The ÚLTIMOS REFÚGIOS INSTITUTE focuses on environmental conservation through culture and informing actions since 2006 configured as a project. From 2011, already formalized as ‘Instituto Últimos Refúgios’, it plays an important role in the society of Espírito Santo State in Brazil, with actions also recognized in the national and international contexts. See below our projects organized by Ongoing Projects, Completed Projects and Environmental Activism Projects.




Co-production and webseries

In June 2015, the Últimos Refúgios Institute co-hosted the Environmental Festival ‘O Canal’, in partnership with the Instituto ‘O Canal’ and the regional government of the city of Vitória. The main objective of the event was to raise environmental awareness. Among the activities developed by the Últimos Refúgios Institute were a photography workshop for children using mobile devices, a photographic exhibition and the participation in round table discussions, which debated the wildlife roadkill problem on the highway BR-101. Furthermore, Últimos Refúgios produced a YouTube series of the event - "Festival Ambiental O Canal".


Production of a photographic book

The fourth photographic book of the Últimos Refúgios Institute was published in 2014. The book "Biodiversity of Espírito Santo" shows the raw and natural beauty of Espírito Santo as it has never been seen before. The book is bilingual (Portuguese and English).


Revitalization of the Conservation Unit

The Últimos Refúgios Institute, in partnership with the Instituto ‘O Canal’, the ‘Gruta da Onça’ Natural Park and the local government of the city of Vitória, implemented the revitalization project of the Municipal Natural Park ‘Gruta da Onça’. The project seeked to establish a relationship with the local community through actions aimed at promoting the visitation of the park and discuss the conservation of the area. Through activities of scientific, artistic and cultural character, we completed the historical interpretation and archaeological excavation of the project "Caminhos da Capixaba", recovering trails, producing an institutional video, elaborating and producing signs for park visitors, producing a park folder, acquiring park equipment and organizing a launching event inside the park at the day of its inauguration.


Production of a photographic book and documentary

Through their working experience in the USA, photographer Leonardo Merçon and filmmaker Yuri Salvador raised enough funds for their first photographic expeditions to the State Park Paulo Cesar Vinha. The resulting photographic book "Últimos Refúgios: State Park Paulo Cesar Vinha" was launched in 2009 (is is the final project of Leonardo Merçon to graduate as Graphic Designer from the Federal University of Espírito Santo). However, the project went beyond the publication of the academic work and ultimately gave birth to the Últimos Refúgios Institute. The documentary "Últimos Refúgios: Toninho Mateiro" was released a few years later.


Production of a photographic book

The Sooretama Biological Reserve is one of the most important Brazilian Conservation Units, due to its large areas of preserved Atlantic Forest and its richness in biodiversity. Today, it is the last refuge of several endangered species, such as the lowland tapir, the armadillo-canastra, the harpy eagle and the jaguar.

The biological reserve is alive! The project "Últimos Refúgios: Sooretama Biological Reserve" is part of the book series "Protected Areas". The series aims to publish books about the ten most important Conservation Units of Espírito Santo, including State Parks, Biological Reserves and National Parks.


Production of a photographic book and documentary

The photographic book and the documentary about the Duas Bocas Biological Reserve were the first project completely financed with the help of sponsors. Our team was able to carry out field work in one of Espírito Santo’s most important preservation areas. The book shows the diverse natural and socio-environmental aspects of the reserve, which is over 100 hundred years old. The Últimos Refúgios Institute was able to take pictures and videos of rare species like the king-vulture and the puma.


1 year photographic project at the ‘Terra’ Institute in MInas Gerais.

In 2011, president and photographer of the Últimos Refúgios Institute, Leonardo Merçon, was invited to implement photographic project at the Terra Institute in Minas Gerais. The founders of the institution, photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife, Lélia Salgado, hired him to register the wildlife of their preservation unit.

The Terra Institute is a non-profit association created in 1999. Located on a farm in the city of Aimorés, Minas Gerais, the site was the first degraded region to be recognized as a Private Natural Heritage Reserve (RPPN). Since then, the institute has been consolidated, which aims to recover and preserve the area, originally covered by forests of the Atlantic Forest biome.


Production of a short documentary and photographic exhibition

The documentary shows the biodiversity and beautiful landscapes of the Atlantic Forest. Main character is the ‘Muriqui’, also known as woolly spider monkey, the largest monkey in the Americas. The documentary shows the vision of scientists, researchers, teachers and students who participated in a Biodiversity Diffusion Program.

Part of the project was the installation of an art exhibition, also titled "Rediscovering the Atlantic Forest". The project was coordinated by Prof. Sérgio Lucena and the exhibition took place at the Mello Leitão Museum (now National Institute of the Atlantic Forest), in Santa Teresa - ES.


Production of photographic book and documentary

"Últimos Refúgios: Itaúnas State Park" is the second photographic and audiovisual project developed by the Últimos Refúgios Institute.


Photographic and audiovisual production, art exhibition

The photographic project was carried out in only 15 days in the Vale Botanical Garden, in Vitória - ES. A team of specialists photographed the plants and animals o the park in their natural environment. Among the photographic highlights are the caiman, the blacksmith tree frog, birds such as the anhinga and the turquoise honeycreeper, and small mammals such as the Brazilian squirrel and the big-eared opossum, as well as insects and plants. The resulting product was an art exhibition commemorating the first 10 years of the Botanical Garden and an institutional video.

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Information materials, environmental education, scientific research, science communiction

The Marsupials Project is an initiative of the Últimos Refúgios Institute. Our objective is to increase knowledge about the Marsupial that inhabit the Atlantic Forest, thus promote conservation through environmental awareness.


Espírito Santo is a great spot for birdwatchers from all over the world, as it contains a vast diversity of interesting and rare species, with an excellent potential for ecotourism.

The Online Guide Birdwatching in Espírito Santo aims to encourage birdwatching and motivate more and more people to explore nature.


We show the best birding spots recommended by our own team and our project partners. Espírito Santo is a great place for birdwatchers from all over the world, as it contains a wide variety of interesting and rare species, with excellent potential for ecotourism.


Biodiversity photo collection available for non-profit projects

The Últimos Refúgios Institute, in partnership with the photographer Leonardo Merçon, is developing an image bank with biodiversity photos. Non-profit projects can acquire the authorization to use images from the image bank free of charge, with the purpose of helping these projects to be more widely disseminated.


Promoting eco-tourism and whale watching in Espírito Santo

The project “Amigos da Jubarte” arose from a partnership between the ‘O Canal’ Institute and the ‘Baleia Jubarte’ Institute, in an effort to encourage whale watching in the state Espírito Santo, showing its great touristic potential. Espírito Santo has the largest concentration of humpback whales in Brazil. In other states, the presence of these magnificent animals is economically exploited in positive ways, making conservation of the species and the livelihood of the local population viable.


Documentaries, web-series and audiovisual content

We have our own Youtube channel, where we often provide videos with themes from various areas of environmental conservation, sustainability and human interaction with nature, produced by our own team. Our web-series "Stories of a Wildlife Photographer" and "Photographing Nature" will take you on an adventure with our team to discover the beauties of nature.


Environmental Film Festival

Cine.Ema is the official Environmental Film Festival of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim (ES) inspired by the ‘Ema’ Rock (a natural rock formation near the village of Burarama). The Últimos Refúgios Institute implements the event in partnership with ‘Caju Produções’. Últimos Refúgios is responsible for environmental and audiovisual activities and workshops, educating the local students of the ‘Wilson Resende’ State School in Burarama.


Environmental education and awareness activities in public schools

Main focus of the Últimos Refúgios Institute is the promotion of conservation actions focused on raising environmental awareness. Besides the production of books and documentaries, one of our main activities is working with children in public schools. The children attend lectures and participate in art workshops. The results are artistic masterpieces, revealing the children’s love for nature.


Photographic and audiovisual production, science communication, social media

The Caiman Project of the ‘Marcos Daniel’ Institute (IMD) is a scientific research and conservation project with focus on the caimans of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. The Últimos Refúgios Institute is responsible for the scientific diffusion of the research outcomes, through photographs and videos that show the value of scientific field research and ensure that the message about the importance of biodiversity conservation is passed on in the best possible way.

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