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2013 NG/Buffett Awards for Leadership in Conservation Announced

WASHINGTON (June 3, 2013)—Dr. Alberto Yanosky, leader of an environmental organization in Paraguay that works to safeguard habitats and species across the country, and Charles Tumwesigye, chief of conservation area management in the Uganda Wildlife Authority, have been selected as the 2013 winners of the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation.

The award is given each year to two outstanding conservationists, one in Latin American and one in Africa. Yanosky, executive director of Guyra Paraguay, is the recipient of the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Latin American Conservation; Tumwesigye wins the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in African Conservation.

They will receive their awards at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, June 13, during National Geographic’s annual Explorers Symposium. Established through a gift from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to recognize and celebrate unsung heroes working in the field, these awards acknowledge the winners’ outstanding work and lifetime contributions that further the understanding and practice of conservation in their countries.

“It is an honor to participate with National Geographic in recognizing the achievements of these two remarkable visionaries who are making such a positive difference to conservation in their countries,” said Howard Buffett.

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Alberto Yanosky, scientific author, speaker and international consultant, heads Guyra Paraguay, that country’s leading organization for biodiversity research and conservation. He also serves on the board of directors of several international organizations, including BirdLife International, Waterbird Conservation Council for the Americas, and Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative. His areas of specialization are conservation and biodiversity, population and natural ecology, wetlands ecosystems and sustainability. Yanosky, an Argentine national, began working in conservation in Argentina around 1985, when he created and managed a privately owned nature reserve, the first example of this kind in the country. In 1993 he was invited to lead conservation action in Paraguay. Since then, he has been active not only in Paraguay as executive director of Guyra Paraguay, but also across Latin America and the world, working with different partners and contributing to conservation networks around the globe. He also serves as an environmental consultant to the World Bank.

Yanosky has created a strong team of professionals and brought more than $15 million into Paraguay for conservation. Under his leadership, Guyra Paraguay has carried out over 350 biodiversity conservation and sustainable development activities in Paraguay. Among the most notable is the Paraguayan Forest Conservation project to conserve ecologically diverse forests under imminent threat of clearance. This has reduced emissions from deforestation and achieved significant co-benefits for biodiversity and local people and is on track to play a major role in saving the native forests of Paraguay.

Other notable Guyra Paraguay achievements are its being instrumental in declaring the bare-throated bellbird Paraguay’s national bird; forming and supporting more than 100 local conservation groups; training more than 500 young conservation professionals; acquiring more than 24,000 hectares in different regions, dedicated to conservation in perpetuity; studying Paraguay’s 714 bird species, identifying 80 threatened species and protecting 500 species in Guyra’s private reserves; evaluating the more than the 150 invasive species that affect Paraguay’s biodiversity and cause economic and environmental damage; and supporting the protection of 1 million hectares in the Alto Chaco, habitat for large South American vertebrates like the jaguar, tapir, giant river otter, guanaco, chacoan peccary and giant armadillo.

Charles Tumwesigye

Charles Tumwesigye, a Ugandan national, has worked for 18 years in wildlife conservation and management. As chief of conservation area management, he supervises all the field operations in all the national parks in Uganda and is responsible for deploying staff in the parks and spearheading the preparation of management plans for the national parks. During his career he has been instrumental in establishing health centers at the edge of two national parks to provide healthcare and education to more than 12,000 people and outreach to some 10,000 children, in an attempt to link the benefits of accessible healthcare with conservation.  He is currently working on a project to establish a network of mobile clinics to serve communities that neighbor national parks.

Tumwesigye played a key role during a recent crisis on the boundaries of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo when M23 rebels engaged in fierce battles with DRC government forces. He led efforts to provide refuge to DRC rangers who were entangled in the war and unable to protect the DRC national parks that border the Ugandan protected areas. One of these parks hosts half the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas. Tumwesigye coordinated the provision of food and logistics to ensure the rangers were safe and could return to protect these areas. He sent emissaries to negotiate with the rebels, which resulted in the wildlife remaining protected and the rangers being unharmed.

At the international level, because of his strong history of elephant conservation and expertise in this area, Tumwesigye was last year chosen to represent Uganda at the CITES Standing Committee Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. He played a major role in advocating for the African elephant, which is facing a serious threat from poaching and the international ivory trade. As a result of his strong advocacy for elephant conservation, Uganda was chosen to chair one of the influential subcommittees of the CITES Standing Committee responsible for reviewing CITES decisions about elephant conservation and ivory trade. The decisions were adopted at the recent CITES Conference of Parties in Bangkok, Thailand.

Over the years Tumwesigye has also been involved in designing and reviewing policies for community involvement in wildlife management. As a result of policies like revenue sharing and collaborative management, Uganda is looked to as a model in Africa in the area of community conservation.

National Geographic Society/Buffett Award recipients are chosen from nominations submitted to the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration, which screens the nominations through a peer-review process.

“This year’s awardees are recognized for their outstanding leadership and the vital role they play in managing and protecting the natural resources in their regions. They are inspirational conservation advocates who serve as role models and mentors in their communities,” said Peter Raven, chairman of the Committee for Research and Exploration.

(Text was taken from the official National Geographic Press Release)