iSimangaliso Wetland Park CEO named WWF SA Living Planet 2015 Award Winner
In a powerful recognition of his role in conservation and sustainable development, Andrew Zaloumis has been named the winner of the WWF SA Living Planet 2015 Award.
The honour was bestowed on the CEO of iSimangaliso Wetland Park today at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa Living Planet Conference 2015.
Accepting the award at the Maslow Hotel in Johannesburg, Zaloumis credited the extraordinary World Heritage Site where he works as allowing him to bring together his deep-seated passion for human rights-based development and conservation.
“I would like to thank the WWF for this award. I would like to acknowledge my former ‘boss’, Valli Moosa, who was there at the start, the Ministry and Department of Environmental Affairs, and many others across all spheres of government who have supported this work. I would also like to thank all the people who have inspired me and worked alongside me to make this a reality, especially the staff at iSimangaliso Authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. A special thank you to my family, especially my father who inspired my love for iSimangaliso. This has been and is a team effort,” said Zaloumis.
Under Zaloumis’ leadership, the 322,000-hectare iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which includes eight percent of South Africa’s coastline, was proclaimed and listed as South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. His work has resulted in the economic turnaround of the park with meaningful empowerment and benefits to local communities and more sustainable conservation practices.
“The WWF SA Living Planet 2015 Award is our premier award and Andrew is an immensely deserving winner,” commented Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa.
“This award is not given lightly. Last year we did not give an award. This year we determined it should go to Andrew Zaloumis for his boldness, visionary approach and courage to bring an inclusive form of conservation to an area that was once an apartheid operational zone and had one of the lowest human development indices in the country,” said Valli Moosa, chairman of WWF South Africa.
Globally, the WWF Living Planet Award is a symbol of recognition for people who make a meaningful positive contribution to the environment and to lives of people. These people inspire us to make a difference. Over 100 such awards have been made since 2000, recognising a wide variety of initiatives – from the protection of wildlife to international and government leadership. Recent high level recipients have included Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General and the Ministers of Water Affairs of France, Togo and Benin.
Addressing the importance of the award, Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International explained that recipients can be catalysts beyond even their own expectations – which is the purpose of recognising their efforts. “WWF believes that it is these ambitious, cooperative and inspirational actions which, when aggregated together, can halt the destruction of the natural world and build a future where people live in harmony with nature,” he said.
Zaloumis’ work at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park has been recognised by UNESCO which has adopted it as a new and pioneering management approach for World Heritage sites. He previously conceptualised and managed the development the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative, a regional development corridor in South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland.
Zaloumis’ roots are in human rights-based development and conservation and he has lived and worked for over 30 years in poverty stricken rural areas with high conservation value. He is keenly interested in indigenous knowledge systems related to the environment and wilderness inspired by his late father, conservation activist and one of the people behind the St Lucia no-mining campaign, Dr Nolly Zaloumis. Zaloumis holds degrees in economics and town and regional planning, is a Fellow of the sixth class of the Africa Leadership Initiative-South Africa and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. He is presently reading for his Masters in Sustainability Leadership at Cambridge University.