their lifetime savings, Becker and Souza began buying land in 1998, one property at a time. By mid-2001, nearly 50 properties had been acquired, totaling approximately 1,200 ha.

With the project's growth, they created an NGO, Instituto Uiraçu, and established the Serra Bonita Reserve. This area now protects about 2,500 ha of Atlantic Forest, one of the five most biodiverse biomes of the world, and the most destroyed in Brazil - less than 3% of its original cover remains.

Becker and Souza decided to create a Private Natural Heritage

Reserve in this biome and chose to settle in Sierra Bonita, which not only contains vast biodiversity as well as previously unknown species in the Atlantic Forest. Moreover, the mountain still kept more than 50% of primary forest, but there were no protected areas containing this kind of ecosystem, in the region.

The Reserve houses a Research Center consisting of six laboratories, two collection rooms, an auditorium, a scientific library and a preparation room. Also there is accommodation for scientists, students and ecotourists, and over 10 km of trails.

The winners of the National Award Geographic Society / Buffett are chosen among the nominees for the National Geographic Society Conservation Trust , which conducts a sorting through a peer review process. "This year's winners are recognized for their outstanding leadership and vital role in the management and protection of natural resources in their countries. They are inspiring advocates of conservation, serving as role models and mentors in their communities", said Thomas Lovejoy, President of the Conservation Trust.

* The funds received as a prize were fully invested in the expansion and protection of the Serra Bonita Reserve.

14th Ford Foundation Conservation Award

The Ford Foundation announced on December 9, 2009, the winners of the 14th Conservation Award. This year the competition was fierce, with 192 nominees for the five categories.

The Ford Award is considered one of the most important awards in the field of conservation in Brazil, and since 1996 it has supported the work of individuals and organizations dedicated to the conservation and sustainable development.

This year's winner in the category of Individual Achievement in Conservation is the entomologist Dr. Vitor O. Becker. The trophy and prize of BRL 20,000 will be offered during the award ceremony in Salvador, Bahia.

"Protecting the environment is a challenge for the whole society. The Ford Award was born from this vision and has fulfilled the role of promoting the conservation work in several areas," said Rogelio Golfarb, Ford´s Director of Communication and Governmental Affairs for South America.

In its 14 editions, the award recognized the work of 65 individuals and organizations, and received nominations of over 1,800 projects, forming a comprehensive inventory of conservation efforts in Brazil. The winner of the award this year, Dr. Vitor O. Becker, maintains a Private natural Heritage Reserve that protects a fragment of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, with personal resources and no personal profit.

Among his achievements is the second largest collection of Neotropical Lepidoptera, a private scientific library with over 5,000 titles, a Research Center open to the scientific community and the foundation of the NGO Institute Uiraçu. Although retired, he has not stopped working in scientific research and conservation.

* The funds received as a prize were fully invested in the expansion and protection of the Serra Bonita Reserve.