Our Founding Story

A letter from our Founder, Julio Corredor

As a child, I was fascinated by the cheetah.

Its speed pushed the limits of the possible and brought a sense of wonder and possibility to me. As I grew older, my love for animals developed so much that I almost became a veterinarian. While I ended up in business and on the Strategy and Innovation team at Pfizer, my interest in nature never waned.

Five years ago, I learned that there were only 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild, declining from about 100,000 in 1900. I was in shock: how could such a popular and seemingly common animal be endangered? Soon after, I decided to host a fundraiser on my birthday, to support the cheetah.

I looked online for a charity where I could give the money to but none of the major charities gave me an option to donate specifically to cheetahs. Even the smaller charities did not provide transparency into the specific projects that my money would support. With no choice, I ended up giving the money to one of the large charities, but was frustrated at how my engagement was being limited to giving money to a general fund.

After more research, I realized that it was not just the cheetah that was in trouble: it was also the lion, the tiger, giraffes, lemurs and so many other species whose populations in the wild are quickly declining. It was a systemic issue affecting our world’s nature. I decided to get more hands-on and apply my strategy and innovation experience towards developing new ways for people to engage with helping nature.

Knowing that habitat loss affects 85% of endangered animals, I started playing with some ideas. I needed a place to explore the ideas so this took me to Guatemala where I met the Ministry of the Environment and ACOFOP, an organization that coordinates the efforts of the forest communities in Peten, Guatemala (an area about half the size of New Jersey).

From left to right: with Jorge Soza, one of the leaders of ACOFOP, the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) forest-communities’ umbrella organization; a spider monkey, one of the inhabitants of the MBR; the MBR surrounds the ancient city of Tikal, in northern Guatemala

The work of the forest communities was impressive: they were not only protecting the forest but were also deriving their livelihoods from it, using fairly sophisticated methods. At the core of their success preserving the forest was the stewardship that the communities had on their own natural areas and wildlife and how having that stake in nature’s success drove their behavior. This experience helped me evolve my ideas into a model that could be scaled to give people around the world the opportunity to be stewards of natural areas while partnering with those doing tangible conservation work on the ground. All this, while providing the transparency that my experience donating lacked and, therefore, providing a channel for people to engage in a more hands-on way.

These series of events were the beginning of Zooterra. With your help, it will bring much-needed change and transform how we approach wildlife and habitat conservation.

Thanks for reading,
Julio

Visit our website today and start protecting wildlife and habitats.