The Year 2019 in Review
Mama Ranger” was honoured with KfW-Bernhard-Grzimek-Preis and EUR 50,000 in prize money
The Philippine environmentalist Angelique Songco received the award for her outstanding commitment and groundbreaking management of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
With more than 360 coral species, 600 fish species, eight marine mammals and around100 seabird species, as well as many different algae and seaweeds, Tubbataha Reef is one of the most bio-diverse places on earth. Mainly thanks to the dedication of the award winner, this extraordinary natural treasure did not suffer the same fate as many other overfished and dying coral reefs, but has been preserved to the present day. Although the Philippine government declared the region a nature reserve in 1988 and in 1993 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, illegal fishing and tourism continued to jeopardise this sensitive ecosystem. Songco, who has been managing the park since 2001, has developed an innovative and powerful strategy: It focuses especially on thorough educational work and on reaching out to convince people in person. In consequence, she has succeeded in raising awareness of environmental issues among the local community and, as a result, people have been taking greater care in using the Marine Protected Area. Above all, her work aims to develop an understanding among locals that increased conservation efforts are essential to securing their livelihoods and to improving living conditions in the area permanently. Carefully regulated tourism and sustainable fishing have taken on major importance as a reliable source of income for the region and the park.
Angelique Songco explained:“It is important to me to explain to people that oceans are not infinite, that they cannot absorb all our rubbish, and that if we continue in this way, there will soon be no fish left for us to catch. For it is only when people start to understand our seas that they begin to treat them with care.”
The 58-year-old’s considerate and caring interaction with people has earned her the affectionate nickname “Mama Ranger” from her team and the local population. Dr Lutz-Christian Funke from the Board of KfW Stiftungpointed out:“Both a heightened awareness and the willingness to take responsibility are crucial to climate and environmental protection. For this reason, the KfW-Bernhard-Grzimek-Preis honours charismatic leaders, who tackle ecological problems while also meeting economic needs. They thus create a win-win situation, set an example and inspire others to join in.