das NEVES BATISTA de SOUSA
This afternoon we had a very pleasant and successful meeting with the charming and curious Maria das Neves Batista de Sousa, São Tomé's Minister of the Economy. Present for the meeting, conducted in Portuguese, were ECOFAC Director Theresa D'Espivey, the Academy's Dr. Norman Penny, computer specialist Fabio Penny, and photographer Dong Lin. The Minister welcomed the opportunity to have Dong photograph and video tape the meeting held in her office across from the Prime Minister's palace. After having seen our group on television, the Minister called this meeting to ensure that São Tomé would receive a report (and as many photos as possible) of what was being studied by our biologists. Printouts she had received of the Academy's Science NOW web site had sparked her interest in finding additional ways of promoting her country and its tourism potential. Although scorpions and lacewings may not be the greatest tourist attractions, it was clear to us all that our scientific presence - notably on the internet - was helping to acquaint people around the world with the beautiful country and friendly people of São Tomé e Principé.
The Minister initiated a broad-ranging discussion of São Tomé e Principé's small size and isolated position, and how its geography creates challenges for the promotion of tourism. She emphasized other aspects of the country's biodiversity for biologists and resources for natural history visitors, such as birding, hiking and fishing - all of which are already well established. São Tomé's potential for eco-tourism is enormous and ever-growing!
We confirmed that the California Academy of Sciences will fully respect the prior agreement with ECOFAC with regard to dissemination of our scientific results to her and the people of São Tomé.
The Minister in turn gave us a wonderful vote of confidence. She was impressed by the quantity of disciplines being studied, the multiple organizations involved, and by our findings thus far. She was extremely interested in the number of known endemic species that exist on the island, and wondered about those yet undiscovered. We gave clear examples of the importance of our work, having brought, for example, a live green lacewing caught earlier in the day at Bom Sucesso, home of the magnificent Obo National Park. Norm expanded on the possible impact of our findings not only on conservation of natural resources, but also with regard to agricultural pest control. In conclusion, we all agreed that by working together we can help enhance the international identity for São Tomé that it richly deserves - an ideal destination for both natural history visitors and scientists.
Fabio was asked to return to demonstrate the Academy's web site to the Minister and her staff, and possibly another minister, on Friday, May 11. We enthusiastically agreed and hope she will be pleasantly surprised.
minutes after it began, our meeting adjourned. After a cordial set of
handshakes, and exchanging business cards, our group left to celebrate
with some of São Tomé's greatest assets: fresh tropical fruit, wonderful
weather and beautiful views. Life this afternoon was “Leve, Leve.”