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In Loving Memory

In Loving MemoryTheUnited Nations recognizes the achievements of Tufts VeterinarySchool graduate Annelisa Kilbourn, who died in a plane crash lastyear.NewYork City

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [07.01.03] Less than a year after AnnelisaKilbourn was tragically killed in a plane crash in Gabon, theUnited Nations Environment Program (UNEP) honored her with oneof its most prestigious awards. A dedicated environmentalist andconservationist, the Tufts graduate was among the eight peoplethe international agency honored with this year's Global 500 Awardfor environmental action.

“Everyyear it is our privilege to recognize those individuals and groupswho have gone beyond the rhetoric and the grand-standing, whohave seized the issues and transformed a dream into reality, turnedideas into action on the ground,” Executive Director ofUNEP Klaus Toepfer said in a statement from the UN News Centre.

The UN establishedthe Global 500 award in 1987 to recognize outstanding achievementsin the protection and improvement of the environment. In a ceremonythat took place on June 5 at the World Environment Day celebrationin Beirut, Lebanon, Kilbourn – who graduated from TuftsUniversity School of Veterinary Medicine in 1996 – joinedover 600 renowned environmentalists on the Global 500 LaureateRoll of Honor. She was the only American honored with the awardthis year.

“Ourwinners have already, and for many years, been implementing theirown plans covering such wide ranging issues as wildlife conservationand wise use of water to environmental law, journalism, sanitationand sustainable agriculture,” Toepfer continued. “Indoing so, they have not only raised awareness, but triggered profoundand long lasting changes in the way people live their lives.”

AnnelisaKilbournKilbourn’sdedicated efforts to study and protect gorilla, rhinoceros, andelephant populations across Africa helped make her a star figurein the environmental community. The Tufts graduate – whowould often work 16 hours a day, seven days a week – wascompleting groundbreaking fieldwork on the Ebola virus in gorillaswhen her plane crashed in Gabon, killing her and injuring thepilot and other two passengers.

“Dr.Kilbourn established for the first time that Ebola is a seriousthreat to wild gorillas as well as to humans when she found deadspecimens in the jungle and found that the disease had killedthem," reported the New York Times. "Her findingshad important implications for the preservation of Africa’sprimates, as well as for the spread of the disease among humans.”

Kilbourn’sabilities as a researcher were complemented by her personabledemeanor and expert communication skills. In Sabah, Malaysia,the Tufts graduate assisted the government and helped train localexperts to transport endangered orangutans and elephants to saferhabitats.

"Withher typical aplomb, she quickly built trust and working relationshipswith local people, researchers, park managers and government officialsin six cities in three countries," Dr. William Karesh –one of her longtime colleagues at the WildlifeConservation Society – told the Stamford Advocate.

The environmentalistmade a similar impact on the Tufts community.

"I hadthe pleasure of working closely with Annelisa during her fouryears at Tufts," said Sheila Moffatt, the manager of Tufts’environmental and population health department. "She wasdiligent and unwavering in her pursuit to do her best for thegood of all."

Kilbourn’snew position on the Global 500 Laureate Roll of Honor will helpensure that her achievements will never be forgotten.

“Governmentsalone are unlikely to achieve much without the support of allsectors of civil society, without the inspiration of individualsand small, dedicated grassroots groups, like those we are applaudingon World Environment Day,” Toepfer said. “Let us hopethat their imagination and sheer hard work will show that theimpossible is only in our minds and that, together, we can deliverdevelopment that lasts and prosperity that respects people andthe planet.”

 

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