A Future For Nature – The 2024 FFN Award Event

April 23, 2024
©Robert Meerding

On Friday, April 19th, we celebrated the amazing achievements and inspirational goals of the newest FFN Award winners. The 2024 FFN Awards Event showcased young conservationists Callie Veelenturf, Hana Weaver, and Rinzin Lama, placing them in the spotlight and providing a platform for them to share their impactful nature conservation stories. It was a deeply moving ceremony, marked by smiles and tears throughout.

Travel The World With Us

As is tradition, the Awards ceremony was hosted by Saba Douglas-Hamilton: conservationist, BBC television presenter, filmmaker, chair of the FFN International Selection Committee, and proud member of the FFN Family of winners. The ceremony took the audience on a virtual journey across the world, visiting several FFN Award laureates to highlight their recent achievements. We encountered wild southern right whales along the coast of Chile with Barbara Galletti and visited Lucy King’s project in Kenya, where she introduced a local elephant herd to us. We learned how AI is now used to gain understanding of their language. Did you know elephants name each other, just like we do? Watch the ceremony to find out the matriarch’s name in her own language!

We also met Karen Allen, who was so inspired by meeting her fellow FFN laureates in 2022 that she founded a new foundation in Mozambique: Likhulu, to deliver marine conservation impact and grow future conservation leaders. We had the honour of meeting the courageous and determined Ofir Drori, who is fighting corruption and wildlife crime in ten countries in West and Central Africa.

In Vietnam, we learned that Thai Van Nguyen‘s organisation, Save Vietnam Wildlife, rescued a pangolin pup in September last year. It was wonderful to see the little fellow now, grown and much stronger. We also visited Australia, where a young male koala in Maggie MuurmansDaisy Hill Koala Centre confidently stepped forward as the ambassador of his kind. His flair on camera is unprecedented!

We circled back to Europe to visit Wietse van der Werf’s Sea Ranger Service, which is taking great steps towards preventing ocean pollution by expanding the fleet capacity and even taking it to the sky! Alona Prylutska took us along for the bat release festival in Ukraine that has just taken place – a remarkable beacon of hope and positivity in a country that is suffering so intensely under the violence of war. The powerful symbolism of watching 6,000 rescued bats fly up into the air to freedom took our breath away.

Future For Nature is proud to represent its 51 Award winners and honoured to support and unite such a unique group of conservation talent. It was wonderful to highlight some of the great work happening across the network.

Stories of Perseverance and Hope

During our journey across the world, we also stopped in Panama, Nepal, and Puerto Rico, where our 2024 FFN Award winners work. Callie, Rinzin, and Hana shared their personal conservation stories.

Callie taught us that leatherback turtles have been around for 110 million years and coexisted for at least 45 million years with the dinosaurs. They survived the 5th mass extinction that terminated the dinosaurs and are only now threatened with local extinction from various ocean basins due to consistent pressures from the human race. “They are living fossils, and I knew I had to meet and protect them.”

Rinzin showed us optimism and perseverance despite hardships. “The snow leopard, with its majestic beauty and mysterious presence, serves as a symbol of nature’s resilience and wonder in Nepal. But behind its mystique lies a tale of survival—a tale threatened by human-wildlife conflicts, declining prey populations, human disturbances, habitat loss, climate change, and diseases.” Through a community-led program, Rinzin and his team address human-wildlife conflicts, empower youth, and strengthen cultural connections with nature. “I strongly believe that together we can forge a better future for snow leopards and the fragile trans-Himalayan ecosystem.”

Hana gave us the necessary food for thought when it comes to species conservation. She and her team set up a breeding and recovery program to rescue the Puerto Rican Sharp-shinned hawk from the brink of extinction after Hurricane Maria destroyed its forest habitat in 2018. They have successfully been raising and releasing this endemic bird, contributing to its population resurgence. Hana’s message: “This project cannot tackle these landscape-level threats alone. We truly need everyone, in all places of the world, to help address climate change and be a force for nature.”

These impactful moments were lightened by the pure dedication and passion of the three winners, illustrating that there is hope as long as we persevere and collaborate.

“From the moment I held the first tiny nestling in my hand, very delicate and very small, I could feel his stubborn heartbeat, and I realised in that moment that this is what hope feels like. So thank you all for supporting us” – Hana Weaver

Guest of Honour John D. Liu

This message of the importance of perseverance and hope was reinforced by Guest of Honour John D. Liu, who is also on a journey to a greener future and shared part of this journey with us. Mr. Liu is a Chinese American filmmaker and ecologist, a researcher at several institutions, and the founder of Ecosystem Restoration Camps, a worldwide movement that aims to restore damaged ecosystems on a large scale.

He reminded us that we humans only exist due to the symbiotic relations between all life. “We have to realise that we are here now, but we are just passing through; there is a long succession of life and there’s a future coming. We are really just stardust. It is a great honour and pleasure to meet these wonderful young people [who have this deep understanding that we are stewards of our planet, recognising our immense responsibility to nurture and safeguard it, and who work tirelessly to protect species and restore nature].

Future For Nature: A Global Movement

We trust that everyone who joined, whether in person or online, found inspiration in the global conservation journey, the amazing stories of the FFN Award winners, and the insights from our Guest of Honour. Our hope is that you went home uplifted and motivated and will share it with others. Together, we’re dedicated to protecting nature, connecting with those who share our passion as well as those who may hold differing perspectives, and to creating a global nature conservation movement!

Missed it or want to be re-inspired? Watch the ceremony via our YouTube channel:

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Are you the Next Winner of the Future For Nature Award?

Are you interested in applying for the next Future For Nature Awards? FFN grants three awards annually. View the application process and criteria here. The new round will open in June – keep your eye on our website and social media for the announcement!

📷 Robert Meerding