Burton wins Blue Turtle Award for conservation work

| 07/12/2009

Cayman islands news island weather classifieds business financial services(CNS): Cayman Islands conservationist Fred Burton, who has spearheaded efforts to bring the Blue Iguana back from the verge of extinction, became the first winner of ‘Blue Turtle’ Award for nature conservation in the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, presented by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). The award was presented at a ceremony held in Peterborough on 2 December. Burton has worked in conservation in the Cayman Islands for over 20 years, with the last nine as the Director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, which is an unsalaried position, and is deeply committed to creating a viable wild population of blue iguanas in their own protected area.

JNCC Chair, Peter Bridgewater, one of the panel of judges for the Award, said, “It is not often that one person’s efforts are contribute so much to bringing a species back from the brink of extinction, but in Fred’s case this was absolutely the case. There are many examples of extraordinary professional and enthusiastic work being done to conserve and manage the biodiversity of our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies by the local populations, often with little fanfare. JNCC wanted to help by, once a year, rewarding the work of a particular individual or group. For 2009, Fred was the unanimous choice of the judging panel.”

In addition to a trophy, the recipient of the Blue Turtle Award is given £500 plus a £1,000 contribution to an Overseas Territory or Crown Dependency nature conservation project of their choice.

The Blue Iguana Recovery Programme relies heavily on its volunteer programme. Dedicated members of the local community feed and care for the animals in the captive breeding facility, as well as give talks and provide public education experiences. Key volunteers from overseas also contribute time and expertise in areas such as specialist veterinary care and radio tracking of released animals. The Recovery Plan for the Blue Iguana is a collaborative effort that is reviewed every five years with the involvement of representatives from local and international environmental agencies and groups.

Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said of the Programme, “The Blue Iguana was once referred to as the most endangered rock iguana on the planet. Through Fred’s work a very successful captive breeding programme was established and blue iguanas are being re-introduced to the wild. Fred has taken the programme from a backyard project to a fully-fledged captive breeding facility which produces over 100 young iguanas for release into protected areas each year. The programme has been so successful that it serves as a model for other regional projects.”

Tara Pelembe, JNCC’s Overseas Territories Officer, commented, “We hope this is just the beginning of JNCC being able to shine a light on projects and actions that deserve a wider audience and acknowledgement. Fred is inspirational in his care for the blue iguana, and it is a pleasure to celebrate his success.”

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) is the statutory adviser to Government on UK and international nature conservation, on behalf of the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, the Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage. Its work contributes to maintaining and enriching biological diversity, conserving geological features and sustaining natural systems. One of JNCC’s priorities is to provide advice on the conservation of biodiversity in the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

JNCC has adopted a high-level strategic objective, derived from its vision, to ‘provide, to UK government departments, the governments of the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies and others, timely and sound advice to support the achievement of the 2010 biodiversity target, the progressing of Environment Charters, and the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.’

Any individual, or group of individuals (including governments) from and working on an Overseas Territory or Crown Dependency, can be nominated for the Blue Turtle Award. The work or project must have been in place for over a year, demonstrated innovation and have made a real difference. The award is based on the following criteria: nature conservation benefit/added value; innovation; community involvement; and links to a specific project, or demonstrating long-term commitment and dedication.

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  1. J. L. Ebanks says:

    Having had the privilege of working with Fred at the National Trust, I would like to add my congratulations on this well deserved recognition of his tireless efforts. The Blue Iguanas and the Cayman Islands have benefitted much from his hard work. Thank you, Fred and keep up the great work.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Fred, congratulations for the recognition your selfless work to preserve a Cayman Islands treasure has received internationally. 

    We are very appreciative that your dedication and tenacity to hang in there, to fight for the preservation of not only a Cayman Islands treasure, the blue iguana is also a world treasure is successful.  You showed how with dedication and hard work the iguana closest to extinction now has a healthy increasing population.   But for your work this world treasure would have by now probably been extinct – lost from the world forever.

    Your tireless efforts to educate us on nature matters in general are reaping benefits for all of us alive now and for generations to come.  There is already evidence of the younger professional generation speaking up and taking their part in the environmental relay race to stop the wholesale destruction of our Cayman Islands natural assets for today’s dollar with unrecognized long term costs to future generations.  When you are ready to retire I am confident that there will be a growing number to take the baton.

    Now is the time for Caymanians of all ages to become involved in the recently announced opening up of the Draft National Conservation Law for public comment… again. 

    Greedy short sighted forces are continuing their work to derail this very important law which is needed to ensure that our economically important natural assets are preserved for a sustainable Cayman Islands.  Everyone with a love of our Islands needs to become involved to preserve their future, if the Government blessed “destroy develop” mentality is allowed to continue then future generations will look on this generation with disdain.   

    Let us now work as Fred has selflessly worked towards a sustainable Cayman Islands, it begins with a strong, measurable, effective and, implemented National Conservation Law.

    William H. Adam

  3. Tim Dailey says:

    Fred – great recognition for excellent work.  Cayman, and the protectors of its heritage and natural environment, should be proud to have a crusader like you dedicating endless time and energy to the protection of the Cayman Blues.

    A personal thanks for your efforts and as always, we will continue to support you in your efforts.

    You, and your dedicated team, all deserve this!!


  4. Peter Milburn says:

    Just wanted to add my congratulations to Fred.I consider him a good friend in many ways but more so to the Cayman Islands.Keep up the good work Fred and many more kudos in the future for you.

  5. Mandy Vodak-Marotta says:

    Absolutely wonderful Fred!!



  6. Yvonne Stubbington says:

    Many congratulations Fred. Much deserved!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations Mr. Burton. Your efforts over the years in matters environmental – preservervation and education – are greatly appreciated. Your award is well deserved.

    Apprecaitive Caymanian. 

  8. Hanson says:

    In the future, people will eventually know how serious this conservationist effort has contributed to our Tourism Industry

    May we see more like Fred
    Thank you!
  9. Stu Petch says:

    Congratulations Fred – well deserved.