Environmentalist and Conservationist
Born in San Francisco, grew up in South America and Europe. As a child in Brazil, Suwanna came face-to-face with the tragedy of a jaguar being tortured by hunters in a village. This formative experience set her on a course of wildlife conservation. Her early enthusiasm for wildlife has led her to a passion for conservation and devoting her life to the defense of the wild.
Dr. Gauntlett has developed a signature approach to “direct action conservation” and founded WildAid in 1999 which became Wildlife Alliance. Her approach is characterized by direct law enforcement on the ground and building consensus among often diverging stakeholders (e.g., government and private sector).
2000-present created an anti-wildlife trafficking police unit, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue team or WRRT, that intercepts smugglers on their way to China that has seized more than 60,000 live wild animals and 39 tons of bushmeat and body parts. Then organized ranger special forces to respond to a rainforest destruction crisis in the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia, reducing forest fires by 90 percent by 2002, and elephant poaching to zero by 2006.
1998-1999 Saving India’s Olive Ridley Turtle. Dr. Gauntlett helped create a rapid intervention operation to save the Olive Ridley Turtle, after 47,000 individuals were found dead along the Orissa shoreline in India, killed by fishing nets of industrial trawlers operating illegally in proximity of the coast, in direct violation of India’s marine law. In 1998, annual nestings had plummeted to an all-time low of 8,453, down from the average 800,000 in the early 1990s. Responding to a call for assistance from the local NGO Wildlife Protection Society of India, Dr. Gauntlett helped design an on-the-ground law-enforcement strategy to stop the trawling, including ocean patrols and strict crack-downs by the Forestry Administration. As a result, Olive Ridley annual nestings increased to 683,900 in 1999 and a record high of 1,008,683 in 2000.
1998-1999 Effective Protection for the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Assisting the government of Ecuador, Dr. Gauntlett helped expand the legal boundaries of the Galapagos Marine Reserve Park from 5 to 40 nautical miles, as the culmination of a national effort to preserve the park’s biodiversity from increasing marine life destruction by industrial trawlers. Helped organize high-seas patrol law-enforcement and build capacity and infrastructure.
1994-1999 Saving the Siberian Tiger. The Siberian tiger was almost extinct in 1994 following Perestroika, after rampant poaching in the forests of Primorski Krai reduced their numbers to an estimated 200 individuals. Dr. Gauntlett provided support to bring the Siberian tiger population back from the brink of extinction in collaboration with Steven Galster, then Director of Global Survival Network, helping the Russian Ministry of Environment to establish a Forestry Administration base in Vladivostok and create a specialized tiger patrol force (Operation Tiger, Amba Patrols) that systematically patrolled the Primorski Krai forests to stop tiger poaching and prevent further killings. Patrol operations reduced tiger poaching by 80% between 1994 and 2000, and continue today with support from Phoenix Fund, a Vladivostok-based NGO. As a result of this intervention, the Siberian Tiger is the only tiger population in the world to have increased in recent years. During the period 1994 to 2000, the Siberian tiger population increased from 200 to an estimated 400 individuals (Hornaker Institute research).
1989-1999 High-Impact Environmental Management Consulting for Global Corporations. As Chief Executive Officer of The Gauntlett Group, a U.S.-based environmental-management consulting firm, Dr. Gauntlett supported multi-national corporations in establishing Environmental Management Systems (EMS) and reducing environmental impacts in all areas of operations. She played an instrumental role in initiating the international ISO 14001 Environmental Management System certification process. She also created the Environmental Management System training program, delivering training to more than 100 U.S. and Mexican companies. Her clients included NIKE, Alcoa Fujikura, Fujitsu, Ciba-Geigy, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Procter and Gamble, Xerox, LVMH, and the City of San Francisco.
1987-1989 United Nations Ban on Drift-Netting in the South Pacific. Consulted for marine conservation organization Earthtrust in Hawaii. Helped pass the United Nations Ban on Drift-Netting in the South Pacific and establishing financial mechanisms for Dolphin-Free Tuna Production by Heinz Corporation.