Governor’s Conservation Awards presented at Trust gala event

The National Trust for the Cayman Islands celebrated its 25 year anniversary with a gala event held at Grand Old House recently in Grand Cayman.  

In addition to being a celebration and fundraiser for the organisation, the evening also featured the presentation of the inaugural Governor’s Conservation Awards. The awards celebrate excellence in conservation in the Cayman Islands, with awards presented in four categories – Corporate Conservation, Tourism Conservation, Heritage Preservation and Conservationist of the Year. 

“We were delighted and quite surprised by the strong response to the first-ever Governor’s Conservation Awards, having received 21 nominations in total,” said Christina McTaggart, general manager of the National Trust. 

The awards were presented by Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor. 

In the Corporate Conservation category, nominees were evaluated on their implementation of significant changes within the organisation to reduce environmental or carbon footprints, alignment of internal processes with internationally accepted corporate green best practices and promoting an environmentally conscious work ethic. Three finalists were selected, including Cayman Islands Brewery and the Cayman Islands Yellow Pages, but the award went to Montessori by the Sea. The school was selected as the winner for its work to build environmental awareness in its 150 students through a school-wide recycling programme, composting and incorporating green products and practices throughout the school, as well as incorporating conservation into the curriculum. 

In the Tourism Conservation category, nominees were evaluated on their ability to offer services which promote and highlight the natural resources and heritage of the Cayman Islands, their adoption of sustainable measures such as water and energy efficiency and reducing waste and their role in educating visitors and locals about the natural resources and heritage of the Cayman Islands. 

The three finalists included Peter Hillenbrand, owner of Southern Cross dive resort in Little Cayman, as well as Neil van Niekerk, who has been instrumental in organising Lionfish culling efforts in Little Cayman. The Tourism Conservation category was won by Sea Elements, an eco-tourism company formed by Marnie Laing and her husband Danny Kupowski, which offers specialised trips including mangrove tours that highlight Cayman’s biodiversity to tourists and locals alike. 

The nominees in the Heritage Preservation category were evaluated on their contribution to preserving a historic or cultural legacy for future generations, their contribution to a harmonious blend of the past, present and future recognising heritage as a living tradition, and their commitment to educating people of all ages as to the importance of preserving Cayman’s history and culture. 

The three finalists included cultural historian and author Roy Bodden as well as Deborah Truchan, but the award was scooped up by the Cayman Islands Catboat Club. The club works to preserve Cayman’s maritime heritage through education, community outreach, boat restoration and the organising of regattas for these iconic boats, thereby keeping an important element of Cayman’s national identity alive. 

The three finalists for the Conservationist of the Year award included Arie Barendrecht of Cobalt Coast for his work in the community of West Bay, as well as Mike Vallee for his contribution to the Little Cayman Rock Iguana Species Programme. The award went to Bonnie Scott Edwards for her work on Cayman Brac to ensure the survival of the Sister Islands rock iguana as well as sea turtles through her training and education efforts. 

Ms McTaggart said the National Trust was pleased with the attendance at the event, with some 240 people turning out. 

“We were delighted and quite surprised by the strong response to the first-ever Governor’s Conservation Awards, having received 21 nominations in total. We certainly consider the evening a success as we were able to meet our fundraising goal and give patrons a night to remember,” she said. 

“We could not have had such a successful event without the generous sponsorship of Stuarts, Caledonian, ICG and Blackbeards. In addition, I would like to thank all those who donated their time and resources by providing the amazing auction items, table decorations and entertainment.” 

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