Suwanna Gauntlett

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"Originally from San Francisco, Suwanna grew up in Brazil and Europe. A formative experience with a jaguar tortured by poachers in the Brazilian rainforest sparked her early connection to the environment. After pursuing her undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate degrees in France and Switzerland, she began consulting for wildlife conservation organizations, assisting them with strategic planning for direct protection to wildlife in danger. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Suwanna worked on dolphin protection with the marine conservation organization Earthtrust to obtain a ban on drift netting in the South Pacific and to firm up an agreement with Heinz Corporation to produce certified dolphin-free tuna. In 1994, Suwanna joined forces with Global Survival Network to save the Amur (Siberian) Tiger in the Russian Far East, bringing the population from only 80 individuals in 1994 to nearly 400 individuals by 2000. In India, Suwanna worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society of India to reverse the drastic decline of the Olive Ridley turtle along the coast of Orissa. Nestings were brought back from an all-time low of 8,700 in 1998 to 600,000 in 1999 and over 1 million in the year 2000. In Ecuador, responding to the government’s international appeal for help in 1998, Suwanna assisted with the expansion of the Galapagos Marine Reserve from 5 to 40 nautical miles by providing three years of technical assistance, training and equipment to conduct high seas law enforcement operations, and constructing two additional land bases in the northern islands.

"At the same time, Suwanna founded and managed The Gauntlett Group, an environmental consulting firm for multi-national corporations, from 1989 to 2000. A pioneer in sustainable development, The Gauntlett Group brought environmental management training to over 100 North American companies and consulting services to such large corporations as Alcoa, Fujitsu, Pfizer Chemicals, Procter & Gamble, Xerox, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), the City of San Francisco and Nike...

"After 11 years of corporate consulting, Suwanna felt, despite her efforts and that of her team, corporations were not reducing sufficiently their negative environmental footprint, especially when operating abroad in developing countries. Suwanna decided to stop consulting for industries and to start her own environmental advocacy group. She founded WildAid, a direct action nonprofit focusing on saving endangered wildlife in the tropical belt, where 90 percent of the planet’s biodiversity is concentrated. She put her consulting experience at the service of governments instead of corporations and formed partnerships with departments such as Forestry Administrations and National Park Offices to assist in strengthening park management and stopping wildlife trafficking.

"To found WildAid, Suwanna joined forces with three other environmentalists that had a good track record in direct field protection and measurable results in saving endangered wild species. In 1999, Suwanna Gauntlett, Steven Galster, Peter Knights and Steve Trent pooled their resources and programs together as WildAid: Galapagos Forever in Ecuador, Operation Tiger in the Russian Far East, Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park in Burma, Kao Yai National Park in Thailand, and two international campaigns in 7 countries, the Shark Campaign and Asian Conservation Awareness Program (ACAP). During the director’s programmatic planning process, a strategic decision was made to expand existing Burma and Thailand programs into neighboring Cambodia where 50% of land mass was still covered by tropical forests and was habitat to globally significant wildlife species. In January 2000, Suwanna started establishing ties with the Cambodian Department of Forestry and Wildlife Protection and National Park Management office who informed her that the biggest threats to biodiversity were encroachment on forestland, illegal logging and wildlife poaching. They said they were puzzled by conservation groups that studied wildlife and forests but only produced reports. The departments were eager to strengthen their own capacity for law enforcement and receive training, equipment and technical assistance from WildAid for arresting poachers and loggers.

"In June 2000, Suwanna conducted a country-wide wildlife trafficking assessment and an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the Forestry Department’s Special Forestry Task Forces in charge of law enforcement. This included a three-month field survey with several undercover investigations and two sting operations that netted seven tigers and two bears. After testing the law enforcement capacities of forestry officers in seven provinces, Suwanna designed and facilitated a law enforcement training program, together with one of her WildAid co-directors. The training was delivered in early 2001 to 50 officers from the Forestry Administration and the Royale Gendarmerie Khmer.

"Suwanna then moved quickly, signing several Memoranda of Understanding with the department of forestry to create the first wildlife law enforcement mobile unit in the country (to date, still the only one in Southeast Asia). The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) was launched in July 2001, patrolling the entire country and stopping illegal wildlife shipments in cities, on roads and national borders. In just the first six months of operations, WRRT rescued 2,800 live animals and confiscated 2.3 tons of wildlife meat and parts. ...

"During the same period, Suwanna and co-director Steve Galster assisted the Department of National Parks to train and equip rangers in Bokor National Park and create the National Ranger Training Center that trained over 500 rangers in the country..." [1]

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