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The Disney Conservation Fund Honors 2015 Conservation Heroes

Jackie Ogden, Ph.D.

by , Disney Parks

All over the world, there are thousands of dedicated people working day in and day out to protect wildlife and wild places, and to educate and engage local communities in conservation. Each year, the Disney Conservation Fund invites conservation nonprofit organizations to nominate people from communities where they work – people whose passion and dedication makes conservation possible – and we’re proud to honor them as Disney Conservation Heroes. They are heroes because they have gone above and beyond. They have identified needs in their communities, overcome obstacles and persevered, sometimes at great personal sacrifice, to make their communities and our planet a better place.

Let’s meet a few of the 22 honorees:

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Nurzhafarina Othman
Nominated by the Houston Zoo

Nurzhafarina’s passion for the Bornean elephant led her to become one of the first women in the field of elephant research in Sabah, Malaysia. Nurzhafarina works with communities to help increase tolerance toward elephants during human-wildlife conflicts. Her research on elephant herd social structure, migration patterns and human-elephant conflict led to the development of an elephant conservation management plan that will help better protect elephants and local communities.

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Revocatus Magayane
Nominated by the African People & Wildlife Fund
Revo works with the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW) to implement education programs for more than 6,000 youth and adults spanning 12 villages and two districts in Tanzania. He manages wildlife clubs and summer camps for youth and co-teaches adult seminar courses on natural resource management. He has also helped graduates of these courses start their own community conservation projects. Revo is known for representing the voice of conservation while always considering the needs of the community where he works.

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Greenhouse Alumni Team: Brian Young, Joanna Ruacho, Joyce Realegeno and Bryan Payes (left to right)
Nominated by Los Angeles Audubon Society
Once high school student participants in the L.A. Audubon Society’s Greenhouse Program, these dedicated students now work for the Greenhouse Alumni Team to assist with habitat restoration, environmental education and endangered species conservation in the urbanized Ballona Creek Watershed of the Los Angeles Basin. Their diverse skills have allowed them to effectively connect with communities and teach others about conservation issues related to species like the Western snowy plover and California least tern. Their time, talent and motivation have been invaluable to the L.A. Audubon Society, and they serve as living examples of what the organization hopes to achieve through their environmental education programs for inner-city students in Los Angeles – young adults with a strong connection to nature, who are committed to conservation and who serve as environmental leaders within their community.

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Sean Lee & Tahambay Smith
Nominated by Fauna & Flora International
For the past eight years, Sean and Tahambay have volunteered nearly all of their spare time to protect and conserve the critically endangered Antiguan racer snake and other rare and endemic wildlife on Antigua’s offshore islands. After their day jobs, they travel each weekend, first by bus and then fishing boat, to the offshore islands to maintain trails, monitor wildlife and educate visitors. Their passion for wildlife has led them to become highly skilled conservation biologists now called upon to help train other local conservationists and inform legislation to formally protect the Antiguan racer.

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Tungalagtuya Khuukhenduu
Nominated by Snow Leopard Conservancy
While conducting research in Mongolia, Tunga recognized that local people had no access to environmental education and collaborated with conservation organizations to create “Nomadic Nature Trunks” (NNT). This program provides travelling classrooms for school students and three weeks of interactive lesson plans on environmental stewardship and conservation of Mongolia’s ecosystems. In 2010, Tunga helped expand the program to include education programming for adults and turned NNT into an organization called Nomadic Nature Conservation.

Everyone you’ve read about is a true Conservation Hero – proving that one person can make a difference and inspire us all to help make a difference in our own communities to make the world a better place. You can read about the other 2015 Conservation Heroes by visiting www.disney.com/conservation.