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SALUTING PEOPLE HELPING THE PLANET: DISNEY CONSERVATION FUND HONORS EIGHT HEROES IN SEVEN COUNTRIES
The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) is pleased to recognize eight recipients of the “Disney Conservation Hero” award, honoring individuals whose passion and commitment enable the success of conservation projects around the world.
The award recognizes local citizens for their tireless efforts to save wildlife, protect habitats, and educate communities. Individuals were nominated by non-profit environmental organizations and Association of Zoo and Aquariums (AZA) facilities committed to field conservation programs.
Each award recipient and their nominating organization will share a $1,000 award from DWCF. This year’s recipients include:
Carmina Gutierrez & Miguel Gomez, Northern Jaguar Project: Gutierrez and Gomez live in the isolated, rugged Northern Jaguar Reserve in Mexico and work tirelessly to protect endangered jaguars. The duo maintains more than 150 motion-triggered cameras to observe wildlife on the reserve and surrounding ranches. Their collection and analyzation of thousands of photographs, along with track identification, scat collection, and habitat monitoring has led to better understanding of jaguar activity, distribution, and habitat needs. Gutierrez and Gomez additionally support and take part in environmental education and outreach activities with both ranchers and schoolchildren in the region.
Fernando Echeverría, Fauna and Flora International: Echeverría has been the Director of Operations for Fundación Sirua (Sirua), and the legal owner and manager of the Awacachi Biological Corridor in Ecuador for six years. The corridor helps to connect two of the largest remaining patches of the Chocó rainforest in Northwestern Ecuador and provides essential connected habitats for many threatened birds, mammals, frogs, butterflies, and plants. Echeverría’s skills in negotiation, conflict resolution, and strategic planning have enabled him to effectively protect the corridor by overcoming challenges of illegal logging and mining, falseownership claims, and security risks such as the presence of rival gangs. He also teaches local communities and government the benefits of the rainforest and corridor, and works with households to find viable economic alternatives to cutting down threatened trees, hunting wildlife, and digging for gold in and along rivers. When global recession made funding scarce, Echeverría cut his own salary to keep staff and stepped in to help with projects wherever help was needed.
Norma Monfort, Bat Conservation International: As current owner of the Monfort Bat Cave in the Philippines, Monfort has discouraged uninvited visitors, bat hunters, and potential buyers from the cave on her property that contains nearly 1.8 million Geoffroy’s rousette fruit bats. Facing possible loss of the cave through agrarian-reform laws that limit individual ownership of agricultural land, she raised funds to bring Bat Conservation International (BCI) scientists to her cave to advise the best way to ensure continued protection of her bats. In 2006, together with BCI and six other government and non-governmental organizations, Monfort signed an agreement protecting the cave as the Monfort Bat Conservation Park. Within six months, Monfort also created the Philippines Bat Conservation, an NGO that reaches beyond her colony to promote conservation of all Philippine bat species.
Edriss Ebu, Wildlife Conservation Network, Inc.: Ebu has been involved with wildlife conservation in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia for the past 25 years. After taking advantage of opportunities to work with local conservation researchers and attend school to earn his PhD, Ebu was hired as the program manager for the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program (EWCP), one of the first conservation organizations in Ethiopia. Through his efforts to protect wolves in Bale, Ebu has earned the respect and support of his team, the local community, and the government wildlife department. Ebu serves as an inspiration and role model for local young people by actively encouraging their interest in conservation and choosing to employ promising young students to undertake part-time work for EWCP.
Dhiraj Bhaisare, Reid Park Zoological Society: Despite difficult circumstances early in life and lacking a formal education, Bhaisare followed his passion for wildlife and the environment by working independently in the field of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. From an early age Dhiraj was well known in his home town of Lakhani as the savior of snakes and other wildlife. He became the founding president of an Amravati-based NGO, the Association of Biodiversity, Conservation and Development. This NGO mirrors Dhiraj’s dedication towards conservation outreach and his social conscience through organizing workshops and lectures for children from all parts of society. Bhaisare’s dedication and spirit is admired by staff, visitors, and the local community at Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS), where Bhaisare conducts research, assists with papers, and contributes to all aspects of programs from holding slideshows and talks to surprising village children with sweets during festivals.
Zanga Germaine, Pan African Sanctuary Alliance: Although Germaine was hired by Ape Action Africa to help with a construction project in Cameroon, his passion for primates led to a position working with animals. Nearly a decade later, Germaine is the caretaker for the chimpanzee nursery at Ape Action Africa, and he also manages the quarantine area and adult chimpanzee enclosures. Germaine wakes up long before sunrise to make the six-mile walk to arrive at the sanctuary in time for the 7:30 am staff meeting each day, and often stays late to care for primates or otherwise help where needed. He additionally is assigned to work with all foreign volunteers and is one of the most popular tour guides at the sanctuary. Germaine has an incredible ability to share his enthusiasm for the project and primates with nearly 200 visitors each week.
Andreia Martins, Save the Golden Lion Tamarin: Martins accepts the DWCF Conservation Hero award on behalf of her team, the Associação Mico Leão Dourado (AMLD) Metapopulation Management Team. The team is responsible for monitoring endangered golden lion tamarins in the seventh largest remaining forest fragments in Brazil, determining priority locations to protect for the species, and monitoring local threats such as disease and hunting. Since 1984, Martins and her colleagues have reintroduced 147 captive-born tamarins into small, privately owned forests in the region, safeguarding the future of the wild population, and providing wildlife viewing opportunities for local ecotourism programs that benefit landowners and help support AMLDs conservation efforts. The team continues to manage and monitor the small populations of tamarins in local forests and provides veterinary care as necessary. Martins dedicates all of her interests and energies to this work, and she was directly responsible for saving the lives of hundreds of lion tamarins.
Since 2004, Disney has honored almost sixty people around the world for their extraordinary conservation efforts. To learn more visit www.disney.com/conservation.