Distinguished conservationist, Sir David Attenborough, received the John C. Phillips Memorial Medal earlier this week at a special presentation at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London.
The John C. Phillips Memorial Medal is IUCN’s highest conservation award which has been presented at every General Assembly and IUCN World Conservation Congress since 1963. Awarded in memory of the life and work of Dr John C. Phillips, a pioneer of the conservation movement and specialist in species classification and genetics, it is a symbol of recognition of outstanding service in international conservation.
A British naturalist and broadcaster of world renown, Sir David has reached the masses with his captivating documentaries on natural history, creating awareness of the natural world and its vulnerability. Over the last fifty years, he has inspired generations to protect and conserve our planet.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, known as Kew Gardens, provided the perfect location for the intimate ceremony and celebration to honour Sir David. Founded in 1759, and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, Kew Gardens is a world leader in plant science and conservation, as well as a valued Member of IUCN, and a partner organization in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Kew Gardens works to discover and describe the world’s plant and fungal diversity; safeguard the world's plant life for our future; promote the sustainable use of plants; and inspire an appreciation of plants and the environment.
The presentation was made by IUCN Councillor and Species Survival Commission Chair, Dr Simon Stuart, representing the IUCN Council, on behalf of the IUCN World Conservation Congress. Sir David had not been able to attend the 2012 Congress in Jeju, Republic of Korea, where the announcement of the award had been made, but had sent a moving video message.
“IUCN is an organisation of enormous importance for all of us who care about the natural world. There is no other international organization quite like it, none which is quite so scientifically based, none whose compliments I would value more highly”, said Sir David in his acceptance speech to Congress.
Dr Stuart paid tribute to Sir David by saying: “At the event in Kew Gardens, Sir David reflected that he had been extremely fortunate to have been able to spend his life travelling to extraordinary places and working with amazing species, while much of the hard work of conservation was being done by others who often had to spend much of their time sitting behind computer screens. This comment is an indication of Sir David’s modesty, which is one of the many reasons why he is held in such high regard in the conservation community worldwide.”