Celebrating three conservation heroes

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is delighted to announce that three outstanding individuals, working on projects in Indonesia and Antigua, have been named as Conservation Heroes by the Disney Conservation Fund.

The prestigious awards recognise local citizens for their tireless efforts to save wildlife, protect habitats, and engage communities in conservation. Recipients from around the world were nominated by non-profit environmental organisations, and each honouree and his or her nominating organisation will share a US$1,500 award from the fund.

A force of nature

One Disney Conservation Hero is FFI’s very own Kusworo Ahmad, who joined FFI in 2009 as a Community Forest and Climate Advisor, and has been a driving force in piloting sustainable forest management approaches in Indonesia.

Kusworo runs a community-based programme that empowers people to protect and sustainably manage threatened tropical forest from deforestation and degradation – a major shift from the top-down approach that existed before this work began.

His vision for Indonesia is of a network of well-managed community forests bordering protected areas to provide much-needed buffer zones that will help endangered species – such as Sumatran tigers, elephants and orang-utans – to thrive in their native habitats.

To date, and with the help of several extremely committed and hard-working field teams, Kusworo has supported over 30 villages to secure forest tenure in the form of village and customary forest licenses. Collectively, these village and customary forests cover over 60,000 ha of high conservation-value tropical forest.

Credit: Joseph Adiguna Hutabarat.

Credit: Joseph Adiguna Hutabarat.

“Kus has proven to be a veritable force of nature,” says Dr Tony Whitten, FFI’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director. “He is energetic, a quick and strategic thinker, an incredibly dynamic leader, and has worked with prestigious research institutions nationally and internationally, yet throughout all of this remains extremely humble.

“He makes sure that junior staff are always valued, keeping motivation and spirits high, and passes his knowledge on to the younger generations of Indonesian (and international) conservationists – all while maintaining a sense of urgency and focusing on achieving results.

“Kus’ persistent efforts in engaging people and building their capacity have allowed him to multiply his impact and to add immeasurable value to a lot of the grass-roots community forestry work happening in Indonesia. He is a teacher, a friend and a guide to all those he works with.

“Of course no conservationist works in a vacuum, but Kus deserves this prize because he is transforming the conservation landscape in Indonesia – it’s as simple as that. It is his wonderful combination of commitment, determination, ingenuity, leadership, humility and sense of humour that makes Kus a true and inspirational conservation hero.”

Volunteering to help the Antiguan racer snake

Alongside Kus, FFI nominated two remarkable individuals from Antigua for the awards, both of whom have also been named as Disney Conservation Heroes.

Sean Lee and Tahambay Smith volunteer for the Offshore Islands Conservation Programme, a collaboration between FFI, the Environment Awareness Group and other local and international institutions that has been working to conserve Antigua and Barbuda’s biodiversity for over 20 years.

Sean and Tahambay have busy jobs during the week (Sean drives a delivery van for a pharmaceutical company while Tahambay works for Inland Revenue) but spend most of their spare time volunteering to conserve the Critically Endangered Antiguan racer snake and other rare and endemic wildlife on Antigua’s offshore islands.

Every weekend they help to maintain trails, monitor wildlife and educate visitors to the island, and are even called upon to train other local conservationists. They also provided valuable input on legislation passed in 2015 that brought the nation’s racer and other threatened species under protection for the first time.

Tahambay Smith (left) and Sean Lee (right) with an Antiguan racer. Credit: Jenny Daltry/FFI.

Tahambay Smith (left) and Sean Lee (right) with an Antiguan racer. Credit: Jenny Daltry/FFI.

A salute to all our conservation heroes

At Fauna & Flora International, we are proud of all our staff and partners who work tirelessly, against all the odds, to ensure a sustainable future for our planet.

We would like to congratulate Kusworo, Sean and Tahambay for their well-deserved awards, and would also like to take this opportunity to salute every one of our hardworking staff.

For information on Disney’s commitment to conserve nature and a complete list of 2015 Conservation Hero Award recipients, visit www.disney.com/conservation.

Header image of Kusworo Ahmad – credit: Milo Alto Paz.