World Wildlife Fund Conservation Leadership Award Honors Indigenous Organizer and Activist Charitie Ropati for her Dedicated Efforts in Environmental Activism and Indigenous Education
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today announces the recipient of the WWF Conservation Leadership Award, Charitie Ropati, a 22-year-old Indigenous scientist and environmental activist of Yup’ik and Samoan heritage. Ropati's remarkable work in promoting Native American representation in STEM and holistic approaches to climate justice has earned her this prestigious recognition.
Charitie Ropati has made significant contributions to the conservation and education sectors through her tireless effort, and her work at Columbia University’s Griffin Lab extends far beyond the classroom. Ropati's research delves into the intricate relationship between climate change and plant ecology in Alaska, exploring its significance in the context of cultural resilience. Her research not only advances our understanding of environmental challenges but also highlights the importance of preserving Indigenous knowledge and traditions in the face of these challenges.
Upon receiving the WWF Conservation Leadership Award, Ropati expressed her gratitude: "I am deeply honored to receive this award from WWF. It is a testament to the power of collective action and the importance of recognizing the intersection of environmental conservation and Indigenous education. Together, we can create a more sustainable and inclusive future for all."
Additionally, she is the co-founder of lilnativegirlinSTEM, a dynamic network empowering Native women and girls in the sciences by facilitating resource sharing and creating opportunities. LilnativegirlinSTEM has coordinated workshops and dialogues exploring the Native experience in science. “I want to challenge young kids back in Alaska to think about what a scientist looks like. A scientist is a hunter. It’s someone who gathers berries, and someone who’s able to really understand the ecology in the tundra in Alaska, to survive in the Arctic,” Ropati said.
Additionally, she has been at the forefront of implementing an accurate and inclusive sub-curriculum of Indigenous peoples in Western teaching in Alaska. Her dedication to preserving Indigenous cultures and knowledge within the educational framework has been transformative, creating a lasting impact on students and educators alike. Ropati played a pivotal role in passing a groundbreaking policy at the Anchorage School District, allowing students to proudly wear their cultural regalia during graduation ceremonies. This policy, which she championed, remains in place today, ensuring that students can proudly celebrate their heritage.
The WWF Conservation Leadership Award, now in its fifth year, was established to honor individuals who have shown exceptional dedication to the conservation of our planet and the advancement of environmental education. Ropati joins a distinguished group of previous awardees, all of whom have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to a more sustainable and inclusive world. More about WWF’s Conservation Leadership Award here: https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/wwf-conservation-leadership-award.
Photos for media found here.
Interviews available upon request.
About World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
WWF is one of the world’s leading conservation organizations, working for 60 years in nearly 100 countries to help people and nature thrive. With the support of 1.3 million members in the United States and more than 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, halt the degradation of the environment, and combat the climate crisis. Visit worldwildlife.org to learn more; follow @WWFNews on Twitter to keep up with the latest conservation news; and sign up for our newsletter and news alerts here.
WWF Statement on New Report from the Nordic Council of Ministers: Towards Ending Plastic Pollution by 2040
Today, the Nordic Council of Ministers released a new report: Towards Ending Plastic Pollution by 2040 – 15 Global Policy Interventions for Systems Change. In Response, WWF issued the following statement from Erin Simon, Vice President and Head of Plastic Waste and Business:
“As we move through the process towards securing a global treaty to end plastic pollution, negotiators must use all available science to inform the policy decisions that will ultimately determine the strength of this treaty.
“The current “Zero Draft” of the treaty outlines a range of interventions, some move us closer to ending plastic pollution and others don’t go far enough. When negotiators arrive in Nairobi this November for INC3, leaning into evidence-based decision making will help get us to the outcome our planet needs.”
Thimphu, 16 September 2023 - The presence of 134 snow leopards has been confirmed in Bhutan by the National Snow Leopard Survey 2022-2023, supported by the Bhutan For Life project and WWF-Bhutan. This represents a 39.5% increase from the country’s first survey in 2016, when 96 individuals were counted.
Bhutan’s second national survey covered more than 9,000 km sq of snow leopard habitat across the northern alpine landscape of the country with 310 camera trap stations. It found an overall density of 1.34 snow leopards per 100 km sq, which was comparatively higher in the west than in central and eastern Bhutan. Snow leopards were also recorded in several new locations. With a vast expanse of suitable snow leopard habitat bordering India and China, the survey suggests Bhutan can serve as a source population for snow leopards in the region.
Speaking at the launch of the survey results, Karma Tshering, Secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, said that while the survey results confirm Bhutan as a stronghold for snow leopards, “it is also a species in peril; the IUCN Red List designates the snow leopard as Vulnerable. Without protection, this magnificent species could face extinction in the near future.”
Found in twelve countries across Asia’s high mountains, snow leopards are threatened by habitat degradation, prey depletion, conflict with humans, poaching and climate change. The global population of snow leopards is declining, but the survey suggests conservation efforts in Bhutan to restore snow leopard habitat and combat poaching are having a positive impact. The snow leopard is listed as a protected species, and it is illegal to kill or harm them.
The National Snow Leopard Survey 2022-2023 was executed with funding support from the Bhutan For Life project, and WWF-Bhutan supported the surveyors with field gear. "The estimated 134 snow leopards is a remarkable 39.5% increase since the last population survey in 2016 and should serve as continued inspiration for protection of this elusive species,” said Dechen Dorji, Senior Director, Asia Wildlife, WWF-US. “Snow Leopards survival symbolize the majesty and importance of safeguarding the Himalayas - the water towers of Asia, in the face of a rapidly changing climate. The increase in snow leopard numbers demonstrates Bhutan’s strong commitment to global conservation and illustrates what can be achieved with visionary leaders, a network of interconnected protected habitats, and meaningful participation and stewardship of local communities."
Snow leopards play a key role as a top predator and as an indicator of the health of their mountain habitat, but the increased population may add to pressures on herding communities. Snow leopards can prey on yak calves and so the report recommends establishing livestock insurance schemes and the provision of coral fencing. These actions and other initiatives, such as community-based wildlife tourism, can facilitate the co-existence of snow leopards and communities sharing the same landscape.
“The increase in snow leopard numbers is yet another milestone achievement for Bhutan’s conservation journey. It clearly demonstrates the government's leadership and the conservation ethos of the highland communities.” Chimi Rinzin, Country Director for WWF-Bhutan, said. “WWF is fully cognizant of the challenges of increasing conflict, and we will strive towards addressing this issue to sustain the future of snow leopards while safeguarding the livelihoods of the herder communities”.
WWF believes the survey represents an important addition to our knowledge of snow leopards, a species which is difficult to study due to its elusive nature and the challenges of conducting surveys in the mountain terrain. This survey can help to bridge the knowledge gap and aid the development of better conservation strategies across the big cat’s range.
ABOUT WORLD WILDLIFE FUND (WWF)
WWF is one of the world’s leading conservation organizations, working in nearly 100 countries for over half a century to help people and nature thrive. With the support of more than 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, halt the degradation of the environment and combat the climate crisis. Visit www.worldwildlife.org to learn more and keep up with the latest conservation news by following @WWFNews on Twitter and signing up for our newsletter and news alerts here.
Note to Editors
Please find photographs and video from the survey and the full report here. All images are copyright of the Department of Forests and Park Services, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Bhutan: ©DoFPS, MoENR Bhutan
- The survey was completed by over 70 rangers from the protected areas of Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve, Jigme Dorji National Park, Wangchuck Centennial National Park, Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary, Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, and Divisional Forest Offices of Paro and Thimphu.
- Snow leopards were recorded in new locations such as Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary and low-elevation regions of the Divisional Forest Office, Thimphu.
- Other key observations from the survey were the evidence of habitat overlap between snow leopards and other large carnivores like tiger and common leopard, plus the recording of a new deer species to Bhutan, the White-lipped deer/Thorold's deer (Cervus albirostris).
- The snow leopard is classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and its numbers are decreasing.
- The Bhutan Foundation, Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation, WWF-Bhutan, and UNDP Bhutan are supporting various snow leopard conservation initiatives in Bhutan.