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ASAP Chair awarded 2020 Blue Planet Prize

 

We are delighted that Dr. Simon Stuart, Chair of the ASAP Governing Council, has been awarded the 2020 Blue Planet Prize. The prestigious international environmental award, now in its 29th year, is sponsored by the Asahi Glass Foundation.

Every year, two individuals are recognized for their significant contribution to solving global environmental problems. Dr. Stuart was selected out of 127 nominated candidates, and was awarded alongside fellow nominee, Prof. David Tilman.

Dr. Stuart has been involved in conservation since the 1980s, after graduating from the University of Cambridge with a First-Class bachelor’s degree in applied biology. He was instrumental in developing the criteria for what became the first IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ in the 1990s. For eight years, he chaired the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC), during which time he oversaw an increasing number of species being assessed for the Red List.

For the last four years, alongside his role as Director of Strategic Conservation at Synchronicity Earth, Simon has chaired the ASAP Governing Council. ASAP is a coalition of organisations which brings conservation attention to Critically Endangered land and freshwater vertebrates in Southeast Asia, known as ASAP species. The region has seen a devastating loss of biodiversity in recent years, much of which has been driven by an explosion in illegal trade and catastrophic habitat loss.

As of today, there are 227 ASAP species and this number is set to increase. However, where targeted species conservation exists in Southeast Asia, it tends to focus on a small number of species which are considered ‘charismatic’ and can be easier to gain funding and attention for. The outcome of this is that many species are lacking the conservation effort they need and are increasingly likely to become extinct through omission.

On why ASAP is needed, Dr. Stuart says,
“We remain on the brink of an extinction crisis in Southeast Asia, and we must act now if we are to turn things around. This is the reason that ASAP was formed. In order to halt species extinctions, collaboration is absolutely essential. ASAP does not duplicate the work of others, but creates opportunities to collaborate to achieve common goals. There is a plethora of reasons for doing this, but the bottom line is that ASAP asserts the intrinsic right of each species to exist.”

Throughout Simon’s career, he has brought attention to underfunded and neglected species. He has a particular interest in amphibians, which are one of the taxonomic groups of ASAP species that receives the least conservation attention. Dr. Stuart’s leadership in the Global Amphibian Assessment was instrumental in showing the world that amphibians are headed towards extinction faster than any other species, due to fungal disease, habitat loss and over-harvesting. His report on the assessment was highly acclaimed and was selected by Science as one of the 2004 Breakthroughs of the Year.

The ASAP Secretariat congratulates Dr. Stuart for this fantastic achievement and recognition of his significant contribution to species conservation throughout his career. We thank him for his ongoing support and dedication to ASAP, and hope that his being awarded the 2020 Blue Planet Prize will bring greater attention, resources and conservation action for neglected species.

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