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Colombian Biologist Named Explorer of the Year by National Geographic

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Colombia Explorer National Geographic
Colombian biologist Fernando Trujillo is honored as National Geographic’s 2024 Explorer of the year for his work with Amazon river dolphins. Credit: X.com/@acadcienciacol

Colombian marine biologist Fernando Trujillo has been named ‘Explorer of the Year 2024’ by the National Geographic Society. This prestigious award, presented at the Explorers Festival in collaboration with Rolex, honors Trujillo’s exceptional contributions to the conservation of endangered species in the Amazon, particularly his work with river dolphins.

For three decades, Trujillo has dedicated himself to protecting the Amazon’s dolphins, combining scientific research with direct action to preserve this iconic species. Since the age of 19, he has also worked to ensure sustainable livelihoods for the local communities that depend on the river’s resources, collaborating closely with regional governments and local communities to find mutually beneficial solutions.

Colombian named Explorer of the Year for river dolphins conservation

These dolphins, which inhabit the vast Amazon basin, play a critical role in its ecosystem, and indigenous communities revere them as sacred. Despite this reverence, river dolphins are endangered due to rising water temperatures, deforestation, pollution, and conflicts with fishermen.

Trujillo’s deep and enduring connection with this animal was honored by the indigenous Tikuna people, who named him “Omacha,” meaning a dolphin that became human. As a leading expert in aquatic vertebrates with a doctorate in zoology, Trujillo co-founded ‘Fundacion Omacha’, an organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development and conserving aquatic ecosystems in Colombia.

Currently, Trujillo is participating in the Rolex and National Geographic Perpetual Planet Amazon Expedition. This project explores the ecosystem functions that sustain the world’s largest freshwater basin. His team is navigating the Amazon’s tributaries, spanning seven rivers across four countries, to conduct health assessments of river dolphins. These assessments serve as indicators of river health and help pinpoint critical areas for conservation efforts.

Amazon river dolphin Credit: Jorge Andrade, CC BY 2.0 DEED/Wikimedia

In 2023, Trujillo spearheaded a global meeting on the protection of river dolphins and their habitats. This summit led to 11 countries signing a groundbreaking declaration, committing to develop research-based, transboundary solutions for the protection of river dolphins worldwide.

Rolex, in a special article celebrating Trujillo, stated: “Rolex and the National Geographic Society are proud to celebrate Fernando Trujillo’s ongoing commitment to protecting the Amazon’s dolphins. By acting as a global advocate for river dolphins and deepening our understanding of the ecosystems on which they depend, Trujillo is making an impact that will resonate for generations.”

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