FREELANCE CONSULTANT

I used to work as a occasional freelance consultant in nature conservation and environmental affairs, covering issues such as protected areas planning, staff training, interpretive design, institutional building, research evaluation, feasibility studies, visitor use, eco-tourism, impact assessment, sustainable development, legal drafting, meeting management, etc. Most of these activities were short mission overseas during vacations or leaves I took from my formal positions.

Working for international institutions or cooperation programs is very intensive but big fun. You meet great people in their lifes, and face totally different situations and problems. A real-world school for any professional conservationist. Figures after a country entry refer to the number of missions realized, if more than one.

At present, being Director of the OAG, which is a State senior post, I have incompatibility with carrying freelance jobs.

  • ARGENTINA

    Evaluation and control of visitor infrastructures in Iguazu National Park (1994 & 1995)

    I was asked by the Administration of National Parks of Argentina to participate in the Evaluation Commission of the environmental impact studies and the Infrastructure Project for visitation to the Iguazu Waterfalls Area (August of 1994).

    See my report here

    The next year I was appointed by the Argentina Government as member of a reduced Committee for the control of the concession of the waterfall areas al the Iguazu National Park, with the peculiarity that I was not asked before. Once again in Buenos Aires (April, 1995) I met Minister María Julia Alsogaray and the other members of the Committee headed by Ing. Arturo Bignoli, and studied carefully the situation, which was, again, rather peculiar. At that point, Allan Putney, an IUCN expert  (also designated) and I decided to go to Bariloche during the weekend for fishing trouts and reviewing carefully the proposals at steak. When we returned, I presented a diabolic working scheme for all members of the Committee that fortunately provoked that I was fired. Integrity and credibility is the only asset of a consultant, and to be involved in corruption its worst risk.


  • CAPE VERDE (x2)

    Enhacement of biodiversity and protected areas management in Cape Verde (2001)

    In August 2001, I developed two projects for the Executive Secretariat for the Environment of the Republic of Cape Verde, one with UNEP and the other with the German Agency of International Cooperation, the GTZ. Both can be downloaded here.

    The first project included two legal drafts, one for biodiversity and another for protected areas, while the second project was a detailed planning of a magnificent natural area in the island of Fogo. It resembled very much that of Teide National Park.

    The experience was fruitful, but not free from risks. During a visit to the rim of the Fogo Caldera with Teresa Leyens (German cooperant), the taxi-car slipped out of the road but remained hanging over a cliff by miracle. However, worst was a severe pancreatitis that started in Praia (overlooked) and took me to hospital as soon as I arrived back to the Canaries. At the end, I survived, but with a 10 cm scar where my gallbladder was, as a souvenir.


  • COLOMBIA (x2)

    Conservation and sustainable use of the Colombian Amazonas tropical forest (1998 & 1999)

    Project AMAZONAS 21. Conservation and sustainable use of the Colombian Amazonas tropical forest (Departments of Amazonas and Putumayo)

    This is mission AL/COL/III B7-3100/79 of the European Commission and the Government of Colombia, developed by Ing. Francisco Iranzo Iranzo (Politechnical University of Barcelona) and myself (as team leader) in Leticia and Bogota during August and September 1998.  Work was distributed between the city of Bogotá, in the tropical forest around Leticia, and in my home in La Laguna (adequately inspired with Colombian rum). We defined 22 operations / projects as a result of intensive and participatory work with indigenous people. [See project]

    Having finished the field trip, I was invited by Juan Mayr, Ministry of the Environment, to join him in a trip to meet the Kogis in the Sierra de Santa Marta. Our friendship came from the days we were fellows in the Council of IUCN, and Santa Marta is indeed a magic place, as he always told me.


    Evaluation of the Tropenbos-Colombia Program

    The Tropenbos Foundation (Wageningen, The Netherlands) performs regular evaluations of their worldwide regional programs. For the evaluation of the period 1995-1999 of the Colombian program, a team was set up headed by Dr. Manuel Rodríguez Becerra, and with Dr. Geerd Sicco Smit and myself as experts. During September we listened to 30 research presentations and interviewed many enthusiastic students and researchers. The evaluation methodology we applied was thereafter introduced by Tropenbos for some other Programs. [See our report]


  • EGYPT

    Saint Katherine & Bardawil Lagoon protected areas in Sinai (1993)

    In November -December 1993 I was hired by Archotech as Director of the Technical Assistance Team for a Co-operation project of the European Union with the Government of Egypt that involved a feasibility study of two potential protected areas in the Sinai Peninsula. [See Executive Summary]

    Saint Katherine Protectorate

    My team was formed by Amalia Lowy (sociologist) and Ricardo  García (geologist), locally assisted by Dr. Michael P. Pearson and General Ahmed I. Sheha­ta (Ras Mohammed National Park).  We also received essential collaboration of father Michael, from the Saint Catherine Monastery, as intermediate with the Bedouin people. The park we planned covered some 4.300 km2 embracing the mayor part of the granitic massive mountains of South Sinai (Gebels Serbal, Tarbush, Katheri­na, Hamra, Umm Shomar, Thabt, Sabbagh and Sahara).  This project succeeded.

    Bardawil Lagoon Protected Area

    The Bardawil Protected Area proposed covered approximately 150.000 Ha in the northernmost part of the Sinai Peninsula, an important wetland habitat for birds migrating from Eurasia to Africa. Our team increased with the incorporation of Ing. Jesús Casas (hydrologist & park manager) and Mr. Carlos Urdiales (ornithologist). So far as I heard thereafter, our preconditions established for this project were not met by the Egyptian Authorities and the European Commission disregarded the initiative.

  • EQUATORIAL GUINEA (x2)

    Draft law and management guidelines for protected areas (1998)

    In 1998 I had two missions in Equatorial Guinea (February 15 – April 2, and November 30 – December 14) both related to CUREF, a cooperation project of conservation and rational utilisation of the forest ecosystems, supported by the European Development Fund (Project nº 6.ACP-EGO20). My first commitment was to draft a law for protected areas including the definition of a network of units covering the whole country  (with ecological corridors, etc.). Thereafter, I was asked to develop some guidelines for the management of the proposed areas (rangers training, etc.)

    At that time the political situation in Equatorial Guinea was not very confortable, and the money of the oil exploitations offshore were still not reaching the common inhabitants of the country. The concept of law shared by the officials I worked with was at least ‘peculiar’, I would say. However, I did my job.

    I had the opportunity to visit part of the island of Bioko (the north was closed), and the bulk of the work was developed mainly in the Continent, at Bata and at Monte Allén, in the facilities of the ECOFAC project, with Luis Arranz‘s invaluable assistance. That place is magic, lost in the core of  the ancient tropical rainforest, with gorillas and alike moving around. One night I counted on a wall of the hotel attracted by the light more species of moths than the whole moth fauna of the Canary islands. It was a deep immersion in the tropics of Africa, its stunning biodiversity and black people´s culture (the Fang and the Bubis). An unforgettable experience.


  • ECUADOR

    Environmental diagnosis and proposals for institutional support and environmental management of the Galapagos (1994)

    During July-August 1994 I headed the Technical Assistance Team in the project of Co-operation of the European Union (DG-I) with the Government of Ecuador regarding an environmental diagnosis of the Galápagos Islands, with proposals for institutional support and environmental management. Being an islander myself, highly interested in island Ecology, this was a mission out of the blue which I deeply enjoyed as ever. Part of the “cool” part of the field work were my colleagues: Sylvie Blangy (expert in ecotourism) from France, and Dr. Manuel M. Mota (biologist) from Portugal with whom I developed a long-lasting friendship (he is my Internet-curiosities provider). We met enthusiastic people in the mainland at Quito, as locally in the inhabited Galapagos. I remember well Jack Nelson, director of the Hotel Galápagos in Santa Cruz, where we established our headquarters,  and colleagues from the Galapagos National Park or the Charles Darwin Research Station. Mr Maldonado invited us on board of the tourist cruise ” Santa Cruz”to a tour around several of the islands, which facilitated much our work and insights (see itinerary map).

    Our work was presented in the form of a book (see PDF) with detailed information on the mission, analysis, evaluations and proposal. There, I used for the first time an index of naturalness, that I later developed more formally and presented it to the conservation community as an independent paper (see article PDF). I like to think that this is my best contribution to conservation, but it seems that it requires time to prosper.

    A plus of the Galapagos mission was the opportunity I had afterwards, at Quito, to visit the Altisana highlands (3.800 m) invited by arch. David Parra. I staggered watching 9 condors, one after the other, returning to their roosting cliff-site. This is a five-star “bimbo” for any amateur bird-watcher like me, even just returned from the homeland of Darwin’s finches. A perfect way to round off a fantastic field mission.


  • FRANCE

    Developing guidelines for planning recovery of animal species (1977)

    I have been in France mostly for attending congresses, participating in juries, or studying museum collections (during my honey-moon, included), but not for this specific project. I placed it under the heading France because the contract came from the Secretariat of the Bern Convention, which has it seat at the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg. Secretary  Eladio Fernández-Galiano engaged  me in developing guidelines for action plans for animal species recovery. So I did, basically using my personal library (aprox. 11.000 registers) and Internet (God save Google!), without moving from my studio in La Laguna, my pipe, and reasonably good coffee

    The general review and proposals that I drafted were used as discussion paper during an ad-hoc meeting on Animal species recovery organised by Eladio at Bértiz, in Navarra (NE Spain). Thereafter, my document was published in several languages as Volume 92 of the Series Nature and Environment  of Council of Europe (see PDF). 


  • MOZAMBIQUE

    Planning of the Special Reserve of Maputo (1982)

    This was my first field-mission abroad, when I was 29 years old. EPTISA, a consultancy responsible for the Spain-Mozambique co-operation program of forest development in the provinces of Maputo and Tete was looking for an expert on elephants. So I was told by Isidoro Sánchez, a forest-engineer, good friend and colleague at ICONA. You are biologist, no?. Of course!, I agreed and accepted unconscious of my luck that engineers know less about elephants tan (European) biologist. So, having read a bit on elephants, when I found myself at the desert exit of Maputo airport -no bus, no taxi, nothing-  starring at a straight and endless dusty road bordered by jungle, I was definitively inoculated by the venom of travel and adventure. Good that I was already married and with children…That was short after war in Mozambique, with still some shots from the Frelimo and curfews at night.

    Working in the mangroves, floodplains, litoral forest and savannah was very stimulating. I astonished when I was complaining for not having infra-red satellite pictures to interpret habitat changes, and I received immediately US Landsat imaginary from the Russian advisors that were assisting the Government of President Zamora Machel. At that time the Russian were taking minerals from Mozambique, the Chinese wood from the forest, and Spain shrimps and probably something else. Cooperation is rarely innocent. I learned that first lesson.

    My second surprise came later. The analysis I did from the ecology of the región of the Maputo Reserve was deeper and more extensive than requested by the terms of reference I signed (surely, a consequence of youth enthusiasm).  I was ready to report all that information for free, but EPTISA promptly recalled a clause of no use or publishing any information obtained during the mission. So they received exactly the content as stated in the terms of references. To God what is God’s, and to Caesar what is Caesar’s … even if it is stupidity.

    The lesson learned: As a consultant read always your TOR twice.

    See report.


  • PANAMA

    Training park guards at Coiba (1996)

    Under the Technical and Scientific Co-operation between the Governments of Spain and Panama, a training course on Administration of Protected Areas and Training of Park Guards was organised by the AECI and INDENARE in the National Park of Coiba, an idilic island in the Pacific coast of Panama. I was invited to join as senior teacher with s0me ex-colleagues from ICONA. Having started as freelance consultant, in this case I accepted to be included in the Scuba diving training section as payment for my work (travel and maintenance cost covered). A god decision. My first scuba exercise was directly in a shallow bay surrounded by golden virgin beaches with coconut palms, indeed, much better than a stupid swimming-pool. The last days, before I obtained my PADI credentials, we were looking after turtles and chasing blacktip reef sharks (small and shy, not to worry).

    The course took place in the Research Station of the Spanish CSIC in the north of the island (in the South there was an active penal), from the 21st to 30th of September 1996. About twenty Panama ranger-students profited from the learning experience. I was teaching about planning alternatives: by design, by recipe, and by consensus. 

    After the course and with the help of Nelly (one of the students) I organized a private visit to the Darien, in the frontier of Panama with Colombia, a mythical tropical forest for any biologist. A few days birdwatching, of walkabout, canoeing, starring at the nazarenos (gigantic trees) and dendrobatids (tiny poisonous frogs), and chanting with the Yaguas, was the perfect bonus for a wise decision


  • PORTUGAL

    Sea-turtles in the Atlantic Islands and Habitat Directive implications (1989)

    I was contracted by the DG XI of the Commission of the European Communities for reporting on the knowledge about sea-turtles in the Azores, Madeira and the Canaries, as well as for evaluating the implications of the proposed Habitat Directive in this European region (Macaronesia). Field work was conducted in July-August 1989, mainly interviewing colleagues from the University of the Azores, the Museo Municipal do Funchal, the University of La Laguna, and other local institutions.

    • 1989. Marine turtles in the Mid-Atlantic islands (see PDF)
    • 1989. Some remarks concerning the proposal for a Council Directive on the Protection of Natural and Semi-natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (see PDF)

  • SPAIN (x5)

    Several projects related to biodiversity, impact assesment, ecological restoration, databases, etc (1994-2000)

    As freelance consultant in conservation and environmental issues I received request from time to time to do some work in my own country, but I have been reluctant to accept such cases, especially having been involved in the legislation ruling the activities at steak (normally economic). However, I have happily accepted a few orders from the Spanish local, regional or national Administrations that were challenging and somewhat pioneer or innovative. The titles are self-explaining.

    • 2002. Draft law of biodiversity of the Canary Islands, for the Vice-Department of the Environment, of the Canarian Government; with the collaboration of Jose Javier Torres Lana, my sensei in legal issues. See PDF.
    • 2000. Management plan for biodiversity in the island of Tenerife, for the Island Council of Tenerife. See PDF.
    • 1997. Spanish Report to the Convention of Biological Diversity, for the General Directorate of Nature Conservation, Ministry of the Environment, Madrid. See PDF.
    • 1996. Ecological diagnosis and proposal for restoration of the Bolico area (Macizo de Teno, Tenerife),  for the Island Council of Tenerife. See PDF.
    • 1997. “Biota Canarias”Conceptual design of a management system of information about biodiversity in the Canary Islands, for Gesplan S. A., an intermediate corporation linked to the Canarian Government. See PDF.

  • UNITED KINGDOM

    Evaluation of Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve for European Diploma (1986)

    This was a short and very interesting mission for the Secretariat of the Council of Europe to report about the renovation of the Europe Diploma to the Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve, in Scotland. Dr. Eladio Fernández-Galiano and myself did the field work in November 1986.

    See report (PDF).

    This was my first visit to the Highlands and contact with authentic peat-bogs, dwarf junipers, newts and other animals that do not exist in my island (nonetheless, I missed the monster of Loch Ness). But the best discovery, by name Lagavulin, was a 16-year-old Malt whisky served in a balloon glass in front of a fire place in an ancient castle at the shore of a calm lake surrounded by dark mountains. I always ask myself if my evaluation was absolutely objective…


  • VENEZUELA

    Strategic development of the Gran Sabana, Caroní bassin (1992)

    Rafael Rondón, head of the Great Savannah Authority (ENELCA) invited me in February 1992 to go across the high bassin of the Caroní, a tributary of the Orinoco river. It is a vast area with mineral extractions, slash-and-burn agriculture, hydroelectric and transportation projects, protected areas like the Canaima National Park, and indigenous people:  the Pemones. My commitment was to evaluate co-operation possibilities, institutional situations, and propose some guidelines for a more sustainable management of such a complex area.The Jasper Gorge, the historic village of Santa Elena de Uairén, the Crystall Valley at the top of the Roraima Tepui –we landed with an helicopter– were all dream sites for me since my first contact with Venezuela in 1990 (teaching in a training course at Margarita Islands). Nothing to complain about soaking nature with the complicity of two good friends that also joined the group: Dr. Cosme Morillo and Dr. José L. Martín Esquivel.

    However, my report ended in a single letter to Rafael Rondón with a few comments (see PDF). The situation in Venezuela was not the most convenient for addressing institutional changes, investing in nature conservation, and alike. Just a few days before Rafael approached me in Caracas, during the II World Congress of National Parks, there was a frustrated coup d’était.

    Post data: In Pamaré, I tried “cumache” from the Pemones in my soup, a hot red juice made of longly boiled bitter yucca, some ají, dried fish and large amounts of roasted termites to give strength and a special crunchy taste. What else?


  • VIETNAM

    Capacity building for tourism development in Vietnam (2003)

    The  Spanish Cooperation Agency (AECI)  and the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), organised via Fundeso a training course for vietnamese officials focused in tourism development. Ignacio Peña from Fundeso was our team coordinator; Ana Muñoz from the University Antonio de Nebrija (Madrid) taught about cultural tourism and heritage; Virginia Borges from the Spanish Tourism Office covered marketing aspects, and I was in charge of sustainable tourism and the environment.From February 12th until March 8th 2003, we repeated the same course to selected officials in Hanoi, Hue and Saigon, crossing the country from North to South.

    To assist our audience to overcome language problems, all lessons were compiled in a bilingual book in English and Vietnamese. But not always with success, I fear. During one of my lessons I was asked by a gentlemen pointing with the finger to a paragraph in our book, how can they make money promoting guerrilla tourism like in Central Africa. I had visited Bach Ma National Park were there are some military tunnels from the last Vietnam war, but that was  just a few days before and not registered in our book.

    —”I’m sorry sir, it should read gorilla, a big ape. Not guerilla.”

    Vietnam and its opening process (doi-moi) touched me. People still smile to you in a way unknown or largely lost in our Western world. I wrote a little essay about the challenges Vietnam is facing with tourism. It was published by the magazine Viajar (only in Spanish, I’m afraid):


AS A TOURIST YOU MISS THE HUMANSCAPES OF OTHER COUNTRIES. BE A TRAVELLER.