People: Mario S. Di Bitetti, Ph.D. - Atlantic Forest Ecoregion Programme Officer

The man behind "proyecto tigre"

As shy as the creatures he strives to protect, Mario is passionate and proud of his work. As he delves into the intricacies of his job, his eyes light up and smile broadens. His task is a huge one yet he faces it without faltering or wishing he had an easier project to take charge of.

Where did you grow up?
In La Plata, an administrative town, south of Buenos Aires and close to Encenada. It's a large place with a major university which attracts students from all over Argentina.

What subjects did you like best at school?
Natural sciences and anything involving animals.

What did you want to be?
I wanted to be a vet.

What subjects did you study at University?
I read biological sciences at the University of La Plata, specializing in zoology. After that, I was awarded a scholarship and did a Ph.D. at the State University of New York in ecology and evolution. I studied primates and more specifically the brown capuchin monkey that lives in the forests around here.

How did you end up working for WWF/Fundacion Vida Silvestre?
When I finished my Ph.D. two and a half years ago, I was offered several jobs but picked this one because of its practical side. I wanted to apply the things I had learned rather than continue doing research.

What do you like the most about your job?
That's a hard question! I like integrating my knowledge of ecology and conservation with practical applications, on a daily basis, and working in the field.

What do you dislike about the job?
Having to spend so much time in front of a computer - as opposed to being out there in the forest.

How would you describe yourself?
Shy and introvert.

What are your ambitions for the future?
We have just defined a Vision for the biodiversity of the Upper Paraná Atlantic Forest; I would like to see it implemented - that would be great! There is also the "Green Corridor" law which looks into linking continuous areas of forest. To date, this corridor has not materialized on the ground, so one of my ambitions would be to make this happen. Then of course, there is the jaguar - I would obviously like to contribute to saving it from extinction.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?
To do what I do and work in conservation in general, I think you need to be a one-man band, a jack of all trades; you have to know how to do many different things. You also need a good knowledge of nature and an understanding of forest ecology. That is very important but there is no secret recipe. I find working in conservation very interdisciplinary; people from different backgrounds can end up working for nature.

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