Lew - a landmark to follow!

Shared by Lifeng Li on 20th March 2019

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. Over 30 years, he left his footprints in wetlands all over the region, which are for us to follow. Nearly 17 years, he was the landmark that I followed.

I firstly met Lew in 2002 when we were both working for WWF. Lew was based in Hong Kong, while I was based in Beijing. Six years later, I followed his path and moved to Switzerland - he joined the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention, while I joined WWF International. 16 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 out 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.

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.

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 Mai Po Model.

His Wetlands Management 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 and popular mentor in wisely managing Chinese wetlands.

Working for WWF and Ramsar respectively in Switzerland, we worked closely with each other to assist countries in the Asia and Pacific region 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 1/3 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 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 Management Training Programme, these achievements are continued and remembered at Mai Po, in China, and in the region. 

Together, we will follow his footprints in wetlands. 

A lifetime friend

Shared by Mark Scrimshaw on 19th March 2019

I got to know Lew when we were undergraduates at Leeds from 1977-80, and we have kept in contact since, much due to his effort in letting myself, and others, know when he was coming back to the UK. While he was doing his VSO, we “corresponded”, as it was in those days, by air mail, and his letters telling of palm wine and other events inspired my own travels through Africa.

In London, he introduced me to the Wong Kei Chinese restaurant, which was not as up-market(!) as it now is. He later took us to eat at the restaurant part owned by his father, a much different experience. He introduced me to the Marquee club in Wardour Street, and the Thompson Twins in the early 80’s. A decade later, I visited him in Hong Kong, where he had reserved us rooms in Chunking Mansions (what a pal). During this trip, along with Deborah and others from the Swire Marine lab we went into China, to see the sights of Guangzhou.

This century, I have been lucky enough to spend time with Lew and Deborah in Switzerland… Great memories of time in the hills, of being looked after in Gland with our kids having their first ever fondue. I was lucky enough to get to have a beer or two with him at the Metropolitan Bar at Baker Street over Xmas. Lew has been a big part of my life, and I will miss him. 

Shared by Deborah Young on 19th March 2019

(On behalf of Sandra Hails; EAAFP and RAMSAR colleague and friend)

Lew was my soul-mate at Ramsar through all the hard times we had there over several years. His calmness and friendship helped me cope with the mess Ramsar was for a while. Working again with him in his Flyway role reminded just how talented he was and as the new CE I felt confident for the first time that the Flyway was going in the right direction. Everyone felt the same way, positive and looking forwarded to his firm hand. And now this. Sadness is just not enough to express how many of us feel. 
My ex-husband has just today reminded me that we first met Lew at Mai Po in 1986 - before we arrived in Switzerland. He was young, dynamic, and smart. And he never seemed to change. I miss him already. All I can do is wish you and the family great strength in the coming days and months. 

Bon courage,
Sandra

Shared by Deborah Young on 19th March 2019

(On behalf of Dr. Leung Siu Fai; Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation in HK S.A.R. Government)

We are shocked and deeply saddened to hear of Lew’s passing. On behalf of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, I would like to extend our sincerest sympathy and condolences to you and your children during this difficult time. 

Lew was truly a remarkable person as a conservationist, friend and working partner. He was wonderfully sincere, kind and gentle, yet he inspired his friends and colleagues with his vision and passion in nature conservation. He had dedicated his entire life in the conservation of wetlands and birds in Hong Kong, Asia and Oceania. From the Reserve Manager of the Mai Po Nature Reserve to the Senior Advisor for Asia and Oceania at the Ramsar Secretariat and the Chief Executive of the East Asian - Australasian Flyway Partnership, he had strived to serve the nature and the people living therein. In particular, he played a pivotal role in the designation of the wetland in Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay as a Ramsar Site in 1995 and the subsequent development and management of the site for conservation and education. My colleagues and I feel very privileged to have worked closely with him and have great respect for him as a close partner in the conservation of this important wetland in Hong Kong. His enthusiasm and exemplary contributions to the amazing beauty and biodiversity of our wetlands will be long remembered by all of us and our future generations. 

Lew’s passing is a great loss to the conservation communities. He will be deeply missed by all of us, yet his spirit will continue to inspire those pursuing nature conservation. Our thoughts are with you and your children during this difficult time. 

With our heartfelt condolences, 
Dr. Leung Siu Fai 
Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government

Shared by Deborah Young on 19th March 2019

(On behalf of Brian Morton; PhD Supervisor to Lew)

Dear Deborah,

I write to you with a very heavy and sad heart regarding the sudden and tragic death of Lew on the 5th of March.

I am so, very, very, sorry that he has died - and so young. As you may recall, I co-supervised Lew for his PhD but the reality was that he taught me more about birds and bird-watching than I could ever enlighten him about! I also liked Lew very much as a person and had the greatest respect for him as a scientist and conservationist. He was in many ways one of the founding fathers of Mai Po and, then, went on to pastures new, with you, to Geneva. I had also read with the greatest of interest about his recent appointment as the Chief Executive of the Secretariat of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership. A position I am sure, with his kindness, thoughtfulness and diplomacy he would have made a huge success of. As he was already proving

Over the last few days and today as I write this, my thoughts have been and are, especially, with you and your children at this very sad time. But I wish to re-assure you that Lew's time on this Earth was not wasted. He was a stalwart model in terms of birding and conservation (the two going hand-in-hand) that others will only be able to somewhat emulate and never progress beyond. He was also a lovely man in so many ways and will be greatly missed not just by his family but by the birding and conservation moment especially. In the years to come, his name will be mentioned with great respect, affection and admiration.

You and your children have much to be proud of. And I hope you will always remember that.
Love, Brian

Shared by Deborah Young on 19th March 2019

(On behalf of Edward Ho, WWF-Hong Kong Chairman)

It is with great sadness that I recently learned of the passing of Dr. Lew Young. The whole panda family sends heartfelt condolences. Our thoughts are with you (Deborah), Naomi and Cennydd at this difficult time. The conservation world has truly lost a great man.

During the 17 years that Lew spent with WWF-Hong Kong as the manager at Mai Po Nature Reserve he made significant contributions that are still shaping the course of our wetland management and bird conservation in Hong Kong and the region.

Lew’s pioneering spirit to install  Mai Po’s mangrove boardwalk leading visitors to a new floating hide gave bird watchers access to the migratory birds feeding at  the tidal mudflats of Deep Bay. As Lew noted at the time, the boardwalk simultaneously broadened the scope of our conservation work inside the reserve and enhanced bird monitoring.
He worked closely with the community around Deep Bay on a whole range of projects, such as the eco-fish farming scheme, demonstrating wise-use of wetlands and helping to sustain the local pond-fish industry. Of the various projects it is the establishment of a long-term research project with the Hong Kong Bird Ringing Group that has allowed us to fully investigate the importance of Mai Po’s reedbeds for migratory birds.
Lew dedicated himself to preserve the Mai Po wetlands working with the Hong Kong government to establish the Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site and leading our Mai Po team to establish it as a key demonstration site of wetland conservation along the East Asian Australasian Flyway.
Lew’s work with WWF Hong Kong , Ramsar and EAAFP Secretariat has influenced and brought together people from different backgrounds to work tirelessly for wetland conservation. As a member of the Asian Waterbirds Conservation Fund committee, Lew has helped us identify sites of importance for migratory waterbirds and their wetland habitats across the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, that we have then supported with grants and expertise for conservation work.
Lew was highly respected figure throughout the wetland conservation community. Your husband has left a legacy that  will live on in the wonderful things he did.  He touched many lives and inspired all those who he came in contact with. We honour his beautiful life and dedication to conservation.
With deepest sympathy,
Edward M Ho
Chairman, WWF-Hong Kong

Manager at Mai Po Nature Reserve

Shared by John Holmes on 19th March 2019

“Oh no, one of the good guys…” as a mutual friend said of Lew when hearing the news.

I remember Lew in his years as  Reserve Manager at Mai Po Nature Reserve, Hong Kong.  He was always out and about on the Reserve - never a man to hide in his office. I know he had the respect of the birdwatchers of those days, and I’m certain of his colleagues and staff, too.

I was posted to Lok Ma Chau Police Station at the time, and when there were issues of mutual concern he was always calm and approachable. 

We “twitched” Hong Kong’s first White-browed Crake (at Mai Po) together in April 1991. I remember, at first light, peering at the mud at the base of some reeds, near the Border Fence at Gate 103. The Crake popped out of cover for a short walk - success ! A shared great start to another working day.

Unfortunately, we didn't see much of him after he went to work in Geneva in 2008, but that's how things work out.

His untimely death will be a loss to his profession, but an even harder loss for his family, and our thoughts are with them.

Jemi and I extend our condolences to Deborah, Naomi and Cenny.

Farewell to a wonderful friend and colleague

Shared by Christine Prietto on 19th March 2019

Personally, I was so lucky to have Lew as a colleague for 20+ years, starting from our shared connection with and interest in Wetland Centres. My very first meeting with Lew was in 2005 during a week-long visit to Mai Po Marshes. Everything about that trip was inspiring. My favourite memory is Lew in the small kitchen of the Mai Po Training Centre preparing prawns for dinner which had been pulled from the wetlands only hours before. Through all the years working with Lew in Ramsar he was a continuing inspiration. His wonderful ability to listen, to always appreciate the context and to put himself on the same plane as others won him a worldwide fan club. He had an amazing ability to bring people along. Everyone loved and admired him. He has left a huge hole in the wetland conservation field but he has left his fingerprints in many, many places around the world. We will miss him.

Christine Prietto, Hunter Wetlands Centre

Ramsar CEPA NGO Focal Point, Australia

Shared by June Cha on 19th March 2019

親愛的Lew

願你去到天國可以快快樂樂,我知道它日我們可以再相遇,你的離開我感到非常傷痛。你在我們的家庭裡是一個好好的人,我們一家都很愛你,我永遠都會掛念著你,我們生活的點滴永遠印在腦海裡。你一生熱愛你的工作,為了保護自然生態付出了很大很大的努力和貢獻,你為大自然增添了不少色彩。我們以你為傲。  

永遠懷念你。                      June Cha

Shared by Cha Ronnie on 13th March 2019

Lew 哥哥,姑丈。

你的離開,令家中各人惋惜,非常難過。願你在天國,能放開懷抱,享受自在。

記得初見你時,應該是我的初中吧。我覺得你好多問題的,當你有一個問題,就會不斷發掘下去。有次問起運動會的事,你的問題一個連一個的問下去,年少的我都不懂招架,回答到啞口無言,但到我長大了,才發覺那些不是煩,你是想我學多點講説話,懂得與別人溝通,這真令我終生受用。

也記得,我人生第一次行山,是與你和細姑姐帶著我去的,應該是大埔吧。記得我那天非常雀躍,我還著了新鞋出動。那山實在太難行了,沒有路的,要爪住樹根去行的,難度應該有四星級吧,不知為何我一路行一路眼淚流,山路點解這麼恐怖。當時你們都鼓勵我,叫我不要放棄,繼續走,邊行邊影相。當見到山頂美景,才發覺,由高處看的風景是多麼美,多麼值得。到現在,行山都是我的人生樂趣,能離開繁忙急躁的地方,在山上能令我放開心情,雖然體力消耗,身體疲累,但耗盡體力後頭腦返而更清醒,處事更有幹勁。

另外歐洲之旅,我第一次坐長途機到瑞士找你和細姑姐,還記得你們一同接我機,之後就帶我到你的居所,還帶我到你住所四圍遊玩,帶了麵包一起餵湖邊的天鵝。之後再由瑞士到巴黎,要開車都要五六小時,但要你一人負責駕車,我回想也真的太疲累吧。但那次旅程真的令我見識更多,古堡,名勝,都盡收眼底。

之後我和爸爸一起的旅行,你又帶我們行山,那次真的令我爸爸畢生難忙,生活幾十年都未到過這麼美麗地方,我爸和你們的相片看完又看,常常回味。

但知你回家後又要繼續開會和工作,真是非常忙碌。

我衷心祝福您在天國一切安好,後人能夠達成你保育的使命。也希望細姑姐,Omi, Cennydd ,生活過得開心快樂,一切安心順意。

Shared by Andy Bentall on 13th March 2019

My story about Lew will be a little different to most.  I first met Lew in September 2006 when we joined Flying Kukris RFC and he was coaching my eldest son Neal in the Under 8 age group.  After I had spent several Sundays standing on the side line watching and chatting with other parents, Lew approached me as he intended to enter two Under 8 teams in the upcoming Sandy Bay mini rugby festival (in November 2006) and asked if I would coach one of them.  We continued coaching together until the end of the 2007/8 season at which point he moved to Geneva.  I have nothing but happy memories of the two seasons when I coached alongside Lew.  I continued to coach Lew’s son Cenny until the end of the 2008/9 season at which point he, Deborah and Omi also moved to Geneva to join Lew.  I am still involved with coaching at Flying Kukris to this day and it’s all thanks to Lew.

World Wetland Network remember Lew

Shared by Louise Duff on 12th March 2019

I am shedding a tear as I type, so sad at Lew’s passing. Lew worked passionately for wetland and shorebird conservation globally, and especially in Asia and Oceania. He was a friendly and approachable colleague with a wry sense of humour, always generous with his expert advice and support. There will be so many people Lew connected with who will be very sorry to lose him. Our sincere condolences to family, friends and colleagues - we will miss him!

Louise Duff, Chair WWN,  Australia

Lew has always given us great advice, made time despite his busy schedule and had enormous patience, as well as a wicked sense of humour. He was a supreme diplomat, able to bring partners together and find solutions that enabled good decisions to be taken and projects to be delivered. We will miss him immensely, but his legacy lives on in his incredible achievements for wetland conservation, and he will always be an inspiration to us. With great sadness at his passing, but also great joy that we had the privilege of working with him.

Lew, you continue to be an inspiration for us all.

Chris Rostron, Deputy Chair WWN, United Kingdom


I feel it is important to spread the sad news of Lew’s passing to honour his memory. Most of us might have known Lew Young as the former Senior Advisor for Asia-Oceania at the Ramsar Convention secretariat. Such a great loss.

Jacky Judas, PhD, WWN Middle-East Sub-regional Representative, UAE

I am hit strongly with the death of Lew and have no words for this sad news. Since we met in Kushiro in 1994, he was one of the best supporters for us small NGOs, at that time as WWF-HK director, and all through his work at Ramsar and EAAFP.  He took time to meet with me, gave advice in support of works of Local NGOs and WWN. Peace,

Minoru Kashiwagi, WWN Asia Representative, Japan

Lew was a great champion for wetlands and nature. We have lost such as kind and passionate person. May the memories of his wonderful personality and many contributions be celebrated. 

Elise Allély-Fermé, Lead – Ramsar Youth Engagement Thematic Group

Huge loss! Lew had done great jobs in Asia and Oceania region for wetlands and migratory birds’ conservation.

Pyae Phyo Aung, WWN Sub-regional Representative, Myanmar

Let’s pray for peace spaces for his spirit in Heaven. We miss him and contribution for Wetland Biodiversity conservation. We have big responsibilities to continue his contribution and let’s take collective action for better conservation and sustainable use

Kamal Rai, WWN Sub-Regional Representative - Nepal

Accept our condolences. It is really an unparalleled tragedy and loss. May his soul rest in perfect peace.

Chi Napoleon Forpah , WWN Sub-regional Representative - Cameroon

Truly a great loss. In his role as our regional Ramsar rep I recall his polite, respectful and inclusive manner in addition to his considerable scientific knowledge.  It was a privilege to have worked with him. Very sad for his family and the wetland conservation community.  I was in a beautiful wetland when I received the news, which gave me pause to contemplate his lifelong contribution to wetlands.

Karen Denyer, WWN Sub-regional Representative New Zealand

Sad news!... Lew was instrumental in our on the ground conservation actions for Fiji's first Ramsar site - the Upper Navua Conservation Area. My sincerest condolences to his family. We shall miss his sound advice. Rest in peace Lew.

Nunia Thomas, WWN Sub-regional Representative – Fiji

It is very sad to learn of Lew Young passing. Hope his loved ones finds comfort in the moments they enjoyed together. Wishing much wisdom and peace to all. 

Rafaela Nicola, WWN Sub-regional Representative Brazil

I simply have no words. Thank you for letting us know. The flyway has lost a hero and the world a wonderful person. My thoughts are with the secretariat and with everyone who shared a lifetime of passion for waterbirds and wetlands in the EAAF.

Eduardo Gallo-CajiaoFuller Lab, University of Queensland

Our Family Friend and Mentor

Shared by Hongyun Smith on 11th March 2019

一晚睡得不安稳,爱人不敢相信几周前才通过电话,几个月前才一起吃饭的朋友就这么走了,突然就心脏病发。爱人神色黯然,我们都静默不语,不知道该说什么。那个温润如玉,真诚的兄长一般的朋友,陨落得如流星[流泪]。我想我是先見到Lew 的,中英混血,一口流利粤语的“鬼佬”。2003年米埔湿地的培训班,作为米埔湿地的经理,习惯性谦恭的和每个学员共进早餐,亲切的聊几句。他坐在我身边,问我的名字,从哪儿来,一双温和的蓝眼睛望进人的心底,搞湿地保护的博士居然如此风度翩翩儒雅,好难得。再见是和老公确定了关系,开始在香港居住读书。老公说Lew Young是唯一一个认真回复了他职位申请的人,那时老公还在非洲的丛林里照顾猩猩,一通电话,彻底改变了他之后十多年的命运。来到香港,对人生地不熟的一个英国小子,Lew 甚是关照,时不时周末带着老公熟悉香港,吃巷子里隐世的风味小吃,于是等我去到香港,听到最多的就是: Lew 带我来的。为欢迎老公终于找到女朋友,Lew Young 一家还特地约我们去香港一处知名的郊野胜地鹿颈行山。一家四口,可爱的两个娃,相濡以沫的妻子,婚姻家庭幸福的样儿就是这样。Lew 十年前携家离开香港,但是依然奋战在他热爱的湿地水鸟保育第一线,和老公更是从上下级变成亲密的战友朋友,事业上互相扶持,生活上不时关心,交换做父亲的心得。只要是经过香港,必然留时间和我们见面,看看孩子,吃吃饭,聊个天。爱人的工作关系,两人也时常联系见面,总能听老公提起Lew 和一家的近况,从未觉得远离。噩耗传来,点点滴滴,彷如昨日,眼前的还是那个温润如玉总是微笑的兄长,RIP Lew!

My husband kept silent and he didn't have much sleep since we received the shocking news of Lew's unexpected passing. A few months ago he went to Korea, Lew and his wife showed him around and they had a meal together. A few weeks ago they talked over the phone and joked about Lew's long-term retirement plan of coming back to UK. He is gone, like a shooting star!
I think I knew Lew before my husband became his colleague. It was January 2004 in the dining room of Peter Scott Field Studies Centre during the Mai Po Wetland Training Course. Lew kept a habit of having breakfast with the participants of each training course for years. Humble and modest as usual, he sat by me asking me where I was from, my name and lots more with a pair of gentle soft bluish eyes. A person with such charism was to me at that time, unusual among the conservationists.
We met again in 2006 when I met Bena and went to Hong Kong to further my studies. Bena told me Lew was the only serious respondent to his application and contacted him when he was still tracking monkeys in the middle of the West African jungle. One phone call completely changed his life in the following decade. Lew was such a down-to-earth, warm person. To help Bena settle down and feel more at home, Lew took his spare time on weekends or after-work hours to show Bena around and introduced him to all the local delicacies hidden in small lanes which were later introduced to me when I became Bena's girlfriend. The phrase I heard most from Bena was 'Lew brought me here’. I still remember the hiking we did with Lew’s family at Luk Keng when I came to settle in Hong Kong in October 2006. At that time, Naomi and Cenny were still small. I looked at them, a loving and happy family of four, picturing my future one.
Then Lew moved with the whole family to Switzerland for his new post in RAMSAR. He and Bena became more than just ex-colleagues; close friends and workmates on lots of flyway projects, supporting each other and sharing family stories. Whenever Lew passed through Hong Kong, he always spared time to meet us and little Lochlann. We kept in such close contact like a family and never felt apart. He will live in our hearts forever as an eternal light guiding and shining over my husband, me, Lochlann and little Eleanor. RIP Lew and our deepest condolences to Deborah, Naomi and Cenny.
Shared by Andrew Tong on 10th March 2019

Thanks for giving me the first bird watching lesson decades ago in HKU. Lew, you will be remembered and missed!

Shared by Andy Leung on 10th March 2019

Hero of Mai Po, your effort influences thousands of people to conserve Mai Po. Thank you! 

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