A Lasting Legacy - Professor Thaman
Professor Thaman was recently awarded an Honorary Membership of IUCN by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Korea, September 6-15, for his outstanding contribution to nature.
WWF South Pacific Representative Kesaia Tabunakawai said Pacific communities are forever connected to Professor Thaman through his inspiring, passionate and infectious leadership in conservation and sustainable development, from classrooms to the mountains, the forest, mangroves, rivers and iqoliqolis and the people who live off these resources.
As a teacher, Professor Randolf RobertThaman has left an indelible mark in the lives of many Pacific islanders; he mentored to love natural resource conservation and management ever since joining the University of the South Pacific in 1974.
His apprentices, who affectionately call him ‘Randy’, have risen to become national and regional leaders within government and non-government organisations driving the cause of resource conservation throughout the Pacific.
These include half of the conservation staff at WWF South Pacific.
“It was my foundation year at USP and I was fast on the road to becoming a medical doctor but then I met Professor Thaman. He told us that the country needs more earth doctors. In the interesting way he teaches he linkedpoor human health with poor environmental management – I was converted,” said WWF South Pacific Consultant, Francis Areki.
Professor Thaman set milestones as an expert for WWF’s climate witness program, helping place the program on the Pacific map through a case study carried out on Kabara Island in the Lau province.
AusAid Building Resilience to Climate Change National Coordinator, Stephanie Robinson said:
“It never ceases to amaze me when I meet people in far flung corners of the Pacific who have at some point been taught by Randy. With a 'larger than life' and engaging personality, it is hard to miss him on campus and his influence has spread far beyond the borders of our small islands. As a teacher, Randy's endless enthusiasm, dedication to his students and passion for biodiversity and conservation issues has made him one of the most endeared professors at USP and made 'eco -groupies' of most of his students - many of whom go on to drive conservation efforts in their own countries. As a person I have found him to be compassionate, generous and genuinely interested in people. I am extremely blessed to have such a mentor and friend like him in my life - this recognition he truly deserves.”
He worked closely with WWF’s People and Plants program given his expertise in ethno botany or the relationship between humans and plants as leverage for conservation efforts.
“The name Randy Thaman is synonymous with islands biodiversity,” said Patricia Mallam, WWF South Pacific Communications Manager.
“It is through his teachings that my interest on the vulnerability and pricelessness of our island ecosystems, not forgetting the socio-economic significance of biodiversity expanded enough to lead me to choose a career in conservation. With a ‘larger than life’ personality and knowledge on almost every plant in the Pacific – it is befitting that he was awarded the IUCN Honorary Membership,” Mallam said.
“He is a well informed conservationist that draws on traditional knowledge to advance conservation efforts both for the benefit of the Pacific communities’ rich traditions and natural resource conservation,” Marine Species Coordinator, Thomas Tui said.
“One important aspect of conservation that reminds me of Randy is the emphasis he places on the importance of traditional and local knowledge, especially when you find yourself in an institute surrounded by multi-racial, multi-cultural and diverse attitudes towards development, not only in Fiji but in the Pacific. He has taught most of us to embrace and be proud of our unique valuable knowledge that is getting its due recognition. Who else can provide this appreciation and recognition, but ourselves,” Sustainable Coastal Resource Use Management Coordinator, AkisiBolabola said.
“He opened up my eyes to issues of sustainable development and it’s been my life ever since,” said Fisheries Project Officer Advocacy and By-catch, Josua Turaganivalu.