Even in a flourishing rain forest, it’s rare to spy 10 species of monkey on a daily basis. But there they were, leaping from tree to tree above the tent where I slept, howling to one another at sunset while I stirred my umpteenth dinner of canned tomato sauce and noodles in a kettle over an open fire.
I was living in the deepest reaches of Peru’s Manu National Park—“three days from an appendectomy,” my soon-to-be-physician husband liked to joke. Yes, we were remote. Back in pre-WiFi 1982, the research station staff had only occasional radio contact with the outside world; we scrawled data in our notebooks by candlelight; and fried eggs were a rare treat. But the park was the ideal place for me to study black spider monkeys, the subject of field research for my doctorate in biology.
One of the largest primates in South America, the black spider monkey serves an important role in the intact rain forests it favors. Among its jobs is to disperse seeds to help the forest thrive.
How fitting then that, almost a quarter-century later, I work for an organization that is helping the rain forest thrive through a disbursement system of its own? The seeds of hope in this case come from the sophisticated financing program that is already changing the future of the Brazilian Amazon and is primed to help the rain forest in other countries, too.
The innovative tool, known as Project Finance for Permanence, has provided a brilliant approach to cover the costs associated with maintaining protected areas in Brazil. I’m seeing it firsthand in my role overseeing the project and during visits to the areas we are conserving.
A key principle of a project like this is funding it from a variety of sources. In this case, Brazil is receiving money from governments, individuals, foundations, and corporations. The spider monkey could never survive if he only foraged for fruit in one tree, could he?