2009 Conservation Fund Heroes announced by Disney

Do you care about the plight of the Djibouti Francolin bird? How about the endangered Siamese crocodile? How much are you willing to pay to support those causes? How about a dollar. Just one dollar for the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund when you visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom goes a long way to supporting causes like those and many others.

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has just announced the 2009 recipients of the “Disney Conservation Heroes” award. The award program recognizes heroes who have made a positive impact on the environment and their communities.

Eight award recipients from around the globe were nominated by non-profit environmental organizations for their tireless efforts to save wildlife, protect habitats and educate communities.

“Disney recognizes that these heroes are role models who hold the keys to successful conservation initiatives in areas of critical concern,” said Dr. Beth Stevens, Senior Vice President for Disney’s Environmental Affairs. “Conservation efforts around globe and in our own back yard rely substantially on support from the local community and direct involvement of people like our Disney Conservation Heroes.”

Each award recipient and their nominating organization will share a $1,000 award from the DWCF. This year’s recipients include:

Houssein Rayaleh, nominated by Bird Life International in Djibouti: Rayaleh works with Djibouti communities and government to help protect Djibouti’s extraordinary wildlife and precious habitats. He conducts workshops with community leaders to raise awareness about the plight of the Djibouti Francolin bird and the juniper forests; and worked to establish a demonstration tree nursery that will produce 1,000 plants per year to provide community members with firewood.

Salim Khamis Haji, nominated by Fauna and Flora International in Tanzania: Haji works with the Department of Commercial Crops, Fruits and Forestry, to conserve the Pemba Flying Fox, a critically endangered fruit bat on Pemba Island. He works with local communities to educate and establish groups to care for and monitor the flying fox populations, leading to more than tripling the bat population from approximately 5,000 in the early 90’s to about 22,000.

Rikapo Lentiyoo, nominated by Grevy’s Zebra Trust in Kenya: Lentiyoo helped save a remaining population of fewer than 900 endangered Grevy’s zebra after Kenya suffered a severe anthrax outbreak. Lentiyoo traveled hundreds of kilometers by motorbike to locate the animal carcasses, collect samples for analysis, coordinate mortality reports and dispose of the carcasses to avoid spread of the disease. His work helped the Kenya Wildlife Service locate the remaining population for vaccinations.

Willie Tucker, nominated by Pan African Sanctuaries Alliance in Sierra Leone: Tucker was appointed by the Sierra Leone government in 1995 to help create and lead the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. In 2006, when 31 chimpanzees escaped, Tucker heroically seized control of the situation by calming the staff and local citizens, worked with the media, coordinated with police and military forces, and developed a plan to search for and recover the terrified chimpanzees.

Sam Han, nominated by Fauna and Flora International in Cambodia: Han worked with other members of FFI and the Cambodian Forestry Administration to save an estimated 250 remaining critically endangered Siamese crocodiles. He regularly travels throughout the country conducting biological surveys, investigating reports of crocodile sightings, and educating the general public about crocodiles and their habitats. He is responsible for leading field expeditions to some of the most remote places in the country.

Jackson Kamwi, nominated by International Rhino Foundation in Zimbabwe: Kamwi works around the clock to protect rare black rhinos. For two decades, he has conducted field operations and helped capture and relocate nearly 1,000 rhinos from poacher-infested high-risk areas. With no formal training in wildlife management and limited schooling, Kamwi has demonstrated specialized skills that include driving transport vehicles, flying helicopters, radio tracking and digital photography.

Artati “Tati” Nengah, nominated by Save Our Leatherbacks Operations in Indonesia: Nengah is the nucleus of all Save Our Leatherbacks Operations (SOLO) in Indonesia, serving as the main translator between SOLO staff and Indonesian communities. Nengah’s efforts are vital in creating plans to protect the endangered leatherback turtles which are declining at an alarming rate due to egg harvest, fishery by-catch, coastal development and highly-variable food availability.

Diego Ezrré Romero, nominated by Northern Jaguar Project in Mexico: Romero sets out to improve the standards for better education and to build a deeper respect for jaguars and nature conservation among his neighbors and fellow ranchers. Romero works to influence nearby mining operations and those who hunt or poison carnivores. With Romero’s help, the Feline Photo Project, a local fundraising and conservation initiative, has become the Northern Jaguar Project’s best opportunity to establish a higher level of local tolerance for jaguars.

In the last five years, DWCF has honored 42 Conservation Heroes for their extraordinary conservation efforts around the world. To learn more visit www.disney.com/conservation.