The renowned Swiss watchmaker announced all winners of the 2012 Rolex Awards for Enterprise. Choosing among 3,500 names from 154 countries, the interdisciplinary jury awarded five individuals responsible for innovative projects in Australia, Bolivia, the United States, Kenya and Russia.
The jury that included renowned scientists, explorers, environmental campaigners, doctors, educationalists and entrepreneurs singled out Sergei Bereznuk, Barbara Block, Erika Cuéllar Mark Kendall and Aggrey Otieno as five individuals whose enterprise and concern for the environment deserve the prestigious Rolex Awards. Each award includes 100,000 Swiss francs and a Rolex watch.
New laureates will be honored at a ceremony in New Delhi, India, on November 27, 2012 that will host 400 distinguished figures from around the globe. Winners will join 115 people from 42 countries who have already earned support and recognition of the Rolex Awards Project, during last 36 years.
Meet New Laureates
Sergei Bereznuk, Russia
The 51-year-old Russian conservationist and ecologist has been struggling for the past 17 years to save the Amur tiger. As he believes, the efficiency of anti-poaching measures and the education of the local people are two basic elements, essential for saving this subspecies (also known as the Siberian tiger). These elements find their place at the core of his Rolex Award-winning project.
The Russian Far East is home to 95 percent of the remaining population of the Amur. Although permanent conservation efforts during last several years have saved these tigers from “critically endangered”, they are still under the risk – mostly due to poaching. Sergei Bereznuk considers the Amur tiger as a powerful driver for the general conservation of its ecosystem, the taiga forest. As the director of the Phoenix Fund, a small, environmental NGO Bereznuk and his team of six people are doing an impressive job in order to preserve the biggest of the world’s tigers over a territory of 166,000 km2.
Barbara Block, United States
Barbara Block is a professor of marine biology who has created innovative electronic tagging techniques for following fish beneath the sea. Together with her team, she aims to develop the new technology that will provide observing of ocean hotspots in order to enable the conservation of marine predators that roam along the west coast of North America. These predators, such as sharks and tunas, are crucial for keeping the delicate balance of ocean ecosystems. However, due to overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution, their population has been seriously reduced.
A major challenge for scientists who try to create large marine protected areas is finding of the perfect locations for these sanctuaries, since the following of these highly migratory species happened to be very complicated. By incorporating the greatest advances in sensor technology, ocean observing systems and computational methods, Barbara Block offers a technology that will provide data on the sustainability of both exploited and protected marine predators.
Erika Cuéllar, Bolivia
For more than a decade, the largest Bolivian national park, Kaa-Iya del Gran Chaco, has been the workplace of the scientist Erika Cuéllar who has led participatory conservation by training the native Guaraní people to take over the preservation of their habitat by their hands. In the crude and inhospitable environment of this world’s largest protected tropical dry forest live 70 species of large mammals, including jaguars, pumas and giant armadillos.
After the fabulous job has been done in the national park, Cuéllar’s next step leads to the wider Gran Chaco region, which spans into parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Its natural wealth, including 400 plant species, 500 bird and 150 mammal species has been systematically undermined for more than a century that has put guanacos, wild ancestors of domesticated llamas under danger.
Five years ago, in order to help these species and its habitat, Cuéllar trained members of three ethnic groups (Guaraní, Ayoreode and Chiquitano) as parabiologists. As native inhabitants, these parabiologists have important rolls in spreading the value of conservation to native communities. Cuéllar’s goal is to extend her approach in Argentina and Paraguay, thus making a sustainable long-term local employment option.
Mark Kendall, 40, Australia
At the prestigious bio-engineering research institute at the University of Queensland, in Australia, Professor Mark Kendall is developing an inexpensive and highly efficient technique that will significantly improve the struggle against infectious diseases that annually cause millions of deaths worldwide.
In many cases, fatalities can be prevented by vaccines. However, the traditional syringe-and-needle method, invented in 1853, has its downsides. Besides, it is expensive and sometimes, it is not feasible. Professor Kendall’s ‘Nanopatch’ method is going to increase efficiently, while greatly reducing the risk of infection and all costs, including transport. Besides, the Nanopatch does not require refrigeration, since it is coated with dry vaccine.
Aggrey Otieno, Kenya
After finishing his studies in the USA, Aggrey Otieno came back to his birthplace, Korogocho (Nairobi’s fourth-largest slum), in order to improve the health of the community by empowering its people. Around 200,000 people live in only 1.5 km2 of Korogocho, under substandard sanitation and deep poverty.
Due to the lack of medical facilities and personnel, it is estimated that 300 women experience post-partum hemorrhage and 200 newborn babies die there every year. Furthermore, the maternal mortality ratio is devastating. Roughly 700 women out of 100,000 die, compared to 13 out of 100,000 in the United States.
Thus, Aggrey Otieno plans to develop a telemedicine centre with a 24-hour, on-call doctor and van, which should prevent many deaths. Besides, he will use his Rolex Award funds to train birth attendants how to detect complications promptly, so that they can alert qualified workers and doctors at the centre when an emergency arises.