Vote for your Heritage Hero

Celebrate exceptional people who protect natural World Heritage

In the four corners of the world, a few brave people relentlessly commit their lives to making a difference in the way natural World Heritage sites are conserved, even at the risk of their own safety. 

Five outstanding individuals in three natural World Heritage sites have been shortlisted as Heritage Heroes for their exceptional work in protecting some of the world's most precious natural areas. Their dedication will be celebrated at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016.

Discover their inspiring stories and decide who will get your vote.

Western Caucasus, Russia 

"Magnificent landscapes offer an opportunity to connect with eternity. World Heritage status indicates that our responsibility to preserve the Western Caucasus is a fact, not a mere sign of recognition for our nation. The site is a true treasure and has to live on because this is where rivers originate. Hence we have to look towards the future."

Yulia Naberezhnaya
Yulia Naberezhnaya © Mikhail Plotnikov

Yulia Naberezhnaya and Andrey Rudomakha have been pivotal in reducing threats posed by infrastructure projects in the Western Caucasus. They succeeded in stopping road constructions and illegal logging within the site and ensured developments related to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi would not damage its Outstanding Universal Value.

Discover Yulia and Andrey's story

The Western Caucasus in Russia was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1999 for its great diversity of undisturbed ecosystems, which support wildlife such as the European bison.

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, India

"I see myself as a guardian of this landscape. Manas was listed as in danger for 20 years as a result of human destruction and overexploitation. Now the same people come forward as volunteers to protect the park. We need more conservationists so that our future generations can see real tigers and rhinos, not in pictures."

Bibhuti Lahkar
Bibhuti at Manas River © Ashok Dey

A confirmed scientist, Bibhuti Lahkar constantly moves around communities living around Manas Wildlife Sanctuary to find solutions for both threatened wildlife and people. He has empowered some 300 young people to be directly engaged in the site's protection and has helped convert poachers who now participate in the monitoring of wildlife.

Discover Bibhuti's story

Inscribed as a natural World Heritage site in 1985, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary provides critical habitat to rare species, including the greater one-horned rhino and the pygmy hog.

Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo

"Environmental crimes must be considered as crimes against humanity. No matter what threats I face, protecting the environment is a passion for me – I'm convinced I have to devote the rest of my life to Virunga and to the world." 

Bantu Lukambo
© Bantu Lukambo

"By protecting Virunga, we are protecting people's lives because the park gives us everything. Man is a passenger on Earth and we must pass on heritage to future generations. This land must continue to provide life to humans."                    

Josué Kambasu Mukura
© Josué Kambasu Mukura

Bantu Lukambo and Josué Kambasu Mukura have risked their lives while working to protect Virunga National Park, which is exposed to many threats including extractive activities, poaching and armed conflict. Engaging with local communities, they strive to demonstrate the huge potential of the park as a sustainable way out of poverty.

Discover Bantu and Josué's story

Virunga National Park Africa's oldest park and home to the iconic mountain gorilla, has one of the highest concentrations of species on Earth. A World Heritage site since 1979, it is listed as 'in danger'.

Who will get your vote?

© Shyamal Datta 

The Heritage Heroes awards aim to celebrate these outstanding individuals on the front line of conservation and natural World Heritage sites, and are a wake-up call to the reality of threats on the ground.

Vote now!

The Hero with most votes will receive a people's choice award in Hawaiʻi at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016.

Held in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi  from 1-10 September 2016, the IUCN Congress will help define the path to a sustainable future.

Hawaiʻi © Dave Poore