Conserving Avian Biodiversity and Promoting Sustainability: The Inspiring Vision of SAVE Brasil

by Abby Schnabel

Brazil is the most biologically diverse country globally, with approximately 700 new animal species discovered each year. As the nation grapples with rapid development, it confronts pressing environmental and sustainability issues, specifically deforestation and water pollution. One organization active across nine Brazilian states, SAVE Brasil, plays a pivotal role in safeguarding biodiversity and promoting sustainable practices concerning bird species. Brazil, one of the countries with the highest diversity of bird species, has 166 threatened species, the most in the world. The species threatened by extinction are concentrated in the country’s tropical forests, the Amazon and the Atlantic Forest, and the threats to their existence can be explained by the environmental degradation Brazil experienced under European colonialism and subsequent regimes. SAVE Brasil, at the forefront of avian conservation in São Paulo, Brazil, remains dedicated to its core mission of preserving birds and their habitats while fostering connections between people and the natural world.

SAVE Brasil’s overarching mission is to conserve native bird species and their ecosystems, an intricate balance of nature difficult to achieve amongst an ever-expanding urban sprawl. This goal is incredibly challenging in São Paulo, one of the world’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas and the largest city in Brazil and the southern hemisphere, with an estimated population of 22.6 million.

One of SAVE Brasil’s unique, distinctive strengths is its deep-rooted engagement with local communities. By collaborating closely with community members and local governments, conservation strategies are tailored to align with the needs and aspirations of the people, making communities more involved in the process while ensuring the design is implementable. An example of this community-focused approach is the Northeastern Atlantic Forest project, in Pernambuco and Alagoas, where agroforestry demonstrations were held on local lands to engage with as many stakeholders as possible, including regional governments. The Atlantic Forest is a global conservation priority, as over 85% of the forest has been cleared. Demonstration units empowered communities to adopt sustainable agricultural practices to keep the forest standing and the habitat for birds preserved, according to SAVE Brasil. 

Raising public awareness is also a cornerstone of SAVE Brasil’s strategy. The organization skillfully employs birdwatching outings to forge deeper connections between people and the avian world. By showing locals the beauty and wonder of birds in their natural habitats, SAVE Brasil cultivates a sense of responsibility for their preservation. This outreach program extends across age groups, with educational field trips for schoolchildren and engaging outings for adults. Ultimately, SAVE Brasil goes beyond conventional conservation approaches by recognizing the intersectionality of environmental issues with community development. This holistic perspective is evident in projects like the sustainable cattle ranching initiative, Alianza del Pastizal, in partnership with neighboring countries. By integrating beef production with grassland conservation, SAVE Brasil demonstrates that economic activities can coexist harmoniously with environmental preservation, ensuring long-term sustainability moving forward.

SAVE Brasil works with government agencies in Brazil at the municipal, state, and federal levels, primarily for establishing protected areas and for the National Action Plans for Conservation of Threatened Species. Additionally, their influence extends beyond conservation efforts in Brazil, thanks to its partnerships with various global entities. As a representative of the BirdLife International alliance in Brazil, the organization collaborates with similar organizations worldwide. SAVE Brasil is also an active member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact, showcasing its commitment to holistic conservation. The collaboration with government agencies has yielded substantial results, establishing numerous protected areas covering vast expanses of critical habitat. Today, SAVE Brasil has supported the establishment of nine protected areas, adding up to more than 184,509 hectares in places of high biodiversity, according to the organization. Conservation efforts are challenging, and SAVE Brasil addresses them head-on in urban environments – like São Paulo – by educating local communities and partnering with international organizations. While facing threats like deforestation, a deep understanding of local communities’ needs underpins every approach adopted. 

The road ahead for SAVE Brasil is brimming with ambitions. The organization envisions a future where the conservation status of all targeted species improves, and the number of endangered species in Brazil decreases. Prioritizing critically endangered species, focusing on Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, and continuing community engagement are among SAVE Brasil’s future focal points. Sustained funding is a challenge, particularly funding for long-term, time-intensive projects; still, through partnerships, government collaboration, and a track record of success, SAVE Brasil successfully navigates these hurdles to preserve avian biodiversity. SAVE Brasil is a testament to the power of dedicated conservation efforts and the potential for collaboration across sectors to create positive change. Its multifaceted approach, spanning community engagement, partnerships, and awareness campaigns, underscores its commitment to its mission. In a world where the delicate balance of ecosystems teeters on the brink, SAVE Brasil offers hope for a sustainable future where both nature and communities can thrive.

Abby Schnabel is a junior in Jonathan Edwards. She can be contacted at