Press releases

Tuesday 29 May 2001

Turtle Rescue Team Among 18 Individuals And Organizations Honoured On World Environment Day 2001

Nairobi, 29 May 2001 - A husband and wife team from Malaysia who have rescued over a quarter of a million turtle eggs, a Kenyan children's doctor who has almost singlehandedly transformed an old quarry into a much loved nature reserve, an American company specialising in eco-tourism and a Canadian teenager who began battling against pesticide misuse at the age of 10 are among this year's winners of the prestigious Global 500 Award.

The awards are presented every year by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), on World Environment Day (5 June), to individuals and organizations who have made outstanding contributions to the protection of the environment. A total of 18 awards, in both the youth and adult categories, are being made this year at celebrations in Torino, Italy.

Klaus Topefer, Executive Director of UNEP, says:" The winners of UNEP's Global 500 Roll of Honour are members of a broad and growing environmental movement that is flourishing around the world. They have taken the path that most of us hesitate to take for want of time or caring".

Turtles
Dr Chan Eng Heng and her husband Liew Hock Chark began their crusade to save turtle eggs from being sold for food in 1993 after becoming alarmed that turtles on Malaysia's Redang Island were facing extinction as a result of the government-licensed, egg collection, trade.

The team, based at the Sea Turtle Research Unit (SEATRU) in University College, Terengganu, decided to raise funds and buy the eggs from the collectors, allowing them to incubate and hatch naturally on the beach where they were laid.

The team says: "When a female turtle comes up to lay eggs, the nest is marked with a wooden stake. In the morning, when the egg collector comes, we pay him for that nest so that the eggs are not taken away and sold in the market. The nests are guarded 24 hours a day to protect them from predators and the hatchlings are allowed to emerge naturally".

The only direct, human, intervention occurs if some of the hatchlings fail to emerge and make their way to the sea. Dr Heng and Mr Chark's project, which since 1998 has been known as the Sea Turtle Outreach Program or STOP, moves in after two to three days and digs up the nest to save those baby turtles that remain.

The pair estimate that over 250,000 eggs have been saved at Redang's Chagar Hutang since they started with some 200,000 hatchlings returned to the sea. Similar egg rescue schemes, based on their work, are being piloted elsewhere in Malaysia by the Malaysian Department of Fisheries and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

There are plans to expand the programme to other beaches on Redang Island and elsewhere in Malaysia. A public awareness scheme, involving local hotels and resort operators is also planned.

The researchers have been tracking their hatchlings using shell-mounted tags that link to the ARGOS satellite receiving system. "We have found that they do not all travel to the same place, but end up in the waters of countries like Indonesia and the Philippines. Here they remain, feeding and growing until their next reproductive cycle, which can be between two and seven years later," they explain.

Dr Heng and Mr Chark say they are delighted at being named a Global 500 laureate: "We are most gratified by the unexpected recognition. We hope that with this award, the local politicians will pay more attention to and consider our appeals for a legal ban on the commerical sale of turtle eggs in the markets of Terengganu. We also hope that local agencies will recognize local Malaysians, who struggle just as hard as international organizations to save endangered species in our country".


Derelict Land Into Beauty Spot
Dr Fredrick Gikandi has, for the past 13 years, carried out a personal crusade to reclaim a large and neglected quarry near Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa. The 40-foot deep quarry, located 200 feet offshore with its floor only four feet above the sea, had been earmarked as the municipality's refuse dump.

The environmentalist, who is a local pediatrician, was concerned that residents in the surrounding areas would suffer from pollution from the decomposing rubbish and that run off from the tip would pollute coastal and marine habitats in that part of the Indian Ocean.

After expending a great deal of time and effort and an estimated US dollars 200,000 of his own money, the site is now a noted beauty spot, nature reserve and cultural centre. Activities, which have attracted the support of local people through Dr Gikandi's vigorous campaign of public speaking and distribution of flyers to schools and community groups, have included filling the quarry with soils and planting trees to create a community forest.

Ten different tribesmen were invited to build their traditional rural homes in clearings after the re-afforestation of the site was completed. The site, which is serving as a model for other communities seeking to reclaim neglected and abandoned land, has been named Ngomongo Village.

Dr Gikandi says of his Global 500 award:" I feel that what we have done has never been properly recognised. With this award we have that recognition. It means the world to me".

He says he hopes the award will help raise badly needed additional funds because "the project is not completed. I want to develop wheelchair access for the disabled and we also need more soil".

Dr Gikandi is also keen to develop a centre so that groups including parties of school children can come and learn about the project and nature generally. He is working with the Kenya Wildlife Service to develop a scheme in which grazing animals are brought in to naturally manage the land.


Responsible Tourism
Sven Olof Lindblad's New-York based company, Lindblad Expeditions, has become a world leader in responsible eco-tourism.

His ships, when not ferrying tourists to exotic locations like Antarctica or the Galapagos Islands, are frequently deployed as floating conference centres bringing together environmentalists and policymakers to broker conservation agreements.

The establishment of protected areas in the Bay Islands in the north coast of Honduras and in Mexico's Gulf of California was the result of one such meeting organized by Mr Lindblad.

He has made it his mission to educate travellers about natural history and conservation in the places they visit. Mr Lindblad has also developed partnerships with non-governmental organizations, protected area managers and local communities.

He has initiated the Galapagos Conservation Fund whose contributions towards conservation now exceed $500,000. Mr Lindblad has also set up a Travelers' Conservation Foundation, under the US Tour Operators Association, involving many companies which had previously had little involvement in eco-tourism and conservation issues.

Mr Lindblad is pragmatic about his interest and investment in the conservation of beautiful places." Part of it is altruistic, but it is mostly because I believe it is good business. The well-being of the environment is critical to our business. If these places we visit are not healthy, not thriving, not in good shape, people are not going to want to go there. So I think it is very important that the travel business, this huge industry, begins thinking a little bit more about investing in its key assets, which are geographies. Otherwise you are going to wipe out culture and your are going to wipe out nature, the stuff that people want to go see ".


Pesticide Campaigner
Jean-Dominic Levesque-Rene became an environmental campaigner in his home town of Ile Bizard, Quebec, at the tender age of 10. His crusade against pesticides came three years after he was diagnosed as having non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Jean-Dominic, who is now 17 years-old, became convinced that the cancer was a result of exposure to pesticides. "I started my personal one-kid campaign to ban these chemicals in 1994. During my first round of chemotherapy I recalled that when I was a toddler I was always sick when my parents sprayed our lawn with herbicides and insecticides".

During his stays in hospital he read a pamphlet produced by the American Cancer Society linking the use of a common herbicide with his condition. It led to Jean-Dominic to carry out a monthly demonstration outside Ile Bizard City Hall where he demanded that the Council ban the use of pesticides.

The demonstrations attracted a great deal of media interest and other children joined in the demonstrations. Jean-Dominic also urged public health officials to carry out a study on cancer rates in Ile Bizard, a town where half the land is used as golf courses and where, at the time, significant amounts of pesticides were being used to keep the fairways immaculate.

The report, published on February 21 1998, found that children in Ile Bizard had four times Quebec's cancer rate. Last year the city council and the mayor agreed to ban pesticides in Jean-Dominic's town.

He has taken the campaign across Canada, lobbying various levels of government through petitions, letter writing, briefings, speeches and conferences. Several other municipalities in Canada have now, as a result of Jean-Dominic's efforts, also enacted by-laws to ban pestcides. In May 2000, the Federal House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in Canada, recommended a ban on pesticides for cosmetic purposes.

"My goal was that the population became aware of their children's health when they use pesticides on lawns. When I was 10 years-old I was fighting for my life. I still am. But I am also fighting for the right of children to live in a healthy environment," he says.

"My dream is that there will be a pesticide-free planet. Humans have a choice, there are alternatives. There are natural products that can be used, from baking soda to garlic and vinegar, and these are safe for humans and the environment," says Jean-Dominic.

"In honouring the Global 500 laureates, UNEP hopes that others will be inspired by their extraordinary deeds. We also hope that their examples will inspire and guide many other men, women and young people to join in the global coalition dedicated to protecting the environment," says Klaus Toepfer.


Notes to Editors:


LIST OF 2001 GLOBAL 500 LAUREATES

ADULT CATEGORY COUNTRY

Cubasolar Cuba

Dalian Municipal Government People's Republic of China

Environmental Investigation Agency United Kingdom

Dr. Frederick Gikandi Kenya

Dr. Chan Eng Heng & Liew Hock Chark Malaysia

Dr. Jiro Kondo Japan

Loren Legarda-Leviste Philippines

Sven Olof Lindblad United State of America

Jung Hee Park Republic of Korea

Professor Oscar Ravera Italy

Sydney Olympic Organizing Committee

for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) &

Olympic Coordinating Authority (OCA) Australia

Triciclo Italy


YOUTH CATEGORY

Arunee Dejdamrongsakkul Thailand

Evergreen Club of Ghana Ghana

Jose Marti Pioneer Organization Cuba

Khohlooa, Matholoana and Likobo Herdboys Lesotho

Jean-Dominic Levesque-Rene Canada

Yayasan Anak Warisan Alam Malaysia


The awards will be presented in Torino Italy at the World Environment Day ceremonies to which the media is invited.

Since the inception of the award in 1987, 719 individuals and organizations, in both the adult and youth categories, have been honoured with the Global 500 award. Among prominent past winners are: French Marine explorer Jacques Cousteau; Sir David Attendborough, producer of environmental television programmes; Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway; Anil Aggarwal, the prominent environmentalist from India; Ken Saro-Wiwa, the environmental and human rights activist from Nigeria who was executed for leading the resistance of the Ogoni People agains the pollution of their Delta homeland; the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States, Jane Goodall of the United Kingdom whose research on wild champanzees and olive baboons provided insight into the lives of non-human primates; and the late Chico Mendes, the Brazilian rubber tapper who was murdered during his fight to save the Amazon forest.

UNEP looks to the world community to identify and nominate environmental advocates, so that they too can be recognized for their efforts. Nomination forms can be obtained online at or from UNEP's Headquarters, Global 500 Roll of Honour, Communications and Public Information Branch. P. O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya, as well as from UNEP's regional offices.

For more information please contact:Tore J. Brevik, Spokesman/Director, Communications and Public Information, Tel: (254-2) 62 3292; Fax: (254-2) 62 3927; Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox, Tel: (254-2) 62 3401, Fax: (254-2) 62 3692; Nick Nuttall, Media Officer, UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel: 254 2 62 3084, Mobile 254 733 63 2755, Fax 254 2 62 3692, e-mail nick.nuttall@unep.org Robert Bisset, Media Officer, in Torino on Mobile Tel: 336 2272 5842


UNEP News Release 01/75

Tuesday 29 May 2001
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