When biologist Paul Butler realized it would take more than just science to save the endangered St. Lucia Parrot, he invented a new way of engaging community in conservation. Over the last twenty-five years, he's been the force behind a successful campaign methodology that stems from promoting environmental protection through regional pride.
“By trying something different, combined with my slight obsessive-compulsive tendencies, a lot of tenacity, and a bit of innocence, we helped save a parrot.”
Biologist Paul Butler’s twenty-five years working with Rare has been largely about re-framing conservation as community-based activity, and creating solutions that matter to the local population as much as to the endangered species. Determined to save the St. Lucia Parrot, which was down to a population of 100 and facing a very imminent extinction, Paul arrived in St. Lucia in the 1970s and began the work he’s now known for.
In St. Lucia, where the Pride program was conceived, Paul and the St. Lucia Forestry Department realized early on that “people weren’t listening to us when we told them about the value of the trees and importance of the endangered St. Lucia parrot. We had to find a way to get people’s attention.” And they did, saving the St. Lucia Parrot with the help of the local community.
Designing a program for high biodiversity areas—where poverty is high, and behavioral change is challenging to achieve—meant spending the time to build a program which seems simple on the surface but is actually quite complex. The team built a campaign for St. Lucia using the image of the stunningly beautiful parrot as the key graphic. Soon, they landed the symbol on billboards, bumper stickers, in songs, radio spots, sermons and classroom activities. The emotional impact was evident.
As Paul's Pride methodology evolved, Rare expanded its reach and created a program of Fellows who work as campaign managers all over the world to establish protected areas, save species, and form commmunity organizations which last beyond the lifespan of the campaigns.
In over 40 countries from the Caribbean to Central America and the Pacific, Paul's signature program, Promoting Protection through Pride has become a model of social change and science collaboration. “Pride is a powerful emotion” says Paul, “you see it at local football matches. You see it at the Olympics. Pride resonates with everyone. It has no bounds to race, religion or economic status.”