Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas

Claudio e Suzna na porta do Morro006The history of IPÊ is closely linked to the history of conservation of the black-lion-tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysopygus), a species that is a symbol of the state of São Paulo and that only exists in its west. It was there that the institute began its first scientific research project to save the species form extinction, still in the late 1980s, and expanded its complementary studies for the sustainable development of the region, with reforestation, environmental education and income for the population. Leading this movement were Claudio and Suzana Padua (pictured), who together with students and young professionals, officially founded the institute in 1992.

The institute, which started with less than 10 researchers, currently has 30 projects/year carried out by around 100 professionals in four biomes. As a Brazilian non-governmental organization to complete three decades is full of meanings, and, even in the face of many challenges, the IPÊ reinforces the principles and values that guide all actions since the beginning. All IPÊ studies are carried out in the field, in search of solutions to the challenges of society, especially rural producers, traditional and indigenous communities, with benefits that go beyond the limits of the territories in which we operate.

For the institute, form the beginning, it was evident that, in order to preserve biodiversity it was necessary to mobilize communities, students, local leaders, public authorities and arouse the interest of potential supporters and founders. In this direction, IPÊ established a model that has in Environmental Education and in the formation of partnerships, allies of scientific research of practical application. Every year, IPÊ benefits 12,000 people directly with our actions in the Atlantic Forest, at the Cerrado, Pantanal and the Amazon.

We work in a network

We are very proud of our network, after all we do nothing alone. Donors, funders, supporters, advisors, peer institutions and communities have always been and are fundamental in this process that involves growth, evolution and results. The partnership in the history of IPÊ – with public agencies, universities, the third sector and the private sector – is a central issue for gaining scale with results that benefit everyone, after all, we share only one planet with biodiversity.

With the private initiative, we have around 20 partnerships. In 18 years, we launched together with Havaianas, seventeen collections for adults and four for children, which value Brazilian biodiversity. So far, 57 species of Brazilian fauna have been collected. Initiatives like this reinforce our actions and take the message of how strategic it is to conserve our biodiversity to an ever-widening audience.

Our trajectory and next steps

As a way of contributing to the gain in scale that actions in the sustainable area in Brazil and abroad, IPÊ created ESCAS – School of Environmental Conservation and Sustainability with short courses, of postgraduate and professional master’s degrees (concept 4, CAPES, 4-5). It was the first NGO to have a master’s degree in the biodiversity conservation area, in 2008. More than 7,000 professionals have already graduated from ESCAS courses.

The 50 national and international awards won by the researchers and the institute – among them the Whitley Gold Award (2020,2015,2008), Social Entrepreneur Folha SP and Schwab Foundation (2009), UBS Visionaris Global (2019), Ford Awards (2009), Best NGOs to Donate to (2017) – reinforce that we are on the way.

Next steps

In view of the results obtained so far, we have expanded our goal, check out the results we hope to achieve in 5 years: 20 thousand people directly benefited/year, reach 9 thousand professionals trained by ESCAS, benefit 380 families/year, train 300 masters.

Our main goals are also to remove all the species with which we work directly from the red list of endangered species or improve their classification on this list. Furthermore, in 30 years, we want to reach the mark of 150 million trees planted.

Restoration of forests, protection of water courses, conservation of species and sustainable development are all measures that add to efforts to combat climate changes and contribute to the balance of the planet, which became even more evident in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

IPÊ has worked in the Atlantic Forest since its creation. Check out the main results for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

Atlantic Forest in Western São Paulo:

  • 5.4 million trees planted in the Atlantic Forest, including the largest green corridor ever restored in the biome.
  • The change in the black-faced lion tamarin category from “critically endangered” to “endangered” at Red List.
  • The largest lowland tapir database (Tapirus terrestris), which is a sentinel for the health of forests.
  • Jobs to generate income for the population, which benefit more than 200 families.
  • Adoption of the environmental education program by schools in the city of Teodoro Sampaio (SP), with courses for teachers and students from the public network.

In Pontal of Paranapanema, the Dream Map prepared jointly by rural producers, public agencies, other institutions that also work in the region and IPÊ researchers identified the priority areas for restoration. As a way of reconciling biodiversity conservation with food diversity and income generation for rural producers, the Map included among the strategies the implementation of SAFs – Agroforestry Systems in small properties and the creation of community nurseries.

Today there are nine community nurseries located in the Pontal do Paranapanema region, closely monitored by IPÊ, five of which are led by women. They highlight the potential for sustainable development. In 2020, these nurseries produced approximately 800,000 seedlings and benefited 26 families. The production potential, however, is almost doubled and, since the environmental liabilities of Western São Paulo is 77 thousand hectares, the tendency is for growth in the production of the nurseries.

Ivone Ribeiro Campos Félix, owner of Viveiro Floresta for 4 years, reveals the progress of the business and the next steps. “I started producing 17,600 seedlings a year. In 2020, the nursery produced 150,000 seedlings and the plan is to expand production”.

With the income from the nursery, Ivone guarantees the university education of her two daughters. “Peace, contribution to the environment, completing their daughters’ graduation are the results I take with my nursery”, she highlights.

Atlantic forest on Cantareira System

Among the actions carried out by IPÊ in the region, which has one of the largest water supply systems in the world, is forest restoration with almost 400,000 Atlantic forest seedlings already planted, especially near the water courses of the supply, which provide 7,6 million people in the metropolitan region of São Paulo. Encouraging the implementation of sustainable production systems on rural properties is also a strategy with the potential to contribute to increasing the resilience of the Cantareira System.

In the Cantareira System region, prioritizing changes which a view to better use of the land guarantees benefits not only for those who live in rural areas, as is the case with rural products, but also for the population that receives the water and that often about 100km away. “The best use of land and forest restoration are the regulators of water quantity and quality, but also of rural productivity and biodiversity”, explains Alexandre Uezu, researcher and coordinator of the project Sowing Water, carried out by IPÊ – Ecological research Institute, sponsored by Petrobras, through the Petrobras Social-Environmental Program and the Federal Government.

IPÊ arrived in the Pantanal to research for conservation of Brazilian tapirs, through LCTI – Lowland Conservation Tapir Initiative. In the biome, we have also advanced with research to conservation the life of the giant armadillo.

In addition to research on species, we are working on the issue of sustainable livestock in the Pantanal and we are active in fire brigades with farmers and communities.         

With the advances of researches, we expanded our actions to the Cerrado, involving, besides tapirs and armadillos, studies for the survival of the giant anteater. Over the time, we managed to organize the world’s largest database on the lowland tapir, in addition to unpublished data on the giant armadillo, which even support public policy actions in favor of wildlife and human beings.

The LCTI – Lowland Conservation Tapir Initiative seeks to influence the decision-making process with the government to combat current threats and prevent the extinction of the tapir and its remaining habitats.

“It is already clear that large-scale agriculture in the Brazilian Cerrado is resulting in pesticide and metal exposure in concentrations that exceed environmental safety and may have adverse health effects on tapirs and, perhaps, other animals. We need to look more seriously at this issue that affects wild animals and human lives. It is inadmissible to use pesticides without criteria and without supervision”, emphasizes Patrícia Médici, researcher and coordinator of LCTI/IPÊ. The project also has fronts of action in the Atlantic Forest and in the Amazon.

The Giant Armadillo Project (Periodontes maximus), a partnership between the IPÊ and the ICAS – Institute for the Conservation of Wild Animals of the Pantanal, carried out in the Atlantic Forest and Cerrado, for over 10 years it has been developing actions to conserve the largest of the 20 armadillo species, also called ecosystem engineers. “With climate changes and the trend of rising temperatures, giant armadillo burrows can help the species survive these changes and extreme temperatures”, explain Arnaud Desbiez, coordinator of Giant Armadillo Project. Among the results obtained by the project is the fact that the species integrates the list of mammals used to guide the creation of protected areas and conservation corridors in South Mato Grosso.

With the project Flags and Highways, the IPÊ and partners evaluate, monitoring and indicate solutions to the problem of being run over and accidents with the giant anteater on the roads of the State of South Mato Grosso. The roads present alarming rates of death of wild animals by hit. Advances in this direction will make roads safer for people and anteaters and have the potential to benefit other species as well.

IPÊ will be 30 years old in 2022. More than 20 of them dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity in the amazon territory. All projects carried out in the region are part of the solutions for amazon which brings together initiatives aimed at strengthening communities and protected areas in the biome. Work on the biome began on the lower Negro river and later expanded into a major initiative called Integrative Solutions for Amazon Conservation.

Currently, in the lower Negro river, is realized the Navegando Educação Empreendedora na Amazônia. The team travels through the communities carrying out surveys on businesses and their entrepreneurs to devise strategies that can give impetus to these works. Everything happens with the support of the Maria I school boat, which navigates the waters of the rivers to reach the residents of the Reserva de Desenvolvimento Sustentável (RDS) Puranga-Conquista. The project has the support of the LIRA/IPÊ project – Legado Integrado da Região Amazônica and a partnership with Linkedin, the largest professional social network in the world.

          In the 2010s, IPÊ supported the formalization and strengthening of local organizations, with documentation for access to public policies aimed at family farmers and artisans, contributing to the business infrastructure.

CELIO ARAGOCraftsman Célio Arago (pictured left), for example, is among those benefited by IPÊ. Workshops, the courses and exchanges contributed to the further development of his skills as an artisan, a craft he learned from his father. From the Nova Esperança community, Célio’s pieces won the world and were nominated for awards. After the project, Célio today shares what he learned with the young people.

“The learning I had with IPÊ opened many doors for me. Now I teach young people in my community so that they have the same chance as me”.

Within the Soluções Integradas, IPÊ develops the following actions:

MOSUC – Motivação e Sucesso na Gestão de Unidades de Conservação held since 2012, in partnership with ICMBio and support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. A key action front is the national restructuring of the ICMBio Volunteering Program, which was supported by IPÊ in various ways, from visual communication to the digital restructuring of the volunteer register.

Since 2012, IPÊ has supported the strengthening of the National System of Conversation Units, encouraging the sharing of good management practices, fostering arrangements that expand human capital to support management, and building platforms that disseminate information and knowledge about the UCs.


MPB – Monitoramento participativo da biodiversidade, which, since 2013, has been monitoring biodiversity in 18 Conservation Units (12 million hectares) in the Amazônia with the contribution of local communities. This process is essential to understand and moderate the extent of changes that may lead to the loss of local biodiversity, support the proper management of natural resources, and promote the maintenance of the way of life of local communities. The MPB project is part of the initiative to implement the Programa de Monitoramento da Biodiversidade – Monitora of ICMBio (Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation), USAID, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and ARPA Program are MPB partners.

LIRA – Integrated legacy of the Amazon region, as of 2019, the actions were expanded with the project that focuses on increasing the effectiveness in the management of 86 protected areas (Conversation Units of Indigenous Lands), with integrated and networked work in the Amazônia. The project covers 34% of the protected areas in the Amazônia, considering 20 Federal UCs, 23 State UCs and 43 Indigenous Lands, in the regions of High Negro River, Low Negro River, North of Pará, Xingú, Madeira-Purus and Rondônia-Acre. LIRA is an initiative conceived by IPÊ – Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas, the Amazônia Fund and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the project’s financing partners.

Check out the main highlights of IPÊ in the Amazon:

  • 320 families benefited from the Low Negro River project
  • More than 4000 people benefited from Participatory Biodiversity Monitoring
  • More than 30 thousand people registered in the ICMBio national volunteer register.

The Black lion Tamarin Conservation Program, carried out in Pontal do Paranapanema by IPÊ, will receive for two more years the contribution of the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) for its research, environmental education and species conservation activities.

DCF has supported the program by several cycles since 2005. From 2017 to 2020, the Fund funded the installation of artificial hollows, environmental education actions and stock support in the Atlantic Forest Corridor, the largest in Brazil, reforested by the Ipê. The hollows were a major evolution for the project, helping to understand the dynamics of tamarin movement and use of the corridor and fragments close to it. All this because, for black lion tamarins, food sources (fruits, insects and small vertebrates) and roosting places (tree holes) are vital components of the habitat that directly affect the number of individuals that can use and live in one area. However, the trees in the corridor, being younger, do not have natural hollows. To promote the use of these areas restored by the tamarins, one of the actions of the project supported by the DCF was precisely the installation of artificial holes, wooden boxes that function as shelter and dormitory for the species. Another advance of the project was the use of GPS in tamarins, in backpacks installed on individuals for monitoring, whose support from Disney made the first tests of this technology possible.

For the next few years, the program will continue with the action fronts of Research, Environmental Education and Conservation.  Field research includes monitoring the groups that will be part of population management.

“It is important to say that everything is part of a process thought and planned jointly by a group of specialists, with the approval of the responsible government agencies. Initially, we will assess the feasibility of translocation for each population, to define which of them will be part of this strategy [already used by the Program since 1995]. Based on the identified needs, we will design strategies and protocols, which are approved by a Technical Advisory Group linked to the PAN, to finally carry out the movement of groups of tamarins among these populations. We are very happy to follow this new stage, involving several actors in favor of this important step for the species”, says biologist Gabriela Cabral Rezende. All research and conservation actions with the black lion tamarin support and are in accordance with the National Action Plan (PAN) for the Conservation of Atlantic Forest Primates and the Black-headed Sloth, which is part of the national strategy and global biodiversity conservation.

As in previous years, the Environmental Education actions will take place in public schools in strategic municipalities for the protection of the tamarin, in Pontal do Paranapanema. One of the most relevant activities is to bring scientific information and train teachers for environmental education initiatives in the classroom. Teaching materials on the subject are already being produced.

As a complementary action for the conservation of the black lion tamarin, the program will continue to mobilize society by bringing knowledge about the species and developing methods that can help maintain the life of this animal, which is a symbol of the state of São Paulo. The planning for the installation of safe passages for the tamarins is already underway, crossing roads that cut through green areas for the use of the species. These passages connect to the forest corridors to guarantee even more space for the tamarins and other species that inhabit the region, providing security for them to move through the landscape.

The Program is also supported by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation/Re:wild and the Whitley Fund for Nature.