Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew today awarded the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, the Kew International Medal which commends work supporting Kew’s mission to ensure that plants and fungi are understood, valued and conserved.
Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world with a significant proportion of its fauna and flora yet to be discovered and studied. President Santos has recognised this and pledged that his government will double the area under national environmental protection from 13 million hectares at the beginning of his government in 2010 to 28.4 million hectares by 2018.
In selecting President Santos, Richard Deverell, Director of RBG Kew, said “When President Santos led the signing of a peace treaty with FARC guerrilla fighters, he heralded a new era, opening the country to international collaboration in biodiversity research.”
Richard Deverell, Director of RBG Kew, and President Santos signing the Kew guest book.
President Santos is the first head of state to receive the Kew medal, recognising the ideology, foresight and work of protecting Colombia’s biodiversity. At the award ceremony in London, President Santos said “Biodiversity, in my view, is our biggest asset. We have already discovered, in the 11 expeditions we have completed so far, 88 new species, 212 threatened species and 132 endemic species.”
President Santos speaking about his government’s conservation pledges and the Colombia Bio programme, among other exciting initiatives.
President Santos also established the Colombia Bio programme that, with RBG Kew's partnership, aims to identify, protect and promote the country’s plant and fungal diversity for sustainable use benefiting local livelihoods and the economy. This important work will help to inform conservation policy, highlight native plant species with economic potential, and regulate the fight against illegal plant trade.
Professor Kathy Willis, Kew Director of Science, said “Colombia’s biodiversity has a positive impact at a global, regional and local level. It is relevant to the well-being of billions of people and touches all levels of society.”
Professor Kathy Willis, Kew Director of Science, speaking about the collaboration between RBG Kew and the Colombian government.
President Santos said, “Many people in Colombia are working to protect the environment, many are committed to this cause. I receive this award in their name and will keep working towards creating a better world, a better environment.”