Sunday, 22 May 2011 00:44

Ken Saro-Wiwa

Ken Saro-Wiwa


Ken Saro-Wiwa led the resistance of the Ogoni People against the pollution of their Delta homeland in Nigeria. At all stages of their campaign, Saro-Wiwa advocated peaceful resistance to the forces that would deprive the Ogoni People of a say in the development of their region. As leader of the resistance movement, he knew full well the risks he ran in opposing the Nigerian Government. In November 1995, Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists were executed. Subsequently, the Nigerian regime was roundly condemned by the leaders of the international community. Saro-Wiwa advocated that human rights and the environment are inextricably linked. He sent a message to the world that all peoples have an inalienable right to peacefully protest destructive development.Ken Saro-Wiwa

Wednesday, 18 May 2011 17:01

Theo Manuel

Theo Manuel

Theo Manuel has been working on an environmental project with a local community in one of the most disadvantaged areas of Cape Town. He is largely responsible for the rehabilitation and management of the Wolfgat Nature Reserve which comprises a strip of coastal vegetation with a representative patch of fynbos plants. Much, if not most, of this region is threatened with habitat destruction. The Reserve of 248 ha, the second largest in the area, is located between two townships comprising 1.5 million people, and the pressures of human numbers and poverty are acute.

After its establishment 10 years ago, the Reserve became steadily degraded. More than 200 plant species and a number of animal species are largely endemic to the area. The `saving' of the Reserve is entirely Manuel's doing, and reflects an exceptional degree of initiative and leadership on his part. He has rehabilitated and developed the Reserve in a manner that benefits the community.

Manuel's accomplishment is all the more notable because he is disabled from a spinal cord injury, and finds difficulty in simply walking around with crutches. He has shown a high degree of professional commitment and personal courage. He is an example to his peers, and as a Cape `coloured' he has bridged an ethnic gap between several communities.

His project is well known in the Republic of South Africa and he has inspired other individuals and groups to look at their own urban landscapes to find ways of protecting their environmental resources.

Wednesday, 04 May 2011 20:38

Aga Akbar

Aga Akbar

The Kabul Zoo was once a showpiece in Asia with spacious cages set along a tranquil river bank. It is in ruins now, a sad monument to the fighting in Afghanistan.

When this was written only a few animals were left, among them a blind lion and a lame black bear maimed by shelling. They are looked after by Aga Akbar, a lanky zookeeper who lived 18 terrible months on the front lines rather than abandon his charges. Strolling along a rocket-blasted path, Akbar passes a stretch of rubble and notes that those were enclosures for the animals he loved.

He recalls the long months in 1993/1994 when the zoo was smack in the middle of the front line. Outside the gates of the zoo, soldiers hunkered in a maze of trenches. Tanks parked at the entrance fired at their enemies across the street. Through the worst of the fighting, Akbar stayed. He spent hours huddled beneath a slab of stone waiting for the rocketing to stop. He never left because he loved these animals.

The front line is now on the southern outskirts of Kabul, and the relative peace has been a chance for him to clean-up the zoo. Hundreds of pieces of unexploded ordinance have been hauled away, a mountain of shrapnel swept up, and a half dozen anti-personnel mines removed.

Still living on the grounds, Akbar devotes his time to the survivors - two lions, four bears, two wolves, two wild boars, several monkeys and some rare birds. They are his family. What Akbar lacks in expertise, he makes up in compassion.


Human tragedy

"The past has not just been miserable for the zoo's animals. Akbar, a former zoo keeper, was brutally killed by an unknown assailant two years ago."

"He was a very kind old man and he dedicated his whole life to this place. He continued his work during the worst fighting in Kabul," said the current zoo keeper.

"Now he is seen as a champion in Afghanistan."

By BBC News Online's Marcus George in Afghanistan - Thursday, 6 December, 2001

Wednesday, 04 May 2011 02:19

Yasuo Goto

Yasuo Goto

Yasuo Goto, chairman of the Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance Company and a business leader always includes the environment in his company's policies. Since 1994, more than 3,000 people have participated in environmental awareness courses, organized by Yasuda in collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Yasuda has reduced the use of natural resources by implementing a practical management system. In November 1997, its computer center was the first financial institution to be certified in conformity with ISO1401, and today it is providing other organizations with the know-how to get certification. In 1992, he led the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (KEIDANREN) delegation to the Earth Summit - where he represented some 1,000 companies. Soon after, the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund (KNCF) was established and Goto appointed Chairman, KNCF has supported 71 conservation projects implemented by NGOs in 23 countries. In 1993 and 1996, he attended the IUCN Congress where KNCF activities were lauded as an excellent example of partnership between business and NGOs. KNCF hosts seminars, lectured by leading environmentalists from around the world, to educate Japanese leaders on nature conservation. At the Kyoto Conference in December 1997, KNCF and the World Bank co-sponsored a symposium. Goto is Chairman of the Common Agenda Round Table of Japan, which held a workshop in May 1997 on environmental awareness and education where recommendations were formulated and presented to the cabinets of the United States and Japan.
Wednesday, 04 May 2011 01:40

Don Merton

As an officer with the New Zealand Department of Conservation, Don Merton roams the forests of the world devising plans to improve the survival of bird species facing extinction. He has contributed to the rescue of more than a dozen, including the Mauritan echo parakeet, the Chatham Islands black robin and the New Zealand saddleback. No other conservationist in the world has been directly involved in as many bird rescue programmes, said Bird Life International, the global agency responsible for bird conservation.

In the Seychelles, he helped devise techniques to save the magpie-robin from extinction. Slow breeders that fed often on the ground, the birds had been decimated by feral cats. By November 1992, despite a successful programme to eradicate predators, their numbers dwindled to 25. Conservationists turned to Merton, and after observing the robins, he discovered that the native vegetation in the birds' habitat had virtually disappeared and the forest did not provide enough safe nesting places. He suggested adjustments to supplementary feeding, positioning of nesting boxes and how to exclude other species from food and nesting sites. Over three years, the species made a spectacular recovery and today there are some 60 robins in existence.

In Australia, Victorian zoologists are using management techniques modelled on Merton's to rescue the helmeted honeyeater. In 1994, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds awarded him a medal for his contribution to species survival.

Monday, 02 May 2011 18:02

Dr. Makoto Numata

Dr. Makoto Numata

As a member of the Board of Trustees of the Nature Conservation Society since 1960, Dr. Makoto Numata has played a leading role in nature conservation activities throughout Japan. As a member of the Ecology Commission of IUCN, he has carried out scientific surveys and compiled a number of reports. His efforts to save natural forests were rewarded when the Environment Agency designated 15 forests as wilderness areas and the Forestry Agency designated 26 areas as forest reserves. As a member of IUCN's Species Survival Commission, he compiled Japan's first Data Book of Plant Species in 1989 and the Red Data Book of Plant Communities in 1996. as a member of IUCN's Commission on Education and Communication, he led the environment education movement and established the Environment Education Academy in 1990. He was also involved in promoting the World Heritage Convention and the Biosphere Reserve concept. He has been the Chairman of the IUCN Japan Committee since 1988 and he has been the Chairman of the East Asian Commission on Protected Areas since 1993. He hosted the Second Conference on National Parks and Protected Areas of East Asia and compiled a regional action plan for protected areas in East Asia in 1996.

Monday, 25 April 2011 21:42

Dr. Annelisa Kilbourn (1967-2002)

Dr. Annelisa Kilbourn

"International" and "wildlife conservation" were consistent themes throughout the life of Dr. Annelisa Kilbourn who tragically died in a plane crash in Gavon, in November 2002, whilst working on her research into the Ebola virus and western lowland gorillas. With a multi-national background and upbringing in Europe and the United States and years of work in Africa and Southeast Asia, her fluency in seven languages was just one of her many talents.

Upon graduation from veterinary school at Tufts University in the United States, Dr. Kilbourn received the Wildlife Health Fellowship from the Field Vet Programme of the Wildlife Conservation Socity (WCS). She conducted the first research on the health of free ranging orangutans in Sabah, Malaysia, helped to train local counterparts, and assisted the government in the translocation of orangutans and elephants to safe havens.

Following this, she was accepted in a two-year joint post-doctyoral programme at Lincoln Park Zoo and the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Excelling at her work, she was offered a permanent position at the Shedd Aquarim where she remained until accepting simultaneous opportunities with both SOS Rhino and WCS.

For SOS Rhino, she took on the task of helping to protect the last remaining rhinos in Borneo. If there is any hope left for the survival of the rhino in Borneo, much of it is due to Dr. Kilbourn's tireless and successful efforts to bring all of the stakeholders to the same table and help to implement a plan on the ground.

For WCS's Field Veterinary Programme, she forged new ground with the lowland gorilla health programme in Central Africa. She quickly built trust and working relationships with local people, researchers, park managers and government officials at six sites in three countries. She programmed customized software in French, runing on hand-held organizers, to facilitate standardized data and sample collection by potentially hundreds of people. This information instantly links all of the data to GIS maps to show the critical distribution of health problems for gorillas and people.

Dr. Kilbourn's training of field teams allowed her to lead investigations into last year's deadly Ebola Virus outbreak, and her work in the filed produced the first proof that gorillas are infected and quickly die of the virus -- information which may serve to protect both gorillas and humans. Dr. Kilbourn did not agree with the pragmatist's notion that we have to make choices between people and animals. She was commmitted to working twice as hard and doing whatever necessary to benefit both.

Dr. Kilbourn worked some 16 hours a day, seven days a week. Once when encouraged to take a short vacation, Annelisa answered, "Why? I'm on vacation every day."

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