Award for Blues protector

The UK government’s advisory body on conservation has awarded Fred Burton, director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, the new annual Blue Turtle award for his work in preventing the extinction of one of the world’s most endangered species.

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee presented Mr. Burton with the award for his work in Cayman on the blue iguana programme last Wednesday in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.

Mr. Burton is the inaugural recipient of the Blue Turtle Award for nature conservation in the Overseas Territories and Crown Territories.

Peter Bridgewater, chairman of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee said there had been several nominees, but that Mr. Burton’s accomplishments were ‘outstanding’.

Mr. Burton has worked in the conservation field in Cayman for more than 20 years, and received an MBE in 2007 for his efforts in the conservation of endangered species. He has been director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme since 2000.

Four years ago, the blue iguana was considered extinct in the wild, but due to the work done by the recovery programme at the National Trust’s Blue Iguana conservation facility in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, there are now more than 570 of the endangered iguanas roaming in the wild.

Mr. Bridgewater, who was one member of the panel of judges for the award, said: ‘It is not often that one person’s efforts 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.’

He added: ‘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.’

Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment, 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.’

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee is the statutory adviser to Government on UK and international nature conservation.

According to the committee, The Blue Turtle Award was presented 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.

Any individual, or group of individuals, including governments, from and working on an Overseas Territory or Crown Dependency, can be nominated. The work or project must have been in place for more than a year, demonstrated innovation and have made a real difference.

In addition to a trophy, the Blue Turtle Award gives £500 (CI$675) to the individual or group, and a £1,000 (CI$1,350) contribution to an Overseas Territory or Crown Dependency nature conservation project of their choice.

Tara Pelembe, the committee’s overseas territories officer, said: ‘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.’