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A long-term partnership

By Neiva Guedes and Mariana de Moraes
and Mariana de Moraes

Toyota Brazil and the Hyacinth Macaw Project in the Pantanal By Neiva Guedes and Mariana de Moraes

In the past two decades, we have observed how a relationship between a Japanese company and a conservation research project in Brazil has progressed - leading to an increase in the Hyacinth Macaw population, the creation of the Toyota Foundation in Brazil and the construction of a Center for Sustainability in 2010.

The beginning

It all started when Neiva returned from her first trip to the Pantanal. She’d had enormous difficulty getting about, because she needed access to off-road areas - the middle of fields, wetlands and forests - and she lacked a suitable vehicle of her own. It was necessary for her to monitor the Hyacinth Macaw population from sunrise to early evening, but as she had to depend on lifts from others, this was not always possible.

On this first trip, Neiva had walked on foot, ridden on horseback, sailed by boat, and travelled by tractor, a Toyota vehicle, and an aircraft - always having to hitch a lift from friends, researchers from Embrapa Pantanal, farmers and journalists.

When she returned from this expedition, she talked with her supervisor, Professor Dr Alvaro Fernando de Almeida (ESALQ / USP), and they began contacting producers of 4×4 vehicles in Brazil. They needed a robust and sturdy test vehicle which would enable Neiva to conduct her research in the Pantanal.

A few companies were contacted, but most were unwilling to help. Then, in July 1991, during a speech in Sao Paulo, Prof Dr Alvaro, mentioned the need for a vehicle to carry out research on the Hyacinth Macaw. In the audience was an engineer from Toyota in Brazil, Sidney K Kakazu, who - inspired by the work that Neiva was carrying out - took the proposal to his superior, Mr. Torat, an engineer, who has since retired.

Mr. Torat agreed to lend Neiva a vehicle which she could test drive in the Pantanal, and in August 1991, a jeep was made available. Neiva turned test driver, submitting monthly reports of the vehicle’s performance, and in turn, creating a succession of stories and adventures.

Stories and adventures

With suitable transport, Neiva was able to travel by Toyota to conduct her research on the Hyacinth Macaws in the Pantanal. During the breeding season of 1991, she monitored 74 nests, acquiring the first solid data about the breeding biology of this threatened bird which is so special and charismatic.

In addition to climbing trees, discovering new nests, observing hatchling and fledgling Hyacinths - as well as Red and Green Macaws, Toco Toucans and other species - Neiva also had to negotiate many places which presented a challenge for a vehicle, because of potholes and water. Some she managed to circumvent, but others (such as quagmires) were easy to get stuck in for over 24 hours.

Making mistakes and learning from them, Neiva gradually became familiar with the routes and the Macaws of the Pantanal. She managed to travel through flooded areas, where no one moved, other than by horse, boat or tractor.

On one particular day, in a region of heavy flooding, the Toyota got stuck, with water seeping into the engine. Toyota sent out a new vehicle, with a warning to Neiva that the car was not amphibious! Neiva, however, thinks that they do not appreciate how well the car actually performed in those conditions.

Over a period of time, the “Macaws Girl” became well known in the Pantanal, not only because of her enormous contribution to the study and preservation of the Hyacinth Macaw, but also for helping farmers to get out of quagmires!

Thanks to the Toyota, Neiva was able to increase the size of the area which she was researching, and the monitoring of the macaws improved significantly.

The timeline

Toyota of Brazil was one of the first sponsors of the Hyacinth Macaw Project, and is the longest-standing partner as well. Since the partnership began in 1991, with the supply of a jeep, it has continued to supply vehicles to the project. In 2001, the jeep was replaced by two vehicles, with zero miles on the odometer, and a Toyota Hilux. In 2005, these two vehicles were replaced by newer models.

In 2006, a third vehicle of the same model was donated to the project (a Toyota Hilux 3.0), with adhesive banners on it, to publicize the project in the Toyota Hilux Expeditions Rally, and spread the word throughout the community. In 2009, the two vehicles supplied in 2005 were replaced by newer models, again displaying banners publicizing their role in the Hyacinth Macaw Project.

Besides supplying vehicles, Toyota also made an emergency donation to the project in late 2006, to enable it to continue its work. In late 2008, more funding was made available and, with the creation of the Toyota Foundation in Brazil in 2009, the Hyacinth Macaw Project became one of the Foundation’s projects, receiving long-term sponsorship and featuring in the annual planning of the company.

Although several people have contributed to this process, Mariana de Moraes and George Costa e Silva, who became involved in the project in 2005, have been fundamental to the partnership between Toyota and the Hyacinth Macaw Project.

“The Hyacinth Macaw Project is one of the most respected and important projects about study and conservation of birds in their natural habitat,” says George Costa e Silva, Chief Executive of the Toyota Foundation in Brazil. “Since its beginning in 1989, Toyota believed in the seriousness of the work and of all people involved, and the company is investing in it to collaborate with the expansion of the project.”

Established in April 2009, the Toyota Foundation in Brazil has focused its activities on environmental preservation and education of the communities. In addition to new initiatives arising from its inception, the Foundation Toyota Brazil has also unified and expanded the existing social responsibility initiatives for which the company is responsible.

“The Toyota Foundation of Brazil also includes social initiatives implemented and maintained in communities where the company has units: in Indaiatuba (São Paulo), Guaíba (Rio Grande do Sul) and São Bernardo do Campo (São Paulo),” explains Mariana de Moraes, who is responsible for public relations for Toyota/Brazil. “These initiatives include education, environment, culture and health, among others, and have the support of employees as volunteers.”

In the past two decades of partnership, Toyota has assisted and supported the Hyacinth Macaw Project with its participation in a number of different events in Brazil, as well as the creation of the website www.projetoararaazul.org.br, which has over 10,000 hits per month.

Another initiative was a rally, the Hilux Expedition - Hyacinth Macaw Project, which aimed to extend the work done in the Pantanal to other regions of the country. These activities had a very positive effect, because hundreds of people were introduced to the Hyacinth Macaw Project through the activities of Toyota.

The Hyacinth Macaw Project in Toyota Hilux Expeditions In 2006, the Hyacinth Macaw Project was the main theme of two Toyota Hilux Expeditions, held in the Chapada dos Guimarães and Campos do Jordão. Neiva Guedes and her team participated in the events. In addition to the official prizes, the winners also received a special award of merchandise exclusive to the Project, and a trip, with all expenses paid by Toyota, to visit the Hyacinth Macaw Project in the Pantanal.

The 20-year Project and partnership

Since its beginning, the Project team has worked to maintain viable populations of Hyacinth Macaws in the wild and to promote biodiversity conservation in South Pantanal of Mato Grosso do Sul State. The specific objectives may vary each year, but they include studies of basic biology, reproduction, behavior, habitat requirements, management and environmental education for the conservation of species.

During these 20 years of research, the increase in knowledge about the biology and ecology of the macaw has been remarkable, and the management of nests made in the Pantanal of Miranda has led to an increase in the numbers of Hyacinth Macaws in the region.

In November 2009, the Toyota Foundation in Brazil brought a group of Toyota executives and journalists to the Project base in the Caiman Ecological Refuge, where they had an opportunity to participate in the field activities of a conservation project, thus beginning the celebration of 20 years of the Hyacinth Macaw Project.

Continuing the partnership in 2010, the Hyacinth Macaw Center for Sustainability will be built in Campo Grande, capital of Mato Grosso do Sul State, which will have a visitor center, space for offices and where the administrative headquarters of the Institute will be based.

The Hyacinth Macaw Project plans to expand its work to other regions, and even other countries, through the training of biologists, veterinarians and technicians.

Neiva Guedes says: “Toyota was very important for the Hyacinth Macaw Project development, as well as other sponsors, partners, institutions and people who have collaborated during these 20 years. Without the vehicles granted by Toyota, the Project would not have been accomplished with such a richness of information, and certainly would not have been much more than a master thesis. Having transportation to conduct independent research in the Pantanal is undoubtedly the main factor in the success of the project”.

Neiva Guedes is Professor of the Master Program in Environment and Regional Development at Anhanguera Uniderp University. She took her PhD in Biology at UNESP / Botucatu, is President of the Hyacinth Macaw Institute, and a member of the Board of Parrots International.

Email: [email protected]

Mariana de Moraes - Public Relations,Toyota, Brazil.

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