Article | 11 Mar, 2019

IUCN mourns the loss of leading conservationist Lew Young

It is with great sadness that IUCN Asia announces that conservationist Dr. Lew Young passed away on 5th March 2019. His passing is a tremendous loss to the conservation community.

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Photo: IUCN

Lew served as the manager of Mai Po wetlands in Hong Kong for many years, then as Senior Programme Officer for Asia-Oceania for the Ramsar Convention Secretariat in Switzerland, and last but not least, as the Chief Executive of the East Asia-Australasia Flyway Partnership (EAAFP), based in Incheon, Republic of Korea (RoK).

Lew was instrumental in advancing the wetland conservation agenda in Asia. His dedication and passion were tremendous. He was a skilled navigator at the policy level, supporting countries with the development and strengthening of their wetland policies and legislation. However, throughout his career, he also remained close to the field and to the sites and wetland communities that he loved so much. Despite a very busy schedule, Lew always seemed to find the time to support partners, to provide guidance and assistance, to innovate and to initiate new pathways for wetland conservation.  

It is in great part thanks to him that a number of IUCN wetland initiatives have seen the light of day, including but not limited to the Indo-Burma Ramsar Regional Initiative (IBRRI), the Yellow Sea Working Group, the designation of the Gulf of Mottama in Myanmar as a Ramsar site, and the accession of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to IUCN membership.

Lew Young, Chief Executive of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership       Photo: IUCN

Lew was a conservationist but also a profound humanist, convinced that through environmental conservation, societies could become more peaceful, more fair and equitable. His capacity to advise, to listen and to empower people in his own gentle and compassionate way was unique. Watching Lew at work was a reminder that our work is not only a job, but also, a mission that requires passion, dedication, and constant energy and innovation.

The tragic passing of Lew happened on the sidelines of the second meeting of the Working Group on the Conservation of the Yellow Sea Intertidal and Associated Coastal Wetlands on the 5th of March in Beijing, which he co-organised with IUCN Asia. During this last mission, Lew was as active as always and pursuing a suite of new initiatives, including the conservation of short distance migratory bird species in the Indo-Burma Region, the creation of a network of wetland site managers in the Yellow Sea and the development of a wetlands centre at the Mundok Ramsar site in DPRK.

Lew delivered the last presentation of the day with his usual energy and enthusiasm, reminding us of the importance of international cooperation and emphasizing the role that wetlands play, not only in supporting biodiversity, but also, the livelihoods and wellbeing of local communities. He provided valuable guidance on ways to move forward with the wetland conservation agenda.

We send our heartfelt condolences to Lew’s wife and family during these difficult times. His work will continue to guide and inspire IUCN Asia’s wetland conservation programme for many years to come.