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Rolex - Rolex Awards for Enterprise
Revue FH - 5 July 2012
The 2012 Rolex Awards for Enterprise aroused keen interest. Indeed around 3,500 names were put forward - more than double that of recent editions - originating from 154 different countries (126 at the last edition). The average age of participants was down from 46 to 41. The percentage of women meanwhile rose from 23 to 28%, a record high. Members of the interdisciplinary jury, which included renowned scientists, explorers, environmental campaigners, doctors, educationalists and entrepreneurs, made their selection as follows: Sergei Bereznuk (51), Russia
The Russian Far East is home to 95 per cent of the remaining population of the Amur, the biggest of the world's tigers (also known as the Siberian tiger), which weighs on average 200 kg. Today, an estimated 350 to 500 of this subspecies (Panthera tigris altaica) roam the frontier region bordering China and the Sea of Japan. Although sustained conservation efforts over recent years have moved the Amur tigers from ?critically endangered? to ?endangered? on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, they still remain at risk - mainly due to poaching. For the past 17 years, Sergei Bereznuk, a staunch Russian conservationist and ecologist, has been working valiantly to save the Amur tiger. Based on his experience since 1995 with a tiger anti-poaching brigade in the Primorsky Krai, the Russian Far East province commonly known as Primorye, Bereznuk is convinced that saving the Amur tiger depends on both the efficiency of anti-poaching measures and the education of the local people, two elements at the core of his Rolex Awardwinning project. Moreover, he considers the Amur tiger as a powerful driver for the general conservation of its ecosystem, the taiga forest.
As director of the Phoenix Fund, a small, environmental NGO that he has headed for 12 years, Bereznuk and his team of six people are carrying out an impressive range of activities to preserve the Amur tiger over a territory of 166,000 km2. These include support of anti-poaching units, awareness-raising among local people, reversing habitat reduction due to fires and logging and resolution of humananimal conflicts, along with providing compensation for damage and monitoring invasive industrial projects in the region. Barbara Block (54), United States
Large marine predators such as sharks and tunas are essential to maintaining the delicate balance of our ocean ecosystems, but overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution have caused reductions of populations worldwide. Measures advocated by scientists to reverse this decline include the creation of large marine protected areas in the open ocean that preserve feeding and breeding grounds. A major challenge has been to identify the best locations for these sanctuaries, since these species are highly migratory and difficult to follow. Barbara Block, a professor of marine biology, has developed innovative electronic tagging techniques that enable following fish beneath the sea. In the late 1990s, she helped develop the first pop-up satellite archival tag, a device that detaches itself from the fish on a pre-programmed date and floats to the surface of the sea where it transmits archived data via satellite. Block's aim is to build the technology that will enable monitoring of these ocean hotspots and to engage the public on the plight of marine predators that roam along the west coast of North America - a crucial prelude to their conservation. Her team conducts ?conservation oceanography? incorporating the latest advances in sensor technology, ocean observing systems and computational methods to provide resource managers and policy-makers with data on the sustainability of both exploited and protected marine predators. Erika Cuellard (40), Bolivia
The largest of Bolivia's national parks, the Kaa-Iya del Gran Chaco, boasts the unlikely combination of South America's hottest, driest weather and 70 species of large mammals, including jaguars, pumas and giant armadillos, living in the largest protected tropical dry forest in the world. This harsh and inhospitable environment has been the workplace of Erika Cuellar for more than a decade. The scientist has spearheaded participatory conservation with the indigenous Guaran®™ people who live on the boundaries of the park. She has worked towards improving grassland management and local capacity building by training local people to take ownership of the conservation of their habitat. Encouraged by her successes in the national park, Cuellar's sights are now set on the wider Gran Chaco region, which spans parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. The Gran Chaco counts a variety of indigenous tribes, nomadic hunters, gatherers, fishing communities, farmers and cattle ranchers as its human inhabitants. The forests and scrublands are also home to 3,400 plant species, 500 bird and 150 mammal species, many of which are unique to the region. But for more than a century, the Gran Chaco's natural wealth has been systematically eroded. A notable casualty of these man-made factors has been the guanaco, the wild ancestor of domesticated llamas. In 2007, to help protect this species and its habitat, Cuellar devised a course to train members of three ethnic groups native to the Gran Chaco (Guaran®™, Ayoreode and Chiquitano) as parabiologists. As native inhabitants, parabiologists are also an influential means of conveying the value of conservation to indigenous communities. Cuellar now wants to extend her approach in Argentina and Paraguay and formalize the model to make conservation a viable long-term local employment option. Mark Kendall (40), Australia
Mark Kendall is developing an inexpensive and highly efficient way to reduce the annual death toll of millions of people worldwide from infectious diseases. Many of these fatalities can be prevented by vaccines, but the traditional syringe-and needle method - invented in 1853 - is holding vaccines back. First, this method injects vaccine into muscle, which has few immune cells, missing our immune ?sweet spot?. It is expensive and presents numerous difficulties - with vaccines requiring refrigeration in many countries where electricity supplies are uncertain. With the ?Nanopatch? that Professor Kendall is developing at a cutting-edge bio-engineering research institute at the University of Queensland, in Australia, a host of problems linked to the traditional needle and syringe will be swept away. The syringe-free method developed by Kendall uses an applicator which propels the Nanopatch and its microprojections - painlessly - onto a superficial layer of the skin where target immune cells are most numerous. The process does not draw blood, so the risk of infection is greatly reduced. The Nanopatch is coated with dry vaccine, so no refrigeration is required. This, together with lower vaccine doses, drastically reduces all costs, including transport. In the long term, Nanopatches could probably be administered by community workers or teachers, thus avoiding the need for medical staff to be present. Aggrey Otieno (34), Kenya
Korogocho, Nairobi's fourth-largest slum, is home to an estimated 200,000 people in an area of only 1.5 km2, which is troubled by widespread insecurity, substandard sanitation and deep poverty. An estimated 300 women experience postpartum haemorrhage and 200 newborn babies die there every year due to the lack of obstetric medical facilities and a means of getting to hospital, as well as the fact that the local birth attendants need assistance during emergencies. In Korogocho, the maternal mortality ratio is roughly 700 women out of 100,000, compared with 13 out of 100,000 in the United States. After studying in the United States, Aggrey Otieno returned to the slum, his birthplace, to improve the health of his community by empowering its people. With his knowledge of the area, Otieno, who has gained a well-deserved reputation as a valiant champion of the poor and vulnerable residents of Korogocho, is well placed to drive forward his project to build a telemedicine centre with a 24- hour, on-call doctor and van, thereby helping to prevent many deaths. Under the auspices of the non-profit organization Pambazuko Mashinani - of which he is founder and executive director - Otieno will use his Rolex Award funds to train birth attendants to recognize when complications are occurring so that they can alert staff at the centre by text message when an emergency arises. These qualified workers and doctors will give instant medical advice and, if needed, dispatch a van to transport the woman to hospital.