NEW YORK, Oct. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Conde Nast Traveler will award Pierre Kakule Vwirasihikya, a 46-year old native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the 2005 Environmental Award. The ceremony will take place at the Readers' Choice Awards -- the "Oscars" of the travel industry -- on Monday, October 17th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20051017/NYM107 ) Kakule Vwirasihikya has devoted his life to protecting gorillas from extinction. The Congo's decade-long civil war killed an estimated three million people and decimated the country's eastern lowland region, where Vwirasihikya's family has lived for generations. The ongoing violence also led to a sharp decline in the Eastern Lowland gorilla population, which plummeted by 70 percent to as few as 5,000 animals. As a national park ranger during the war, Vwirasihikya remained at his post without pay despite the constant threats from poachers. More recently, he convinced the local people, government officials and even the rebel leaders to support his plan for a gorilla sanctuary. The result of Vwirasihikya's efforts is the 225,000-acre Tayna Gorilla Reserve, which not only protects gorillas, elephants, and leopards, but also provides many locals with jobs. Last year, Vwirasihikya helped start a community college called Tayna Center for Conservation Biology, where more than a hundred Congolese students are studying natural resource management and conservation. Now in its sixteenth year, Conde Nast Traveler's Environmental Award is given to an individual who has played a significant role in protecting and enhancing the environment. Past winners have come from all corners of the globe and have included scientists, journalists, teachers, and farmers. Conde Nast Traveler's first environmental award was given to Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan professor and last year's recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Klara Glowczewska, Editor in Chief of Conde Nast Traveler, will present Vwirasihikya the Environmental Award. "We started the Conde Nast Traveler Environmental Award in 1990, as a way to recognize otherwise little-known heroes whose environmental good works benefit locals and travelers alike," said Glowczewska. "Pierre Kakule Vwirasihikya is remarkable for his courage, vision, humility, and enormous contributions to both the people and the wildlife of the Democratic Republic of the Congo." The Environmental Award is sponsored by John Paul DeJoria, Co-Founder, President and CEO of John Paul Mitchell Systems. "John Paul Mitchell Systems has a history of supporting environmental causes, and is devoted to making the world a better place with its earth-friendly policies and strategies that include opposition to animal testing and harvesting environmentally-safe botanicals," said DeJoria. "We are honored to support this important award." This year's Environmental Award runners-up include Mexico's Felipe Arreaga Sanchez and Celsa Valdovinos, a husband and wife team fighting against illegal lodging in a coastal forest; Sergei Shapkhaev, a professor in Siberia who rerouted an oil pipeline to save the world's oldest lake; and Peru's Father Marco Aronna, a parish priest in the Andes who stopped a gold mine from desecrating a sacred mountain. A complete listing of the judges, as well as a detailed story about Pierre Kakule Vwirasihikya's efforts and ways to help support his cause, can be found in the November issue of Conde Nast Traveler, on newsstands October 25th. The November issue of Conde Nast Traveler is available on newsstands on October 25th. Unlike many other travel publications, Conde Nast Traveler does not accept free travel and accommodations, and its correspondents, as far as possible, travel anonymously. The result is travel the way consumers experience it -- good and bad, with reporting that is fair and honest. Conde Nast Traveler recently won its 6th National Magazine Award and is still the only travel publication to have won the highest honor in magazine publishing. Conde Nast Traveler, the 2005 Zagat Survey Best Travel Magazine, has a circulation of over 750,000 and is published by Conde Nast Publications, Inc.
SOURCE Conde Nast Traveler