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.

​Lew beyond Work: Rowing

We would like to share some special memories of Lew with you all, the active side of him outside his work hours. When he was young, he loved to play rugby throughout his secondary school time. He then moved on to join rowing after he was at university, participating in the Leeds University teams throughout his undergraduate years. Stretches of river for rowing were hard to come by after Leeds, and so he explored volunteering or full-time jobs.

Lew beyond Work: Rugby.

When Naomi and Cennydd were around 5 and 4 years old respectively, we found the Flying Kukris Rugby team not far from Mai Po. Lew encouraged them to foster a love for a sport that he too enjoyed in his childhood. He joined the children beyond the bleachers, and helped to coach the teams from 2004 onwards. He was regularly involved every Sunday morning to pack us all up in the car and to perfect touch rugby tactics on the field. We maintained this regular Sunday tradition even after Lew left for Switzerland in 2008. We have all missed the sport dearly, and especially for Lew and the opportunity to coach younger children and enjoy the sport together. 

Lew beyond Work: Cycling.

Another activity he enjoyed throughout his life was cycling. Beyond walking, his preferred method of commuting to work was by bike. Wherever we moved, a bicycle was one of the first investments made, if his bikes were not brought with him. When he worked at Mai Po, Gland and then Song-do, he cycled to work most days except during very bad weather. It was tricky for Lew to explore Hong Kong by bike, due to heavy congestion and urban density, and so cycling was limited to exploration in and around Mai Po. The two-fold opportunity presented itself when the vacancy at Ramsar opened, and Lew could explore Switzerland’s great outdoors while pursuing his next career. It wasn’t long after he had moved to Switzerland that he established a routine of enjoying a morning cycle on weekends up to the vineyards and the Jura. Nothing was better for Lew than to plan and explore the hidden trails in the mountain forests for few hours. Lew would treat himself to a 1-2 day cycling trip around Lake Leman during the summer holidays, and to enjoy the sweeping landscapes of the snow-capped Alps. When his move to Song-do rolled around, we helped him bring his trusty mountain bike along with us on the plane when we visited him for the first time. He joined the Songdo Cycling Group soon after to have weekly cycling trips on the weekend with a little group of cycling-enthusiasts. Routinely, we would receive photos and detailed maps of his route soon after, as he regaled his latest trip.

Lew beyond Work: Hiking.

Lew was a true explorer. An outsider would think he was a cartographer in the making with the numerous maps, travel guides, and hiking guides on the bookshelves. Lew made sure to plan exciting new travels and routes for our family outings on his free time, especially with Swiss Alps before our very eyes. We may delve into our digital photo album and find an extensive number of folders dedicated to our family hikes around Switzerland. Hiking was not only a way to (literally) tackle mountains and hills together as a family, but also ways to unwind from professional commitments in his free time. To that, we will hold deeply these intimate family moments and will truly treasure them as we continue to explore the world’s wonders. We could not have cultivated this passion for the outdoors without him.

A thank you from the family.

Dear colleagues and friends of Lew, 

Please accept our sincere belated thank you for all of your kind condolences, help and support during our difficult time. To share a good piece of memory of Lew, we have used one of his photos taken not long before his passing to produce a card for you all. Please feel free to download and print out if you like.

From, Deborah, Naomi and Cennydd.

(Click the image to expand)

Memorial Service Speeches by the Young Family

Tribute by Carol Young (2nd eldest sister to Lew).

On behalf of my family I must thank everyone who have contributed towards this website. It is very humbling to read all the glowing tributes paid to Llewellyn and to discover what a leading conservationist he was in his short time with us. He probably would be in awe as well as he would have considered his work as just another day in the office.

What was Lew like as a child. Well, he was a chubby 10lb baby, which in those days was a big baby. The first time grandad saw him, he gave Lew the nickname PORKY, and he was always known as porky to grandad. Lucky for Lew this name didn't stick with the rest of the family. Well he grew up with a very healthy appetite, the mound of meat and rice on his plate was awesome. He also had a very sweet tooth, there's always a tub of ice cream in the fridge, and as a treat mum would have a stash of Ben & Jerry in during his visits to the UK. And his love for bacon and double fried eggs for breakfast, everyday that is, to the point where mum thought it unhealthy for him and tried to put a stop to it. Lew just cried when told this, so eggs and bacon was back on the menu.

I'd say Llewellyn was someone who's indecisive. I remember whenever dad took us to the toy shop Lew would always be in a tiss, going up and down the aisle, because he couldn't make up his mind what to chose, there being many items that he wanted. Dad would finally suggest a few things, but on reaching home he'd always complain that that wasn't what he really wanted. This trait seemed to have carried on when deciding on a career path. As you all know he was well into his third decade before he finally earned a salary. That doesn't mean he never worked, but always in a volunteering capacity, especially in the developing countries. That was what he enjoyed doing, seeing the world and doing good at the same time. 

Once, inbetween one of his working holidays, he needed money quickly to fund his next venture, so I found him a job as a hospital porter, with overtime he could have earned himself a nice tidy sum in a short time. But he turned the job down when offered saying that the other interviewee needed the job more than he did. That's the sort of guy that Lew was, always thinking of others.

Llewelyn was a prolific reader, lover of music and collector or rather a hoarder. There's 9 years worth of MME magazines in a trunk in mum's garage gathering dust. He said the magazines would increase in value over the years, then he would make his million by re-selling them and retire one day.

He was a very humble person and never boasted or spoke much about his work to the extent that although I knew he managed the wetland centres in the far east, I had no idea of his status as a leading conservationist in his field of work. 
It wasn't until I started reading all the tributes paid to him by his colleagues and friend that I gained an insight into his world and saw the importances of his work and the part he played towards the promotion and preservation of wildlife by building up this international network of like-minded people with the same goal.

I believe that we should not mourn him but instead celebrate his life. For his contributions and tireless efforts in acheiving so much in such a short career. And hopefully what he had started will continue on and this will be his lasting legacy to society.

I am proud to call him my brother.


Tribute by Deborah Cha (Wife to Lew).

It is a great sadness that we have to accept the truth of the sudden loss of Lew from our lives. For us, we still cannot believe that we cannot see and talk to him anymore.

Lew was a beloved son, father, husband, brother, uncle, friend and colleague. It was my honor to be his wife and to share nearly 30 years of life with him. During all those years, I never heard him complain about the heavy workload resting on him; no matter while he was working with WWF at Hong Kong, Ramsar Secretariat at Switzerland or EAAFP Secretariat at Korea. Instead, he was dedicated and full of passion to his job. He kept initiating new ideas and projects to expand his responsibilities. He usually worked until late at night trying his best to catch up with the never ending tasks.

During his work with Ramsar, he needed to travel very frequent with long haul flights. To make good use of his time, the transition halls at the airports, onboard of his flights and hotel rooms all became his all temporary offices. Once he sat down, put on his headphones with the music on, and he would then concentrate on his work again. Over the years, he had lost count of the number of coastal wetlands and birding sites he had visited, his overflow of mileages with different airlines, and his footprints at many different coastal sites distributed around central Asia, Asia and Oceania. However, no matter how busy he was, he would still ensure to spare some weekends with the family. As shared by Naomi and Cennydd, we had spent lots of happy and memorable time together to explore the beauty of Hong Kong, Switzerland and Korea.

Although he was only 60, he had achieved so much and made great influence on the area of wetland conservation and the protection of migratory birds. We are gathered here today to celebrate his treasured life with all those he held dear.

Here I would like to use this chance to especially acknowledge the great help and support from all staffs of EAAFP Secretariat at Republic of Korea, EAAFP Science Unit at Beijing, WWFHK, IUCN, Korean Government and friends. They had help me on various ways from the time I stepped out the Beijing Airport after midnight of 5th of March until now. They helped to organize the Farewell Ceremony at Beijing, the first Memorial Service at Island House, Hong Kong and the final Memorial Service at Songdo G-Tower, Republic of Korea. Without their help, we would not know where to begin in at Beijing, and how to deal with all the paperwork in order to have Lew's ashes sending back to Hong Kong within short time.

There is still a long journey ahead of us but knowing that he has had three dignified and honorable services respectively at Beijing, Hong Kong and Republic of Korea is something we will treasure forever. This would not have been possible without everyone who participated and joined the services, and everyone from the organizations l have mentioned. I would like to represent Lew's family and relatives to send our great and sincere thank you to all of you.

We would love to have you sharing your stories and photos with us on what you had done with Lew during his successful life on the memorial website. We wish for everyone around the world, and ourselves, to be able to trace Lew's legacy around the world during his life. Thank you very much.


Tribute by Naomi and Cennydd Young (Daughter and son to Lew).

Before we begin, both Cenny and I would like to thank the profound help provided by the numerous colleagues and friends. From the moment our mum arrived in Beijing, she’s received so much assistance from EAAFP, and equally to help get us safely to mum’s side to be with her, and to be together within 24hrs. 

Dad’s love for the outdoors and being active was his favored way of spending free time, and especially with us. There was never a weekend where you didn’t see him either on his bike or out on a walk. Dad’s spirit of adventure got us through several tough times, whether this be wondering around...and getting lost in the lake district or under-anticipating those “two-hour walks” which ended up being much longer. Despite this, he showed us the roots of his passions of why he believed the environment was so worth protecting for all the beauties it held and why he valued his work in the field of conservation so much. We will always treasure these values that he shared with us whenever he had the extra time. 

(Cennydd) Personally, Dad taught me the necessary skills to go out and be an independent thinker and person, being a timeless role model for all. At a young age, I was taught to be thrifty, to save where I could and work hard to gain what I wanted. When helping me with homework, he never gave me the answers, only guiding me on the right path that would allow me to find them. There naturally came a point where he would limit the time helping me with my work, treat me as a young adult and stop holding my hand, giving me the space to grow as a person. There were moments where I wished he had been there for me but now I know he was always there because of the lessons that he taught me and will always be there for how I will continue to act. Dad showed his affection, not through words but his actions, allowing me to personally develop, which is why he will always be remembered. 

(Naomi) So beyond dad's career, his influence on Cenny and I is something we’ve known for all our lives from childhood. From a young age, he would engage us with nature’s wonders - prompting us to make our own judgments about mother earth. It wasn’t until year 10 (when I was around 15 years old) that I realized my geography classes were the pathway to follow in dad’s journey to help protect and maintain our planet’s diverse ecosystems. Fast forward 6 years and I am in my last year of my undergraduate degree in BSc Geography, and safe to say I’ve chosen all my modules in the direction of environmental policy and governance in his footsteps. His continuous support and wisdom was something I was delighted to share in, with every lecture prompting another exciting Skype call with dad talking about all I’d discovered and learnt. 

Dad’s unrelenting passion and goodwill for ecological issues is unparalleled, and will continue to provide inspiration to me and Cenny alike. His encouraging support, his kindness, and his wisdom has touched us all at many points in our lives. Through us all - friends and family - we should allow his legacy to endure and remain as we all remember him forever. Thank you.

Hong Kong Memorial Service Speeches (12th March 2019).

Tribute by Professor David Dudgeon (PhD Supervisor to Lew).

Lew Young, who I met initially in 1988, was my first PhD student at Hong Kong University.I was certainly fortunate in that regard.The original arrangement was that Lew would be co-supervised by Brian Morton and myself but, based on his extensive supervisory experience, Brain wisely decided that Lew was sufficiently capable to be left to his own devices. He had, after all, spent a period of voluntary service overseas – in Sierra Leone – and researched East Asian pheasants before joining HKU as a PhD student.Lacking Brian’s insight, I wanted to be a little more involved with Lew’s work, which concerned the ecology of ardeids (egrets and herons) - principally the Chinese pond heron - in and around the Mai Po marshes at Deep Bay, which was then – as now - managed by WWF (HK).

One of the first objectives of the study was to figure out just how many of the birds present at Mai Po.This was more difficult than it would at first seem since the birds would spend part of their time foraging on the Deep Bay mudflats or elsewhere in the vicinity, and part of their day inside the reserve where they would roost or feed around the shrimp ponds (gei wai).So counts made in the reserve fluctuated according to whether the tide was high, when the mudflats were inundated, or low, when the mudflats were exposed.Accurate counts of ardeids therefore depended on tidal conditions, which involved Lew visiting a sequence of census points in the reserve at consistent tidal stages in order to collect comparable data.Since the exact timing of tides varies throughout the year, the counts had to vary accordingly, being made at various times between dawn and dusk, requiring Lew to bicycle rapidly from place to place on the Reserve so as to collect the data he needed.Matters were complicated further by the fact that some of the birds on the Reserve were residents, and others were migrants, so the total population size varied a lot during the year.As can be imagined, Lew spent a lot of time outdoors and, with all that bicycling, he was very fit. During our occasional meetings to discuss his progress, I would blithely suggest that he should add an extra set of counts or census points to his monthly routine without thinking much about how much extra work would be involved, but Lew never complained and was always upbeat about his research.He had a ready laugh – perhaps more of a guffaw – and his presence in a group always contributed to a lightening of the mood.Lew was serious about his research, but he did not confuse that with being ‘serious’ as a person.

Back to Lew’s PhD.In addition to the need for regular (some might say incessant) counts of ardeids, Lew had to observe where the birds were feeding, and how they went about it so as to figure out what they were eating and how much of it they were able to catch.This was quantified by recording how often the birds struck at food as they stalked through shallow water (thereby generating a peck: step ratio), noting whether the strike resulted in a capture, and then estimating the size of the food item (usually a fish or shrimp) from its body length relative to that of the bird’s beak.Many, many hours were spent on such observations.Things became busier still for Lew during the breeding season when he would visit nests in colonies (mainly at the Mai Po and Tsim Bei Tsui egretries) to check on the hatching success of eggs and subsequent growth of the chicks.During these regular visits he also wanted to find what the parents had fed their chicks.This was possible because, as a defense mechanism against potential predators, the nestlings would regurgitate their last meal over any intruder.If he succeeded in dodging the partly-digested offering, Lew could collect what the nestling had eaten and identify it back in the lab.I was able to help out with that since I was familiar with the various aquatic fauna that adult pond herons might choose to feed their nestlings.However, we were both surprised by the sheer variety of items offered: as well as a range of fishes, shrimps and crabs, they included dragonflies, crickets, household cockroaches, earwigs, tadpoles, frogs, and shrews.

On one memorable occasion, while hunched over the microscope examining a sample, Lew exclaimed that the nestlings had seemingly been fed worms by their parents.This was odd since pond herons are not known to eat worms, and it would have been difficult for adult birds to collect enough of them to provide their nestlings with a decent meal.But sure enough, the sample in the petri dish, which came from Mai Po egretry, contained large quantities of pale worm-like stuff.However, the ‘worms’ lacked the segmentation that is typical of aquatic forms.Nor were they intestinal parasites, which are often unsegmented.Not long after, the mystery was solved when Lew told me he had seen egrets and pond herons skulking around the refuse piles at Mai Po village, where they seemed to have developed a fondness for instant pot noodles! (That observation may also help to account for the many household cockroaches fed to nestlings.)

By 1992 Lew’s field work was wrapped up, and he gained a well-deserved PhD in 1993.It is a shock to realise that was over a quarter of a century ago.Shortly after, Lew became the second manager of Mai Po (succeeding David Melville), shepherding the transition of the Mai Po reserve to a Ramsar site in 1995, and subsequently continuing his work on wetland birds and their conservation outside Hong Kong, remaining devoted to that endeavour until his untimely death.While I can certainly claim no credit for Lew’s success as a researcher and conservationist, I am nonetheless proud to have been able to share a small part of his career.He and I interacted closely for several years after his PhD, because I was a member of the WWF Mai Po Management and Development Committee when Lew was reserve manager. He remains in my thoughts even now, as I currently chair the MPMDC and, in formulating a new five-year management plan for the reserve, members are building upon foundations and monitoring programmes established by Lew during the 1990s.

Suffice to say: in no small way, Lew was one of Hong Kong’s conservation champions.And one of the very best of us.


Tribute by David Melville (PhD Supervisor to Lew).

I first met Lew when he came to see me in the late 1980s – he was interested in doing a PhD on birds. Before coming to Hong Kong he had worked on Cheer Pheasants in Pakistan and Cabot’s Tragopan in South China. Hong Kong offered little in the way of pheasants – Ring-necked Pheasants having disappeared by the early 1900s and the only introduction project, for Bamboo Partridge in 1961, having failed. We needed to think of something else.

Mai Po beckoned with its various egrets and herons, in particular the Chinese Pond Heron - a species that was virtually unstudied. There followed a frantic three years of exhausting field work carried out proficiently and with the good humour that we all came to associate with Lew. I remember one day we borrowed a fire engine with an extending ladder so Lew could look at heron nests in the tops of tall bamboos at Mai Po Village egrety.

Lew concluded his thesis with the following:

Ardeids around the Mai Po Marshes depend upon a diversity of wetland feeding habitats – especially fish ponds. Such habitats are, however, being filled in as this rural area is developed. If this trend continues, ardeid populations could decline. It is important to formulate management strategies for the remaining wetland habitats around Mai Po so as to increase their carrying capacity for wildlife.

And so the scene was set for the rest of Lew’s career. No more pheasants – it was wetlands and waterbirds!

Lew took over as manager of Mai Po for WWF Hong Kong in 1991 and worked determinedly to better manage wetland habitats, improve visitor facilities, promote the education and outreach programmes and establish a robust monitoring programme. Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay was listed as a Ramsar Site in 1995, but pressure for development of the remaining wetland areas in the lowland New Territories, and in particular the fish ponds around Mai Po, was increasing.

Lew recognised the importance of involving local communities in conservation. One of his papers on Cheer Pheasants in Pakistan noted the paradox that protecting forests from human activities actually resulted in a reduction in habitat suitable for pheasants.

Lew held a similar view regarding management of Deep Bay’s fish ponds – without some form of management their biodiversity values declined, but an ageing population meant that there were fewer people to manage the ponds. Sustaining the biodiversity values of fish ponds occupied much of Lew’s time – in particular developing relationships with local fishermen, and exploring options for possible future wetland management with both government and the private sector.

Lew left Hong Kong in 2008 to work at the Ramsar secretariat as Senior Regional Advisor for Asia and Oceania. During his ten years at Ramsar our paths crossed occasionally, but not as often as I would have liked.Nonetheless he maintained an interest in Mai Po – for example, participating in a multi-party stakeholder workshop in 2016 to discuss possible options for future management of the Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site – a continuing cause for concern both locally and to the Convention Secretariat.

In March last year Lew moved to South Korea as CEO of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership – completing another circle in that he had previously, whilst still at Mai Po, Chaired the Shorebird Working Group of the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Committee – a forerunner of the Flyway Partnership.

A New Zealand colleague, Bruce McKinlay, who participated in the Flyway Meeting of the Parties in Hainan last December commented on Lew’s qualities as a leader of his staff at the Secretariat, as a leader in the chair of the MOP, and as a leader behind the scenes building capacity of those around him. He noted that “Lew was always an open listener and gave even handed reasoned responses. His politeness was always on display”.

Last year the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea joined both the Ramsar Convention and the Flyway Partnership – Lew played an important role in supporting both of these. I was fortunate in 2017 to try to fill Lew’s shoes at a technical workshop in DPRK helping them prepare for accession to Ramsar – the high regard that they had for Lew was very apparent.

Lew started his wetland career here, in his student days, living at Island House. As my downstairs neighbour he was to be seen late at night writing up his earlier pheasant research, before heading off at dawn to start another day with the herons. Occasionally he allowed himself a break to come upstairs to use my library – and use this as an excuse to have a drink and a chat.

Throughout all of the incredible energy that Lew put into his professional work there was always a warm and generous person, with a smile and sense of humour. Lew we are immeasurably sad at your passing, but we thank you for your friendship, for your example, and for your selfless dedication to wetland and waterbird conservation that have had such wide-reaching benefits.

Our thoughts are with you, Deborah, Naomi and Cennydd.


Tribute by Michael Lau (WWF-HK colleague and friend to Lew).

We all gathered here today because of one very special person, Dr Lew Young. We are a diverse crowd. Some are his university mates who spent many joyful days together in nature, football pitch and pubs. Some sweated with Lew for years to provide a safe haven for migratory birds. Others had intense meetings together to chart the future of wetlands. Some came because the magical Mai Po had provided many exciting moments and memorable images. There are new friends who heard a lot about him but only met him recently. What is in common is that we all are privileged to have interacted with Lew and he had touched and even infected us with his sincerity, dedication, kindness, humor, and selfness caring for others. In a way we are better because of Lew.

Lew also made Mai Po, Deep Bay and many wetlands spread across the region better. We can see the success when taking a stroll in Mai Po or when captured by a flock of waders dancing over the approaching tide. This achievement was not accomplished by Lew alone, but with the crowd here and many more of Lew’s friends and colleagues who could not be with us today. Thank you, Lew, for forging this special bond and the noble example you set which will no doubt continue to guide us. Our hearts are with you, Deborah, Omi and Cennydd. 


Tribute by Yoon Lee (EAAFP Secretariat colleague and friend to Lew).

Mrs. Deborah Cha, Naomi and Cennydd, member of the Lew’s family, colleagues of WWF Hong Kong, distinguished guests and friends of Lew. My name is Yoon Lee, one of Lew’s colleagues at East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership in South Korea.

Today we say goodbye to Lew. He was a beloved husband, son, father, brother, friend, and colleague. I have worked with Lew since he joined the EAAFP as Chief Executive in March last year. He was a great boss to EAAFP staff, a respected conservationist around the world, and an inspirational mentor of many people. He selflessly placed others first always, showed genuine kindness and empathy whomever he meets. He used to leave his door open in the office so that people can feel comfortable to approach him and discuss any issues.

He was a great listener. He valued the voice of the local people, such as fishermen and farmers, especially those who are living surrounded by wetlands, birds, and the nature. He was a true conservationist from the bottom of his heart. And it touched many people’s heart.

Lew was a true humanist. Despite his leadership role in the EAAFP, Lew was a very humble person and would treat everyone equally with genuine respect for human being.

I still remember the times when all EAAFP staff members went birdwatching together. We went many beautiful places in Korea. Not only was he excited about watching birds, but he really tried to help young interns to enjoy bird watching. I would never forget his smiles over excitement when he was telling us about rare birds he found.

The EAAFP is very saddened to let him leave us. His footprint in EAAFP is tremendous in many ways from the beginning to the end. Although he is leaving, his will and commitment will be implemented continuously with the supports of Partners and friends around the world.

May God Bless Lew Young, and may he rest in eternal peace.


Tribute by Bena Smith (WWF-HK colleague and friend to Lew).

My deepest condolences to Deborah, Omi and Cenny. Lew was a friend, my mentor for the past 12 and half years. I miss him immensely. With his passing, we not only lost a conservation giant but a skilled and passionate educator.

I first met Lew after joining the Mai Po team in 2004. His passion and commitment to the conservation and protection of wetlands was clear from day one; his personal drive to achieve meaningful change not only in Deep Bay but around Asia was clear; his understanding of people and sensitivity to culture, his wonderful ability to communicate and educate people, diplomacy, profoundly struck me. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with Lew and learn so much from him. He had a hugely positive influence on my life, I am eternally grateful.

Lew influenced and touched many people’s lives through his work at Mai Po. He inspired and nurtured Hong Kong’s younger generation to care about and take action on the natural world. He enthused mangers to achieve high standards on their wetland sites in China. He gave the Hong Kong fish pond operators hope when their livelihoods were threatened and they felt powerless. Lew was always willing to pass on his knowledge and teach; patiently with passion. He knew how important Mai Po was to future generations.

He had great clarity on the issues around Deep Bay, knew what had to be done and importantly, made those things happen. Collaboration with Futian NNR across the Bay; pilot studies on fish ponds which led to the fish pond management agreements; holistic approach to wetland development in Deep Bay. He was always thinking ahead, planning and balancing people’s different viewpoints and the needs of nature. He experienced setbacks and faced innumerable barriers, but persisted and came back with fresh strategies. That was Lew.

Quite a few people here today worked with Lew at Mai Po and will remember how he never passed over an opportunity to ‘muck in’ and work alongside the field staff. He earned great respect for this. It was quite unusual for someone from his academic background, a PhD holder, to do so. He operated the bulldozer and drove the tipper truck, when time was tight and the field team needed help.

I remember the two of us swimming across Inner Deep Bay in 2006, in November around midnight. Two crazy guys trying to propel an enormous floating hide into place at the end of the mangrove boardwalk when the marine police boat couldn’t go any further. Also our futile attempts to herd rogue buffaloes, having to admit defeat and yet again calling in Ah Biu to sort it out.

Even after leaving Mai Po in 2008 Lew provided support to the Mai Po Nature Reserve through his role in the Ramsar Secretariat. Mai Po and Deep Bay was clearly always there in his mind.

I had been fortunate to work with Lew in recent years on a number of projects in China and South Korea and continued to learn from him. His passion and dedication had not waivered, if anything his desire to make a difference on the ground grew stronger.

Lew worked tirelessly to deliver CEPA - Communication, Capacity building, Education, Participation and Awareness – activities across the flyway. Prior to joining the EAAF Partnership, he quietly grew the CEPA Working Group by encouraging others to take on key roles and empowering them. He shared his knowledge, and worked in the background to drive the group. Lew did not want any recognition for this.

I would like to finish with a short message to Lew’s children Omi and Cenny. Whenever Lew and I met, usually a catch up over a beer somewhere in Asia, he would fondly share the adventures he had had with you in Switzerland and South Korea. The way he told those stories and the energy in his eyes at those moments, showed how much he loved you both. He was so so proud of you. Just after the birth of my daughter in 2017 I asked Lew for his advice on how to raise a girl, he replied ‘No tips, I’m still learning how to raise Omi after 18 years!’

Lew I will miss your wry smile, mischievousness and fun nature, and sense of humour. Your legacy in conservation and education achievements will live on. May you rest in peace.


Tribute by Tim Woodward (Friend to Lew, and co-Flying Kukris coach).

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to say a few words about another facet of Lew’s life which he was also very passionate about and which may not be so well known to many here. As well as conservation Lew was also passionate about rugby and what I am about to say is really on behalf of the Flying Kukris Rugby Club.

Lew was an active member for several years until 2008 and both Naomi and Cenny played with the club until 2009 when the rest of the family left for Geneva.

I became friends with Lew soon after I arrived in Hong Kong in 1991. We went on three trips to China together. I left to live for a few years at the turn of the century and then from 2004 until 2005 was in India. When I came back Lew encouraged my son Jamie to join the Flying Kukris, which started our connection with the club which has now lasted nearly 15 years.

Lew coached Cenny and the other children in his age group at the Ma Tso Lung community sports centre, near Ho Sheung Hui. He was a dedicated coach who was loved by those he coached, and respected by his fellow coaches. At Flying Kukris we witnessed that his gentle guiding example, carefully explained, was perfect for the team and allowed players to grow individually. He included everyone, children, parents and other coaches. My memory of Lew with the children is that he was always crouched at their level, always patient, listening and responding. He was always there with whoever he engaged with. He was also very willing to play, even at 50 – some of us remember a coaches game in early 2008. He was very enthusiastic until he unexpectedly snapped an achilles tendon – poor Lew, he was on crutches for weeks!

When the time came for Lew to leave Hong Kong his farewell to the Kukris in 2008 was to invite the children and parents to come to Mai Po and to help clear unwanted vegetation in the pond next to the Education Centre, I guess its Pond 17. It was all centred around the children but he soon had all of us wading into the water to pull up grass and trim back the reeds. The kids had a huge amount of fun splashing around and getting thoroughly muddy. I remember this was all “unofficial” – and felt at the time how privileged we were to be doing this. We would have loved to do it again but we never got the chance.

These are just a few of the many fond memories that we had of Lew at Kukris.

Let me end by reiterating our condolences to all the family. I hope these words have stirred a few fond memories and some smiles for some of you – I’m sure you’ll agree that is what Lew would have liked to see today.

Incheon G-Tower, Korea Memorial Service Speeches (19th March 2019).

Tribute by Hyeseon Do (Colleague to Lew; EAAFP).

Ms. Deborah Cha, Naomi, and Cennydd, members of the Lew’s family, distinguished guests and friends of Dr. Lew Young. My name is Hyeseon Do, I stand before you today on behalf of the EAAFP Secretariat where he lastly worked for.

Seeing so many people here today to say goodbye to Lew and people I’ve met at his funeral and memorial in Hong Kong and China last week, shows just how beloved and respected he was and how much he will be missed.It also shows that his evident passion was an inspiration to many people, and he was a mentor to others and a friend to many more.

I have known Lew for almost 1 year since we met for the first time at pre-Ramsar COP in Sri Lanka right before he joined our Secretariat as a Chief Executive. He was already a highly respected leader as a Senior Asia Oceania Advisor at the Ramsar Convention Secretariat – who everyone wants to work with. We were very excited to have him and learn from him as a boss because everyone said we are very lucky to work with him in this field. I still remember we made a decision there on the design of this EAAFP logo badge (what he wore until the last moment on his jacket) and on the concept of World Migratory Bird Day in 2018. Even though he had not started his role officially at that time, I could feel his passion for the conservation and flyway and excitement of joining us. The moment really inspired me a lot and his generous smile over our conversation still remains in my heart. Now I am so sad that I have only worked for a year with such a nice boss. And what I regret the most is that.. I couldn’t talk more to him and support him more during his working period.

My colleagues will all agree with me that he was a humble, kind and merciful boss. We felt comfortable, equal, and had a very good relationship with him, and now looking back on the old days, he’s always trusted us. His office door was always opened so that our colleagues including me, interns and volunteers can feel comfortable to approach him and discuss any issues. I knew he had received hundreds of emails every day from the world for his advice and consultation. With his busy schedule, he was always giving helping hand to us and putting his own work behind him whenever we need. People and Conservation were first to him.

He always listened to our suggestions and even if it might not be in the right way, he never said “No”. Instead, he tried to guide us to think in different ways and gave us a chance to grow on our own but we believed that he was always behind us and supported us. So, we were not so scared of new works and tasks. I think that’s why we can be here today and can keep carrying on his will.

He also was the person valuing the voices of the people at all level, such as government officers, NGOs, fishermen, and farmers. His passion was always 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. Participating and initiating meetings did not satisfy him, he worked out his thoughts with people too, for he actively joined events and activities with local communities, such as helping to clean the Namdong Reservoir in Incheon before the arrival of Black-faced Spoonbill..that’s exactly what he did the day before the accident.. He was a true conservationist from the bottom of his heart. And it touched many people’s heart in the world.

Before I end today, I'd like to share carefully his wish and the plan he mentioned to me, during his working period here in Korea. He always told me how beautiful the Nature in the Korean Peninsula is – which many of us are not familiar with, and he said, the EAAFP should take a key role in protecting the wetlands and migratory waterbirds in Korea even though it will take certain time for people to understand the real beauty and see its value. Lew squeezed his every free minute to understand more about the wetlands in Ro Korea, even during weekends. He also brought us to visit many different places like Ganghwa, Songdo Tidal Flat, DMZ plain in Cheorwon, Nakdong Estuary, Cheonsu Bay, Yubu Island, Upo Wetlands, he tried to understand the situation of the sites and I saw he wanted to share as much knowledge and experience as he could. He wanted to carry out the dream together with me and us and people. He said that’s what he only could contribute, he wanted to support at most, and he really loved here. Although he had left now us, I hope the EAAFP with your supports will continuously implement his will and commitment in Korea and over the flyway.

The precious memories of Lew will never be extinguished from our minds and his legacy is assured in the many wetlands he helped protect. Lew was the best boss in my life. I was very honored to work with him .. May God bless him, and may he rest in eternal peace. Thank you. 


Tribute by Lifeng Li (Friend to Lew; Green Climate Fund).

Dr. Llewellyn Young, known as Lew to his friends and colleagues, was a world-class advocate and practitioner in the field of the conservation and management of wetlands.

He worked tirelessly for 17 years for the effective management of Mai Po wetlands in Hong Kong, followed by 10 years at the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention in Switzerland. In March 2018 Lew became the Chief Executive of the Secretariat of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP), a Ramsar Regional Initiative based in Incheon, Republic of Korea.

I firstly met Lew in 2002 when we were both working for WWF.I was based in Beijing, China, while Lew was based in Hong Kong. Six years later, I followed his path and moved to Switzerland - he joined the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention, while I joined WWF International. 17 years later, in 2018, I followed him again and moved to here – he joined the EAAFP and I joined the Green Climate Fund. While I have the list of things that Lew and I planned to do, but now, without him, it won’t be easy for me to figure where to go, for my career and for a place to live.

I will continue to miss Lew and to mourn him as a former colleague, a dear friend, and my brother.To celebrate and remember his achievements here today, I’d like to share a few highlights and stories.

As a manager of WWF Hong Kong Mai Po Nature Reserve from 1991 to 2008, Lew laid the foundations of the long-term, effective management of the Reserve by demonstrating the best practices of wetlands management on the ground, and by developing and running a range of education and awareness programmes for students, public visitors, and wetland managers.

Lew was instrumental in listing Mai Po Nature Reserve as the only Ramsar Site of Hong Kong. It has also become a model site for conservation of migratory waterbirds along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. The innovative approach to managing fisheries in the Reserve has seen Mai Po become an important habitat for the endangered black-faced spoonbill. That approach changed the mindset of wetlands nature reserve managers from the mainland China, and we called it the Mao Po Model.

His Wetlands Training Programme has trained nearly five thousands of Chinese wetland practitioners and managers , and hundreds of thousands of students and public visitors. He is the single most influential mentor in wisely managing Chinese wetlands.

When we were in Switzerland, working for WWF and Ramsar respectively, we were able to work closely with each other to assist countries in the Asian and Pacific to advance their wetlands agenda.

Among many examples, our collaboration helped to save the 2nd largest freshwater lake of China - the Poyang Lake, which is a crucial refuge for the 1/3 population of finless porpoise of the Yangtze River, 80% of oriental white storks, and over 95% of white cranes.Without the intervention of Ramsar Secretariat and Lew’s personal involvement, the Poyang Lake as the heaven for waterbirds would have become history.

Lew has also established the Wetland Link International-Asia in 2006 and the Asian Waterbird Conservation Fund in 2005. Together with the Mai Po Model, Mai Po Wetlands Training Programme, these achievements are continued and remembered at Mai Po, in China, and the region.


Tribute by Ania Grobicki (Colleague to Lew; Green Climate Fund).

As a Senior Regional Advisor for Asia and Oceania at the Ramsar Convention’s Secretariat, from 2008 to 2018, Lew supported the implementation of the Convention in 33 countries in Asia and eight countries in Oceania. He advised on the management of hundreds of Ramsar Sites in the region.He passionately spoke for wetlands at countless international meetings, and he guided the Ramsar Regional Initiatives including the ones he was instrumental in setting up such as EAAFP and RRI-East Asia at Sunchong Bay. During this time, Lew ensured that no less than 130 new Ramsar Sites were created within Asia and Oceania. Thanks to his dedication, countries such as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Kiribati and Kuwait joined the Convention as Contracting Parties. 

I joined the Ramsar Convention Secretariat as the Deputy Secretary General in March 2015, and I was fortunate to accompany Lew on the first Ramsar mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – this was an unforgettable experience. We flew from Geneva to Pyongyang on 26 October 2015 and straight away that same evening, we went into intensive planning meetings with the North Korean representatives, including Mrs. Ri. Then we all unwound over dinner at the hotel where we were staying, and after dinner, went for a walk along the river next to the hotel.

After 2 days of government meetings, Lew negotiated a trip to see wetlands outside Pyongyang, to check if they might be suitable for listing as a Ramsar site.We also visited a Buddhist temple.On the final day, through Lew’s friendly contacts we were invited for lunch with all the embassies and international staff based in Pyongyang, and learned a lot from them about how projects are carried out in that country.

A year later, in October 2016 Lew invited me to go to Hong Kong with him, where we met with local government officials, academics, as well as developers.I watched Lew negotiating with these private developers to set aside land, and to put money into trust to manage it as a wetland park.This was a trail-blazing initiative, to bring in private developers to fund and support environmental work in Hong Kong, where the shortage of land is extreme. Only someone with Lew’s qualities of charm, good humour, intellect and gentle persistence could have managed it!

We also visited the Mai Po Nature Reserve, which for Lew was a trip down memory lane – as Lifeng mentioned, Lew had been responsible years earlier for creating Mai Po as the first and only Ramsar site in Hong Kong.It was there at Mai Po that I realized how many thousands of people’s lives Lew had influenced, through the training programmes and visitors programmes that he set up at Mai Po. I also realized how many people in Hong Kong still looked up to Lew as a visionary guide and advisor.

I was truly fortunate and blessed to have had this time of working with Lew and I will always remember with gratitude his wise and generous spirit.

Lew’s passion and commitment to protecting wetlands and their resources for people and nature has inspired many people around Asia and the Pacific, from students, and farmers to corporate and government leaders. His achievements are far-reaching and long-lasting, too many to count, and his memory will live on in all the wetlands that he loved and protected. 


Tribute summary by Kisup Lee (Friend to Lew; Waterbird Network Korea).

I still remember when we had conversation just few days ago. I cannot believe we can’t see you anymore. You truly loved the beautiful wetlands in Korea, and migratory birds as well as the local people.

You hoped to find a way that people and nature can coexist.

Your thoughts were always on birds where ever you went in Cheolwon, Suncheon, Seosan, and Hwaseong. You were always in the field, trying hard to promote the message of conservation and to share the voice of local community who live with birds.

You left great footprint during your time in EAAFP. We will continue working on your task that you wanted to achieve.

May God Bless Lew Young, and may he rest in eternal peace.