Environmentalists from Ecuador and Cameroon were honored by the National Geographic Society on Monday for their efforts to save wildlife and to engage local communities in conservation.
Ecuadorian conservationist Mónica González and Cameroonian ornithologist and conservationist Roger Fotso are recipients of the 2015 National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership and Conservation, the Society announced.
Each will receive a $25,000 award on Thursday during National Geographic’s annual Explorers Week, when the Society hosts explorers, scientists, and advocates from around the world.
González created the Foundation for the Conservation of the Tropical Andes in 2011 and serves as its executive director. The group has spent the past year documenting the native wildlife and soil microbes of the Mache Chindul Reserve in northeast Ecuador before impending highway construction begins.
Though the reserve is protected, it is broken into fragments of privately owned forestland. The tropical Andes foundation is working with local communities and implementing reforestation measures that would link important parts of the forest. So far, more than 12,000 hardwood tree species have been planted. Ecotourism projects are underway in six of the forest patches.
Since 1998, Fotso has been director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Cameroon country program, one of the most effective conservation programs in the country, protecting endemic species of birds, plants, amphibians, and gorillas. WCS Cameroon has decreased the illegal transport of bush meat by rail nearly 70 percent.
Other initiatives include the establishment of three national parks and two wildlife sanctuaries. WCS protects the parks by supporting law enforcement and engaging local communities.
Fotso and González "are exemplary conservation advocates who often battle difficult odds with courage and commitment,” said Peter Raven, chairman of National Geographic's Committee for Research and Exploration.
The National Geographic Society/Buffett Award is given each year to conservationists in Latin America and Africa to recognize their impact on the public knowledge of conservation in their countries.
Howard G. Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which established the award with a gift to the National Geographic Society in 2002, called this year's two recipients "inspirational mentors and role models to their communities.”
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