São Paulo, Brazil – Conservation International (CI) President, Dr. Russell Mittermeier, was awarded the
most prestigious environmental honor given by the state of São Paulo at an event Thursday. Governor Geraldo Alckmin presented Mittermeier the João Pedro Cardoso award
, given to distinguished individuals who have contributed highly to the state’s environmental education, conservation and restoration.
"It's amazing that the third largest economic power in Latin America is giving such importance to biodiversity,” Mittermeier said during the ceremony. “Currently 12% of the state area is protected and that number grows to 14% if we include marine areas. São Paulo is setting is an example for Brazil, Latin America and the world."
The state of São Paulo is of particular conservation interest because it is home to the Atlantic Forest, a biodiversity hotspot that has been facing increased pressure from issues tied to urbanization.
Other recipients of the award on Thursday included Brazilian and international conservationists, including Ibsen de Gusmão Câmara, Paulo Nogueira Neto and Thomas Lovejoy.
"In 1971, when I was a kid, Dr. Nogueira Neto took me in his own car to see monkeys in São Paulo State Park,” Mittermeier said of his fellow honoree. “I have known Admiral Ibsen for over 30 years now and Lovejoy was the person who showed the world the importance of the Amazon," he added.
Mittermeier’s outstanding contribution to biodiversity conservation in Brazil also earned him the Order of the Southern Cross by the Brazilian government in 1989. He is a fluent speaker of Portuguese and much of his field work has been conducted in the Amazon and the country's Atlantic Forest, or Mata Atlântica, which stretches along Brazil's Atlantic coast, from the northern state of Rio Grande do Norte south to Rio Grande do Sul.
Mittermeier has served as the President of CI since 1989. He was named a “hero for the planet” by TIME Magazine and he is regarded as a world leader in biodiversity and tropical forest conservation. Trained as a primatologist and herpetologist, he has traveled widely in more than 150 countries. Mittermeier is also one of IUCN’s four Vice-Presidents for the period 2009-2012, and serves as Chairman of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group.
Note to editors:
Conservation International (CI) — Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the long term well-being of people. Founded in 1987, CI has headquarters in the Washington, DC area, and nearly 900 employees working in more than 30 countries on four continents, plus 1,000+ partners around the world. For more information, visit www.conservation.org, and follow us on Twitter: @ConservationOrg or Facebook: www.facebook.com/conservation.intl