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Peregrine Fund biologist in Madagascar is named one of Disney’s six Conservation Heroes worldwide

17 September 2010

BOISE, Idaho – Lily-Arison René de Roland, national director of The Peregrine Fund’s Madagascar Project, has been named a 2010 Conservation Hero by the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund. The honor is awarded annually to individuals for their tireless efforts to save wildlife, protect habitats and educate the communities around them.

René de Roland is among six honorees this year that represent conservation programs in six countries and three continents.

“These are extraordinary individuals who are passionate about protecting animals and habitats in areas of critical concern,” said Dr. Jackie Ogden, vice president, Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Rick Watson, vice president of The Peregrine Fund, an Idaho-based conservation group focused on birds of prey, said René de Roland is a keen observer of nature who richly deserves the award. “With his immense skills in the field, he has found new animal species and discovered ones that we feared had been lost forever,” he said.

One of René de Roland’s major finds occurred in 2006 while surveying a remote part of Madagascar for signs of the Madagascar Harrier. At a small lake, he re-discovered the Madagascar Pochard, a diving duck thought to be extinct but now known to occur at only this site in Madagascar with a population of just 20 individuals. A recovery program is now underway to restore this critically endangered species. Watson said René de Roland has played a critical role by working with local people in the region to build awareness, trust and support for the recovery effort.

That ability to work with people also has enabled The Peregrine Fund to successfully persuade the Madagascar government to protect large tracts of valuable habitat for numerous species, including birds of prey that are found nowhere else on Earth. The island nation’s rich biodiversity is threatened and degraded by the unsustainable use of natural resources through slash-and-burn agriculture, tree-cutting for fuel and timber, land-clearing for zebu cattle, hunting and over-fishing.

René de Roland first became associated with The Peregrine Fund in 1992 when he was studying Malagasy raptors for a master’s degree at the University of Antananarivo. He received a doctorate in 2000 and successfully completed his post-doctoral research in June 2010, a first for conservation biology in Madagascar.

René de Roland has worked with The Peregrine Fund since 1999 and became the national director of the organization’s Madagascar Project in 2004. He supervises a staff of 25 at four conservation sites.

With funding from the United States Agency for International Development, The Peregrine Fund began in 2007 to create three sites to be added to Madagascar’s national protected areas system. Among the species that will benefit are the Madagascar Fish Eagle at two sites and the Madagascar Pochard at the site where it was discovered by René de Roland, as well as other endangered species found only in Madagascar.

“Lily-Arison eagerly took on this responsibility,” Watson said. “He has worked tirelessly, traveling back and forth to remote locations that take days to reach over rough or barely passable trails.”

He has worked patiently and diligently with an array of people, from government officials to local people living near the protected areas, Watson added. “Lily-Arison is a true hero, an ordinary person who does extraordinary things, from guiding graduate students to interacting with high-ranking governmental ministry personnel while enjoying and conserving his country’s unique natural heritage.”

More information about Disney Conservation Heroes HERE

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For more information, contact:

Erin Katzner

Director of Global Engagement
Main Phone: 208-362-3716
Direct Phone: 208-362-8277

The Peregrine Fund