Extraordinary Women Who Connect People to Nature

World Environment Day is a global event with the goal to encourage action and awareness for the protection of the environment. This year the theme is “Connecting People to Nature – in the city and on the land, from the poles to the equator.’” To celebrate, we’re sharing the work of five WINGS WorldQuest Fellows who actively work to help their communities connect to the environment.

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, also known as Dr. Gladys, is a veterinarian who founded the nonprofit Conservation Through Public Health, which monitors the relationship between the health of Uganda’s mountain gorillas and the humans who live near them, so that both humans and wildlife can live in harmony. Most recently she founded Gorilla Conservation Coffee, a social enterprise that sells coffee harvested by local farmers w the gorilla population. Kalema-Zikusoka received the WINGS Humanity Award in 2011.

Leela Hazzah

Egyptian conservation biologist Leela Hazzah spent a year living with the Maasai warriors to understand why the indigenous tribe traditionally killed lions in Kenya and Tanzania. She then co-opted the traditional values they associated with killing lions, and used them to encourage the men to protect the lions and help prevent their extinction. Her organization, Lion Guardians, hires Maasai warriors to serve as full-time guardians and teaches them to read and write. Hazzah won the WINGS WorldQuest Field Research Award in 2009.

Bolortsetseg Minjin

Bolortsetseg Minjin is a paleontologist on a quest to conserve Mongolia’s fossil heritage. She founded the Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs to promote geoscience education in her home country and to promote Mongolian paleontology. She is working to open a museum in Mongolia’s Flaming Cliffs, the first place dinosaur fossils were discovered in the country. Her goal is to protect her country’s heritage and prevent valuable fossils from being poached and sold at foreign auctions. She won the 2009 WINGS Earth Award.

Sabriye Tenberken

Sabriye Tenberken, who won the WINGS Courage Award in 2005, co-founded Braille Without Borders, which provides blind individuals in developing countries with practical skills. She also founded a school for the blind in Tibet and sought to help children whose families had neglected them because of their disabilities. She was featured in the documentary Blindsight for her help in assisting a group of blind teenagers who climbed Mt. Everest.

Arita Baaijens

Arita Baaijens is a Dutch explorer who won the WINGS Humanity Award in 2014. In her Living Landscapes series, she seeks out traditional ecological knowledge that matters in the modern world. The three-part project includes her travels through Siberia, a virtual reality film from the eyes of two Irish farmers and, most recently, an expedition to a remote village in the Papua New Guinea rainforest to live with an indigenous clan.

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