We would like to commemoratively remember Llewellyn as a beloved son, husband, father, brother, friend, and colleague. Most of all, we endeavour to preserve his passion and dedication to the promotion of wildlife preservation and ecological issues.

Lew was born the youngest of five siblings in 1958 to Lucy (Millar) and William. His path took him at a young age to England where his adventures began. Even as a teenager Lew was not shy of hard work, delivering morning papers before school everyday for pocket money. His love of travelling and adventure started when he left school. His first trips included a cycling holiday around France and inter-railing across Europe. This progressed to a two year work experience in Sierra Leone (West Africa) with VSO as a science teacher, meanwhile experiencing the country in a dug-out canoe that he had built himself. He came home in the clothes he stood in, having left everything he owned to his students during his time there. This led to his initial international conservation work in the western Himalayas and China to raise and monitor threatened pheasants species; this included leading China's first radio-tracking of a bird species. We believe this was where his passion for ornithology began. In between all these adventures he did manage to take time out to further his education; he first achieved his BSc Hons in Physiology at the University of Leeds, followed by an MSc in Ecology at the University of Aberdeen, and finally his doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in their Department of Zoology.

Lew was a world-class conservationist in the field of wetlands and migratory waterbirds. He worked tirelessly and honestly over decades for conservation and the wise use of wetlands at the Hong Kong Mai Po Wetland, followed by the Ramsar Secretariat in Switzerland. His last position was as a Chief Executive of the Secretariat of the East Asian - Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) based in Incheon, Republic of Korea. He has been one of the most outstanding conservation leaders in the flyway and an inspiration to many people with a diverse range of qualities, from the high level officials, to business leaders, to farmers. His achievements are too many to number, and Lew made a difference in many parts of the world with his commitment, deep knowledge, expertise, and passion for wetlands.

In 1991, he started work for WWF as manager of Hong Kong Mai Po Nature Reserve. He understood that the reserve, so close to the urban metropolis of Hong Kong, needed active management to enhance its value to wildlife and people. He developed a strategic vision for the reserve through the development and implementation of habitat and infrastructure management initiatives. He also developed and ran a range of education and awareness programmes for students and public visitors. Mai Po Nature Reserve has become a model sites for migratory waterbird conservation along the Flyway, due in no small part to Lew’s work as reserve manager, supervising 20 staff in different aspects of reserve management, education and outreach and partnership building. He was involved in the innovative program to manage fishery production in freshwater zones of the reserve that has seen Mai Po become an important non-breeding site for the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill. Today, Mai Po is a vibrant testament to Lew’s early work, bustling not only with the thousands of migratory waterbirds that make it home, but also the visiting parties of schoolchildren learning about the value of wetlands for the first time, birdwatchers hoping to catch a glimpse of the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper and the delegations from many countries that come to Mai Po to understand how to manage a reserve in an urban setting. While at Mai Po, Lew also supported the establishment of Wetland Link International – Asia in 2006, a network promoting greater communication and cooperation among wetland education centres across Asia, and the creation of the Asia Waterbird Conservation Fund (AWCF) in 2005, a small grant fund to protect wetlands for migratory waterbirds. Despite his busy schedule in later years, Lew always took time to provide feedback and advice to AWCF on applicant proposals.

Lew then joined the Ramsar Secretariat in 2008 as a senior regional advisor for Asia and Oceania. For ten years Lew was advising on and supporting the strategic development and effective implementation of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Lew’s work for the Ramsar Secretariat provided support and advice to the 33 contracting parties in Asia and eight in Oceania. He advised on the identification, designation and management of Ramsar sites in the region, represented Ramsar at regional and international meetings and supported Ramsar Regional Initiatives, notably, in Asia, EAAFP and the Ramsar Regional Center for East Asia. He has been involved in many training and capacity-building initiatives, focusing on community-based involvement in management, tracking management effectiveness and integrating disaster risk reduction into wetland policy and management, among other subjects. During this time, Lew developed excellent relationships with government representatives responsible for wetland management, as well as NGO partners, scientists and conservationists and his diplomatic skills allied to determination and attention to detail garnered wide respect.

The professional and personal network that Lew established in Asia while at Ramsar held him in good stead as he undertook his last post as Chief Executive of the East Asian – Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) which fosters international collaboration to protect migratory waterbirds, their habitats and livelihoods of people dependent upon them. With his leadership and expertise, he quickly assumed the role of communicating and coordinating many projects and programs with the 37 official Partners from government and non-government organisations, as well as collaborators and stakeholders. During his term, the 10th Meeting of Partners was successfully organized in China, developed a new Strategic Plan for the next ten years, and DPR Korea also joined both the Ramsar Convention and Partnership. His last mission for EAAFP was to help bring together the different countries and partners to save the intertidal wetlands of the Yellow Sea, a critically important staging area for millions of migratory waterbirds. The work Lew pursued, the actions he took will carry on, inspired by his efforts, implemented by those who so admired him. Wetlands across the world will be safer as a result of Lew’s achievements.

Beyond Lew's career, his moral at home continuously showed a wholehearted passion for nature and the great outdoors. We will fondly remember the numerous hiking trips to the Swiss Alps, or Korean and Hong Kong countryside on the weekends and school holidays; there was never a mountain too small or too large that we could not climb together. Tracking out the birdcalls and sightings, there was always a spot of wisdom to be shared and a photo to be taken to document the experience. He never settled with our favoured hikes but always looked and planned towards discovering new paths and trails that truly captured our time spent together. In addition, Lew would regularly enjoy sporting activities such as cycling around Lac Léman and coaching the Hong Kong Flying Kukris rugby teams with his children. His profound devotion for spending time with his family amongst career commitments is something we will hold dearly to our hearts.

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Lew Young on the 5th of March 2019, at the age of 60 years old. Lew will forever be remembered with love by his family – his wife, Deborah Cha, his daughter, Naomi, and his son, Cennydd. Asia’s wetlands have too lost a passionate champion, and the conservation community lost a dedicated colleague and genuine friend. Lew was generous with his time, his advice and his support to anyone who cared about saving wetlands. His advice was so valued because he knew what it took to manage a wetland, for all its diverse benefits, for building a strong constituency for wetland conservation at all levels and for bringing together people of diverse skills and backgrounds in partnerships for site management. His passion was for involving local communities, helping them to explore opportunities to use wetlands in a sustainable and beneficial way and then passing these experiences on to others, through education and exchange. Lew’s thoughtfulness, his considered opinions, his sage advice won him many admirers, but more than that his evident passion was an inspiration to many people, a mentor to others and a friend to many more. He will be missed indeed, but his legacy is assured, in the many wetlands he helped protect and the many colleagues and friends who continue his work. 

This memorial website is created in his loving memory. We would gladly receive photos and graciously read through any stories or tributes you may want to share, so do feel free to post them here on his memorial website.

Obituaries and articles online:

  • Ming Pao Hong Kong, 6th March 2019 - Read Here.
  • Birds Korea, 6th March 2019 - Read Here.
  • Ramsar Convention, 6th March 2019 - Read Here.
  • World Wetland Network, 6th March 2019 - Read Here.
  • South China Morning Post, 7th March 2019 - Read Here.
  • Apple Daily Hong Kong, 7th March 2019 - Read Here.
  • Hanns Seidel Foundation, 8th March 2019 - Read Here.
  • International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 11th March 2019 - Read Here.
  • Bird Life International, 15th March 2019 - Read Here.
  • East Asian-Australian Flyway Partnership, 26th March 2019 - Read Here.

Posted by Choony Kim on March 11, 2019
Whenever we ask his help on wise use of wetlands, he always came to us and wonderfully guided us. His devotion can be found at many places such as Suncheon bay, Junam reservoir, Nakdong river, and Hwaseong wetlands, Hwapo wetlands and more.
Our project is to conserve hwaseong wetlands that he has recently focused on with KFEM. He tried to raise public awareness on importance of Hwaseong wetlands. 
We, Korean environmental ngos will never forget his devotion and dediction for conserving wetlands. Hard to believe he will not be at the wetlands with us anymore. We, however believe his spirit will be forever.
Posted by AMBI AMBI on March 11, 2019
It is with deep sadness that the Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative has learned of the passing of Dr. Lew Young.
Dr. Young was a passionate supporter of migratory bird conservation in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. AMBI enjoyed his dedication, enthusiasm and efforts to conserve some of the world's most beloved species. We know that Dr. Young will be missed by all of our partners. His passing is a major loss for the conservation community.
We would like to add our voices to those from around the globe and wish his friends, family and the entire East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership network our condolences at this difficult time.
Courtney Price
On behalf of the AMBI Steering Group
Posted by Ellen Shek on March 11, 2019
I will always remember how much you taught me by what you said and what you did when I just started my work life in conservation field 22 years ago.
Thank you for brought me to join the BBR, field visits in NWNT / border, shown me how to ride mud scooter in Deep Bay, gave me chances to give presentations in other countries on wetland education, gave me insights in doing my MSc project....
Thank you for everything and glad to work with and learn from you.
Posted by Priscilla Choy on March 11, 2019
Dear Deborah and family,
I send my heartfelt condolences to you and your family. Words can’t express how saddened we are to hear of your loss. Although I haven’t met Lew before, but believe he will be remembered forever for his passion and dedication in conservation. Wishing you and your family peace and strength during this difficult time.
Posted by Martin Spray on March 11, 2019
To Mrs Young and family. I met Lew first at Mai Po 13 years ago and then worked him at various meetings and conferences during his time with the Ramsar Convention and recently with the East Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership. I am deeply saddened by his passing. The world of wetland conservation has lost a great and dedicated ambassador and champion. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to know Lew. My thoughts are with you all..
Posted by Yus Noor on March 11, 2019
Dear Mrs Young and family,
I send my heartfelt condolences to you and your family. I started to know him in 1992 when visited Mai Po, and then continued on various working cooperations, including on Ramsar and EAAFP issues.
His works and legacy on wetlands and waterbirds conservation are countless.
Sincerely yours,
Yus Rusila Noor
Wetlands International Indonesia
Posted by David Lawrie on March 11, 2019
I first met Lew at Mai Po in the late 1980s when he was a student, and he showed me around this amazing place, I latter met him again at the meetings of the EAAFP where he was a delegate for Ramsar and I was a delegate for the Pukorokoro Miranda Naturalists Trust, and we often sat together, and shared experiences as we shared similar outlooks, and I was delighted when he became chief executive and the changes he was implementing were already taking hold, the challenge for the rest of us is to maintain the momentum he created
Posted by Yimo Zhang on March 11, 2019
I have been working in wetland for more than ten years. Lew's achievements like Mai Po, insights in Ramsar and leadership in EAAFP has always been a guidance and model for me. He is a very good listener and always gives constructive feedback. He is humble and gentle. I will remember him and carry on his spirit for my future career and life.
Posted by David Li on March 11, 2019
I first met Lew in 1998 in Shanghai during the first Shorebird Working Group meeting, he was the manager of Hong Kong Mai Po Wetland Reserve at that time. After that we have met many times at the shorebird meetings, he served as the Chairman from 2001-2005 for the shorebird working group. As we often have a good drink and walk a lot every time when we meet, we made a joke and call our group as "Drinking for Shorebird Walking Group". I was very glad to hear he took the role as the Chief of the EAAF Partnership Secretariat last year from his former post as the senior Adviser of Ramsar Convention in Asia. While we met in Hainan in December during the EAAF MOP10th meeting we had a brief discussion on the shorebird conservation issues, Lew has given his promise to strongly support the Shorebird Working Group activities. Lew’s pass away is such a great loss to the migratory waterbird conservation in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, may his soul rest in peace!
Posted by Cheng Zhang on March 11, 2019
Dr. Lew Young was a great conservationist, a smart gentleman, a kind guide for younger professionals. It was my honor to have worked with him on various occasions related to wetlands. We shall continue to work to make a better world, in this way, he will forever be missed and remembered.
Posted by Alison Russell-French on March 11, 2019
To Lew's wife and family
I knew Lew for over 25 years through his time with the Shorebird Working Group of the Migratory Waterbird Conservation Committee, through his time in the Ramsar Bureau when I worked in the Australian Government Department of the Environment on wetlands and Ramsar-related matters, and most recently with the EAAFP. Lew's dedication to conservation, his thoroughly professional approach to all he did, his wonderful way of dealing with people and the passion he brought to all he did set a great example for all. He will be sadly missed bit will live on in our memories. My heartfelt condolences are with you on his loss but rest assured that Lew will always be a special person for those who knew and valued him.
Posted by Prahlad Thapa on March 11, 2019
Dr. Lew Young was in Nepal on 2 February 2016 during the declaration of the Lake Clusters of Pokhara Valley as the 10th Ramsar Site of Nepal. With his inspiration, we developed the management plan of Lake Clusters of Pokhara Valley in 2017. As these memories are still fresh, we are profoundly shocked by hearing his passing away, which is a huge loss to the conservation sector. We pray for the eternal peace of the departed soul and would like to express our heartfelt condolence to his bereaved family.
Posted by Godfrey Jakosalem on March 11, 2019
Our sincere condolences to the EAAFP family and Dr. Lew's family.
We are saddened to hear that Dr. Lew Young passed away while attending the Yellow Sea Working Group meeting. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and his family. Thank you for helping us in making Negros Occidental Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area as the latest Ramsar Site and 4th East Asian Australasian Flyway Network. He always value the importance in engaging the communities in the conservation of wetlands. In his last two visit in Negros he requested to met with communities and talk to them about the importance on protected the wetlands to waterbirds their livelihood.
It was truly a pleasure working with you.

Thank you Lew
PhilBio Team
Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc.
Posted by Zhiting Xu on March 10, 2019
Still remember the very last time when I had the honour to visit Mai Po as a member of WWF Wuhan office - that memory will be carried on going forward. Very impressed with what Mai Po had accomplished by then such as having in place the best practice of wetlands management as well as a range of education and awareness programmes for people including inland wetland guardians like us. I firmly believe your legacy will be remembered forever!
Posted by Raphaël Glémet on March 10, 2019
Dear Mrs Young and family,
I send my heartfelt condolences to you and your family. The conservation community lost a guide and a mentor and I also lost a friend, a dear friend.
I met Lew eight years ago, and since then we kept working closely together, talking at least once a week. He always believed in me and despite his always busy schedule always found time to help, to discuss, to listen and to provide guidance and assistance. Lew was always ready to innovate and to initiate new pathways for wetland conservation.  It is in great part thanks to him that a number of the initiatives I work on have seen the light of day.
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 and something I admire him for and which inspires me. 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.
I was there during the tragic events. During this last mission, Lew was as active as always and pursuing a suite of new initiatives, he delivered the last presentation of the day with his usual energy and enthusiasm. I can still hear his voice, 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 loved so much.
Lew is irreplaceable, and my pain and sadness are immense today. His work will continue to guide and inspire me for many years to come and I will never forget him. I will do everything in my power to complete his work in Mundok Ramsar site, which he loved so much, in his memory and as a thanks for everything he gave us.
I wish you and your family to remain strong and to find a way to heal the pain, again all my condolences from the bottom of my heart.
Raphaël Glémet
Posted by Graham Reels on March 10, 2019
Lew was a good friend for thirty years. I am profoundly shocked and saddened by his passing, and will remember him with great fondness for the rest of my life. My thoughts are with Deborah, Omi and Cenny.
Posted by Terry Townshend on March 10, 2019
I knew Lew for only a short time, since he took over as Chief of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership, but I feel fortunate to have known this giant of conservation at all. From our first contact, he demonstrated a rare combination of wisdom, passion and dedication to the natural world and, at the same time, a wonderful generosity to give everyone his time and focus, whether he was meeting with a minister, an ambassador, an intern or students at a school. He made a huge difference in his short time at EAAFP - bringing in DPRK to the EAAFP family was a towering demonstration of his belief that conservation is above politics and borders. I am desperately sad that he is no longer with us but I know that the wonderful secretariat he led, and his colleagues and many many friends along the Flyway and around the world, will redouble their efforts to deliver Lew's vision, a vision that provides safe haven for millions of waterbirds and, importantly, that benefits people, too, ensuring this shared natural heritage can be appreciated and enjoyed for generations to come. My thoughts are with Deborah, Naomi, Cennyd and everyone who held him dear. RIP Lew.
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Recent Tributes
Posted by Kasia Nikraszewicz on December 27, 2020
I will always consider it a great honour and privilege to have met Lew. During my time at the Ramsar Secretariat he was an inspirational conservationist but above all, a fantastic colleague with a great sense of humour who was never too busy to answer a question and provide some advice to his younger and less experienced colleagues. I have many fond memories of Lew, eating lunch together, chatting about wetlands and seeing him working in his office but above all I remember him smiling, there was always a reason.
Posted by Sadegh Sadeghi Zadegan on April 9, 2019
He was my old friend. Still, I can't believe his migration. Here is his last message to me, on 15th February, which I look to that, frequently:
<< OK, thank you.... l still have fond memories of working with you and hope we can work together again some time. Best, Lew>>
Posted by Vivian Fu on April 9, 2019
Sending on behalf of Dr. Peter Fisher of The Trans National Birds Group Melbourne:
At our recent Trans National Birds (TNB) working group meeting members expressed their great sadness to learn of the passing of Lew (Young). He was a wonderful supporter, advocate and mentor for the TNB concept. Nothing was too much trouble in his support of the cause as demonstrated by his ready canvassing for, and subsequent publication of, articles on the partnership website. An inestimable loss for our wetlands and conservation.
his Life

Two Year Anniversary of Lew's Passing

Another year has come and gone without Lew, dad, as a part of our daily lives. With the global COVID-19 health crisis still waging on and our family spending more time together than ever while staying at home during the pandemic, it's easy to see the physical gap he's left in our lives.

This year, we would like to share two photos from Lew's travels from 1995 with Deborah, through the Gilgit-Baltistan region of the Karakoram mountain range during their honeymoon. We've spent the time through lockdown and the pandemic going through Lew's old negative slides from the 1980s onwards, to track and immortalise his life and achievements through his photography and documentation. While the world has stopped and travelling rendered impossible for most, Lew's dedication to capturing the world's sights has us happily imagining his travels as if we were out exploring with him too. It's the little joys such as these which keep the memory of his wanderlust, curious, and playful demeanour close to us now, even two years since his passing.

We look forward to sharing more of Lew's photos of his travels around the world with you soon, and to bring the memory of him closer to us all. He is missed dearly, and moreso with every passing day.

One Year Anniversary to Lew's Passing

Time has flown by, and we can't believe that it is already a year since Lew's passing. The last 12 months has seemed more turbulent than most, with countless natural and man-made disasters. From the meteorological catastrophes around the world, ongoing civil wars, humanitarian challenges such as the refugee crisis and the outbreak of COVID-19, all these have taken so many peoples' lives in a blink. With our personal experience in suddenly loosing a family member, we feel more sentimental upon reading these accounts. We are still adjusting the loss of his physical presence in our life. To this day, it's easy to believe he's out on a long business trip somewhere in the wide world, as he would be doing if he were still here. We miss him dearly, with all our hearts. We include a photo of a happy family memory; Cenny's graduation in 2018 which we spent time together back home in Switzerland. We remember all the times we've had together, and reuniting together after time spent apart, from either being at university or working in Korea.
In the past months, we have become aware of previous colleagues and friends of Lew who have been working earnestly towards the completion of the To Do List he left behind. We also recognise others who have used various way to honour his dedicated contribution in the area of wetland conservation. This has included setting up awards or funds under his name to further world wide conservational efforts. This is apparent through the WWF Dr. Lew Young Grant, launched around 2 weeks ago. We hope Lew's life-long contributions in the field of wetland conservation may continue inspiring those who are in the same field.

Lew's Ramsar Career and Legacy: 5 Months On.

As we remember Lew 5 months on, we would like to use the day to highlight his conservation legacy at Ramsar and the number of Ramsar-designated Wetland Sites of Importance during his 10 years of work. His work took him to far corners of the world, and today we recognise the breadth of work and contribution he made to wetlands around the world alongside his colleagues and friends.

From June 2008 till March 2018, Lew's primary role of the Senior Regional Advisor to Asia/Oceania involved the identification, designation, and management of Ramsar sites in the region. A total of 117 Wetland sites were set up in Asia/Oceania, to cover 94164.2km². These were set up in a total of 30 countries; Australia (2) Bhutan (3), Cambodia (1), China (21), Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (2), Fiji (1), India (1), Indonesia (4), Iran (3), Iraq (3), Japan (16), Jordan (1), Kazakhstan (8), Kiribati (1), Kuwait (1), Kyrgyzstan (1), Laos (2), Malaysia (2), Marshall Islands (1), Myanmar (3), Nepal (2), Oman (1), Philippines (2), Republic of Korea (14), Samoa (1), Sri Lanka (4), Thailand (2), United Arab Emirates (6), Uzbekistan (1), and Vietnam (7). 

During his 10 years, he also oversaw 7 new contracting parties to join Ramsar from Asia and Oceania. These included Turkmenistan, Lao Peoples' Democratic Republic, Bhutan, Oman, Kiribati, Kuwait, and the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea.

You can read a summary of the sites here.
Recent stories

The Lew Young Memorial Fellowship, World Wetlands Day 2021

Shared by Naomi Young on March 31, 2021
The Lew Young Memorial Fellowship was launched by the South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE) in Kolkata on World Wetlands Day 2021, as a tribute and salutation to Lew's contributions towards the conservation of globally important wetlands worldwide. We sincerely thank the Forum for their commemoration and launch, in memory of Lew.
Shared by Cha Ronnie on March 7, 2021

Remembering Lew: Birthday and the WWF Mai Po Memorial Bench

Shared by Naomi Young on November 15, 2020
On the 15th of November, we celebrate the passing of Lew's birthday as we would have done if he were here with us today. No doubt he would have enjoyed his day today here in Switzerland perhaps with a spot of biking or walk, as the sun shines brightly over the lake and Alps. There's not a day that passes where he is not remembered, however we take the day today to especially think back on the love and time we've shared.

It is with great fondness that we can also unveil Lew's memorial bench at the Mai Po Nature Reserve today, after working alongside the team at WWF-HK to set it up. Looking out over the reedbeds and gei wai, we hope that this is a place that can be enjoyed by the many visitors to the Reserve, and by ourselves when find ourselves back in Hong Kong.

We would like to thank Peter Cornthwaite (CEO, WWF-HK) for matching the sum of our donation for the creation of the memorial bench and it's commemorative plaque. We would also like to thank Xianji Wen and Wing Ng in their gracious help concerning the organisation, preparation and installation of the memorial bench at the Mai Po Nature Reserve.

Happy birthday Lew, Dad.