Genoveva Forero
Author: Tiffany Duong
2023

Genoveva Forero

Naval Captain/Environmental Protection Specialist

an environmental call to duty

meet genoveva

Genoveva Nelly Forero is a captain in Panama’s Air and Navy Service (SENAN), the director of the Department of Naval Security, and the spokesperson for SENAN’s Environmental Committee, seeking to increase environmental culture at the institutional level and improve SENAN’s engagement in environmental issues and crimes. Genoveva was invited to present at the 41st International Sea Turtle Symposium in Colombia and selected to represent SENAN before the European Union to work in collaboration with other security bodies to advise on environmental crimes in the maritime jurisdiction of Panama. She leads marine environmental stewardship initiatives at SENAN and makes sure the institution is doing everything in its power to protect nature.

an environmental call to duty
Nominated by: Trevor Wallace MN'13
Class of 2023 Location Panama
Author: 1. Panama Air and Navy Service Official

In 2019, I was assigned as government protection for marine biologist Callie Veelenturf in the remote Prearl Islands Archipelago, a frequent route for drug-trafficking activity. There, I saw my first sea turtle, a truly magical experience. I felt the most beautiful and incomparable peace and connection with an animal in its ecosystem and was inspired to use my resources through the Navy to support conservation.

Panama is a small country but hosts immense biodiversity. Government institutions charged solely with its protection do not have the international presence and law-enforcement capacity on the ground that SENAN has. There had not been an understanding within our Army Navy of the institution’s role and responsibility in the conservation of nature, though its founding law charges it with protecting all living beings in Panama. SENAN confiscates the greatest quantity of illicit substances in Latin America, yet we are beginning to understand that environmental crimes are equal to or more important than drug trafficking crimes.

“I felt the most beautiful and incomparable peace and connection with an animal in its ecosystem and was inspired to use my resources through the Navy to support conservation.”

- Genoveva Forero

We now work with national and international non-profit and government organizations for the conservation of wild species such as sea turtles, jaguars, sloths, and the harpy eagle. SENAN trained with the Jaguar Network to combat indiscriminate logging, and I organized training for 2,458 soldiers in sea turtle conservation, due to their vital role in healthy ocean functioning, and the correct identification of illegal products made from hawksbill shell. Seeing environmental laws actively enforced, citizens report more criminal actions and trust that our institution will respond immediately, as we have air and marine transport options to reach distant parts of the country. All members of SENAN will be increasingly educated on their role in environmental stewardship in Panama. We hope to be the missing link going forward to make sure environmental laws are not ‘paper laws’ but protect nature in practice, to show the world that the conservation of nature needs to be a part of everyone’s job.

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