Press Release

Two Leading Conservationists Awarded the 2024 National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation

The global nonprofit celebrates this year’s National Geographic/Buffett Awards for Leadership in Conservation winners, Julio César Hernández-Montoya and Peter Lalampaa

Buffett Award winners Julio César Hernández-Montoya (left) and Peter Lalampaa (right).

Photograph by © GECI / J.A. Soriano (left) / Elizabeth Shrier Wild Elements Studios (right)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 29, 2024)—To recognize their achievements and leadership in their respective conservation roles, Julio César Hernández-Montoya and Peter Lalampaa have been awarded the 2024 National Geographic/Buffett Awards for Leadership in Conservation.

The National Geographic/Buffett Awards for Leadership in Conservation were established in partnership with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to recognize and celebrate unsung conservation heroes. Two awards are presented each year: one for achievement in Africa and the other for achievement in Latin America.

These outstanding individuals have demonstrated leadership in managing and protecting the natural resources in their regions and countries and are inspirational conservation advocates who serve as role models and mentors.

“We are honored to recognize Julio and Peter, whose actions, contributions, spirit of community collaboration and passion for the environment are making a positive impact on the health of our planet,” said Ian Miller, the Society’s chief science and innovation officer. “Their dedicated leadership is moving the needle in conservation and inspiring others to follow their examples.”

Julio César Hernández-Montoya

Having contributed to the conservation and ecological restoration of the islands of Mexico for over 20 years, Julio César Hernández-Montoya is the project director of Guadalupe Island at the nonprofit organization Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas (GECI). He carries out activities related to the conservation and restoration of endemic and native species of fauna, as well as biosecurity and invasive alien species management projects. While working with the Laysan albatross on Guadalupe Island, he became determined to protect the population and help increase it.

Thanks to his commitment, Guadalupe Island hosts now the most important growing Laysan albatross colony in the eastern Pacific. Additionally, in partnership with GECI and Pacific Rim Conservation, he began a project to return a colony of the black-footed albatross to Guadalupe Island. The project involves the rescue and transport of eggs and chicks from flood zones on Midway Atoll and rearing the chicks on Guadalupe Island using Laysan albatrosses as foster parents. In addition to his projects, he seeks to engage the local community, managers and stakeholders to create synergies to work together to restore Guadalupe Island’s insular ecosystem.

“The ecological restoration and conservation of Isla Guadalupe is of great inspiration,” said Julio César Hernández-Montoya. “The positive outcomes to date are inspiring. This little—but significant—piece of the planet teaches us that with vision, unity, perseverance and hard work, it is possible to be better every day and overcome major environmental problems. To make this possible, an extraordinary alliance has developed between civil society, the local community, the Mexican government, national and international foundations and academia. Cases such as Isla Guadalupe show us a path of hope and motivate us to move forward to improve our entire shared planet.”

Peter Lalampaa

A Kenyan conservationist and Indigenous Samburu pastoralist, Peter Lalampaa experienced the intersection of herding livestock and coexistence with wildlife from an early age. Developing this deep connection with nature and learning invaluable skills such as interpreting bird calls to detect predators and tracking Grevy’s zebras to locate water sources and optimal grazing for his cattle ignited his passion for conservation and the pursuit of formal education.

Passionate about mitigating the impacts of rangeland degradation, which jeopardize both wildlife conservation and pastoralism, he received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and joined Grevy’s Zebra Trust (GZT). After continuing his education and receiving a Masters of Science in conservation biology, he was named the executive director at GZT, working to achieve the organization’s vision of healthy, connected landscapes that support wildlife and pastoralism.

“The journey to conserve the iconic and endangered Grevy’s zebra has been a labor of love, dedication and unwavering commitment,” said Peter Lalampaa. “Through our collective efforts, we have been able to stabilize the decline of the Grevy’s zebra population, but our work is far from over. [W]e must look to the future with renewed determination and deep investment. This award will go a long way in renewing our commitment and our hope for the future of this species as well as the Indigenous communities that share their space and resources with the Grevy’s zebra.”

The awards will be presented to these individuals at the Society’s annual Explorers Festival, which is hosted in collaboration with the Society’s long-standing partner Rolex.


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About The National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content.

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