Reviving Guadeloupe’s Ecosystems: Natalia Rozniewska’s Manatee Reintroduction Project
By Cidee Despi
Natalia Rozniewska, a passionate wildlife veterinarian, has dedicated her life to environmental conservation. Through her remarkable journey, she has worked tirelessly to protect and rehabilitate various species worldwide. Her latest project focuses on the reintroduction of manatees to Guadeloupe, a French island in the Lesser Antilles. This article explores Natalia’s background, her profound connection to wildlife, and the captivating efforts she is making to restore the delicate balance of Guadeloupe’s ecosystems.
A Lifelong Passion for Wildlife Conservation
From an early age, Natalia Rozniewska developed an unwavering fascination with wildlife, inspired by nature documentaries. This deep-rooted interest led her to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine in her home country, Poland. Determined to contribute her skills to wildlife conservation, Natalia embarked on a journey of volunteer work in wildlife rehabilitation centers worldwide. These experiences ranged from caring for stray dogs and cats in India to supporting baby panda reproduction research in China.
The Power of Rewilding
After completing her studies, Natalia’s passion for conservation brought her to Guadeloupe, where she encountered a unique opportunity to reintroduce manatees to the region. Having gone extinct a century ago, Guadeloupe’s well-preserved habitat of mangrove forests and seagrass beds presented a perfect setting for the project. Natalia grasped the significance of rewilding, likening it to the healing process of a wound. Rewilding, she explains, involves giving nature a boost by reintroducing keystone species and allowing ecosystems to thrive.
The Manatee Reintroduction Project
Driven by her vision, Natalia established the Capture and Release association, with the aim of raising awareness about the manatee reintroduction project and reviving it. Despite initial progress, the project faced setbacks due to political and internal conflicts, leading to its abandonment in 2018. Through her association, Natalia endeavors to reignite the project by engaging with political institutions in France and Guadeloupe. To capture attention and foster understanding, she is producing a documentary film that sheds light on the importance of manatee reintroduction and its impact on the ecosystem.
Empowered by the EXCELerator Program
Natalia’s path intersected with the EXCELerator program, a capacity-building initiative that has not only propelled her project forward but also enriched her personally. The program offered her invaluable knowledge and skills in project planning, assessment, fundraising, budgeting, and partnership building. “Every week we would discover a new topic and there was a time I could put it into action in my organization. It helped me plan clearly and understand how to better plan our actions and put different blocks together to see how the organization can grow to build different partnerships,” she shares. Moreover, the program introduced her to a network of inspiring individuals, young conservationists like herself, who shared their extraordinary projects and ideas. This exchange of experiences reinforced Natalia’s belief in the boundless potential of young people to make a difference.
Shaping the Future through Conservation
Looking ahead, Natalia plans to continue her learning journey, implementing the conservation standards she acquired during the program and forging partnerships with governmental and non-governmental organizations. Her immediate goal is to finalize the documentary film, which will serve as a tool to raise awareness and educate the public about the manatee reintroduction project in Guadeloupe. Natalia’s long-term vision includes leveraging her expertise and experience to support reintroduction projects worldwide, making a lasting impact on biodiversity conservation.
Natalia Rozniewska’s dedication to environmental conservation and her inspiring work in the Manatee Reintroduction Project showcase the power of rewilding and the potential for youth-led initiatives to effect change. Through her organization, Capture Images and Release Species, Natalia is determined to revive Guadeloupe’s ecosystems and raise awareness about the significance of manatees in maintaining a balanced environment. With her unwavering passion and the knowledge gained from the EXCELerator program, Natalia’s efforts will undoubtedly shape the future of conservation, not only in Guadeloupe but also globally.