February Educator of the Month: Alexander Amasifuén Perez

Congratulations to Alexander Amasifuén Perez on being selected as PEN's February Educator of the Month!  Special thanks to Antonio J. Bóveda Penalba for his nomination and blog submission.

Alexander Amasifuén Perez is the Environmental Education Coordinator of Proyecto Mono Tocón, an NGO that works for the conservation of primates in Peru, focusing primarily on the critically endangered San Martin titi monkey (Callicebus oenanthe).

The San Martin titi monkey is endemic to the San Martin Region in Peru and has a very restricted distribution that is limited by the Andes mountain range and some large rivers that flow into the Amazon.  Despite occupying different habitats from tropical rainforest to dry forest, their distribution is restricted to areas below 1,200-1,000 meters, which are now heavily deforested for agriculture and livestock.

The road linking the coast with the Peruvian Amazon has facilitated human migration, meaning that San Martin is now the most deforested region of Peru.  The San Martin titi monkey is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world.  The conservation of this species is a priority!

Alex is an environmental engineer from the National University of San Martín (UNSM), the only university in this region of the Amazon offering environmental studies.  Unfortunately, few students focus on nature conservation in a region that prioritizes monocultures of rice, coffee, and cacao as an economic engine.  Most environmental engineers are more interested in working for oil companies, mining companies, or even banks.

Alex started volunteering with Proyecto Mono Tocón in 2008, just one year after the launch of our conservation initiative.  His way of approaching environmental problems caught the attention of the team.  After a full year of volunteering to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge, he conducted an internship and did his thesis study at our institution.  His thesis focused on strengthening environmental capacities of the guides in Tingana, a reserve with one of San Martin’s last remaining areas of lowland rainforest.

Thanks to his leadership and ability to engage children and adults with his environmental activities, Alex became one of the best environmental educators in Peru.  Today, the activities of Proyecto Mono Tocón are recognized by public and private institutions as a model for many events.  Alex is truly a hero of environmental education and conservation in Peru.

Proyecto Mono Tocón supports community conservation initiatives; Alex is indispensable in sensitizing the local population to the sustainable use of natural resources.  Thanks to his work, local partners are involved in the creation of protected areas and seeking sustainable alternatives, such as ecotourism.

Together with educator Mercy Del Aguila Pinedo, Alex created several nature clubs in San Martin, where children learn - in a playful way - the importance of implementing good environmental practices.  With Noelia Venegas Martín, advisor of Proyecto Mono Tocón, Alex developed an Environmental Education Program that allows schools in the region to develop activities based upon 7 issues of special importance: water, soil, air, biodiversity, fauna, flora, and environmental problems.  These packets have been offered to numerous schools in San Martin to train the local teachers and school directors in environmental education.  This Environmental Education Program has been recognized by the Regional Education Authorities of San Martin for inclusion in the curricula of schools in the region.

Alex says, "Education is important for the conservation of primates.  As an educator, I provide information to local communities in Peru about primate behavior, threats, and the conservation strategies needed to ensure their survival."  For Alex and Proyecto Mono Tocón, the Primate Education Network (PEN) is a very important platform to exchange experiences and share education materials.

Nominating Alex for PEN’s Educator of the Month is a prize for young Peruvian environmental educators who struggle daily to promote a new educational discipline in Peru.

For further information, download Proyecto Mono Tocón's primate education materials from PEN's Resource Library:

  • Carlos y la selva tropical Comic Book
    Carlos y la selva tropical is a comic book, featuring a boy named Carlos who lives in Santa Maria, Peru.  The book aims to strengthen the relationship between humans and nature, promoting and encouraging natural resource conservation.  It also includes a coloring page of the San Martin titi monkey.

This blog post was written by Antonio J. Bóveda Penalba, who co-founded Proyecto Mono Tocón with Jan Vermeer in 2007.  Proyecto Mono Tocón has developed from a small research initiative for the San Martin titi monkey into an extensive conservation project for all Peruvian primates and their habitats, incorporating research, education, and direct conservation activities.  They work with authorities on all levels, from local communities to the regional and national government.

Do you know an exceptional primate educator?
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