To achieve our personal goals and make ourselves truly happy, we need to develop and maintain our self-confidence and self-respect.

To do this we need to understand the difference between worldly self-confidence and authentic self-confidence, and be able to distinguish self-confidence from selfish intentions that prevent us from fulfilling our wish to be truly happy. By using tried and tested methods we can then build and strengthen our self-confidence so that it remains stable and long-lasting.

In his book, How to Transform Your Life, Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso explains clearly how to build authentic self-confidence and how to bring this experience into modern, daily life. Extracts from the book, also available as a free eBook download, are included in the explanation that follows.


If we look honestly at our own life, and the lives of those around us, we will see that in searching for happiness we spend most of our time and energy improving external conditions, such as increasing our wealth and possessions, enhancing our reputation or finding a better partner. However, we can see through our own experience that even if we are successful in acquiring these external conditions, we will never enjoy the lasting happiness that we all desire. If we try to develop self-confidence based on our ability to acquire better worldly conditions – ‘worldly self-confidence’ – we will always be left feeling incomplete and disappointed. Worldly self-confidence will never be fully realized or remain stable because we can never be completely satisfied with or hold on to our worldly conditions and achievements.

In the introduction of How to Transform Your Life, Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso says:

‘Since this world evolved, human beings have spent almost all their time and energy improving external conditions in their search for happiness and a solution to their problems. What has been the result? Instead of their wishes being fulfilled, human suffering and problems have continued to increase while the experience of happiness and peace is decreasing. This clearly shows that until now we have not found a correct method for reducing our problems and increasing happiness.’

Venerable Geshe Kelsang GyatsoHow to Transform Your Life

Lots of people on a busy city street

There is, however, a type of self-confidence that is completely free from worldly aspirations. ‘Authentic self-confidence’ is based on our wish to achieve spiritual goals and can never lead to harm or dissatisfaction. For example, self-confidence based on a wish to benefit others through increasing our love and compassion for them will be strong and stable and always lead to good results.

Self-confidence based on spiritual aspirations makes our human life precious and meaningful because spiritual goals are the only conditions that actually lead to the lasting happiness we desire. Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso explains:

‘If we use our human life to accomplish spiritual realizations, it becomes immensely meaningful. By using it in this way, we actualize our full potential and progress from the state of an ordinary, ignorant being to that of a fully enlightened being, the highest of all beings; and when we have done this we will have the power to benefit all living beings without exception. Thus, by using our human life for gaining spiritual realizations we can solve all our human problems and fulfil all our own and others’ wishes. What could be more meaningful than this?’

Understanding this we can see that authentic self-confidence can be gained only by attaining spiritual realizations through inner development.


As well as understanding what authentic self-confidence is, we also need to avoid confusing it with any type of selfishness or harmful intention. Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso identifies the harmful attitude of ‘self-cherishing’ as one such mind. This is a mind that thinks I am important while neglecting others, and he explains that it is at the root of all of our problems and unhappiness. In How to Transform Your Life, he says:

‘We may sometimes confuse self-cherishing with self-confidence and self-respect, but in reality they are completely unrelated. It is not out of self-respect that we always want the best for ourself, nor is it out of self-respect that we deceive or exploit others, or fail in our responsibilities to them. If we check honestly, we will see that it is our self-cherishing that causes us to act in ways that rob us of our self-respect and destroy our confidence. Some people are driven by their self-cherishing to the depths of alcoholism or drug addiction, completely losing any modicum of self-respect in the process.’

Having correctly understood the difference between authentic self-confidence and harmful minds such as self-cherishing, we can learn how to be confident by being steadfast in our practice of training the mind on the path of compassion and wisdom.

Buddha gave many thousands of teachings, but the root of all the great realizations of the Buddhist path to enlightenment are the meditations on love, compassion and the supreme good heart of bodhichitta – a mind that spontaneously wishes to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all living beings. Training our mind in these meditations will give us great confidence that is based on our wish and capacity to benefit others. In , Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso says:
‘… the more we cherish others and act to benefit them, the greater our self-respect and confidence will become. The Bodhisattva vow, for example, in which the Bodhisattva promises to overcome all faults and limitations, attain all good qualities and work until all living beings are liberated from the sufferings of samsara, is an expression of tremendous self-confidence, far beyond that of any self-centred being.’
The first step in achieving this goal is to reduce our desire for our own happiness, which is our self-cherishing, and to replace this with a mind that wishes others to be happy. As Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso explains:
‘If we sincerely practise every day stopping wishing for ourself to be happy all the time and instead wishing for others to be happy all the time, then we will understand from our own experience that through this practice, which prevents attachment to the fulfilment of our own wishes, we will have no experience of problems or unhappiness at all. Thus, if we really want pure and everlasting happiness and freedom from misery, we must learn to control our mind, principally our desire.’
Man smiling and full of self-confidence
If in our daily life we put effort into developing and improving our mind that cherishes others, eventually we will become a great being, a Bodhisattva, and our beneficial influence will extend well beyond the limitations of the present level of our imagination.

About Walt Disney

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse

About Walt Disney

During a 43-year Hollywood career, which spanned the development of the motion picture medium as a modern American art, Walter Elias Disney, a modern Aesop, established himself and his product as a genuine part of Americana.


David Low, the late British political cartoonist, called Disney “the most significant figure in graphic arts since Leonardo.” A pioneer and innovator, and the possessor of one of the most fertile imaginations the world has ever known, Walt Disney, along with members of his staff, received more than 950 honors and citations from throughout the world, including 48 Academy Awards® and 7 Emmys® in his lifetime.

Walt Disney’s personal awards included honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, the University of Southern California, and UCLA; the Presidential Medal of Freedom; France’s Legion of Honor and Officer d’Academie decorations; Thailand’s Order of the Crown; Brazil’s Order of the Southern Cross; Mexico’s Order of the Aztec Eagle; and the Showman of the World Award from the National Association of Theatre Owners.

The creator of Mickey Mouse and founder of Disneyland and Walt Disney World was born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 5, 1901. His father, Elias Disney, was an Irish-Canadian. His mother, Flora Call Disney, was of German-American descent. Walt was one of five children, four boys and a girl.

Raised on a farm near Marceline, Missouri, Walt early became interested in drawing, selling his first sketches to neighbors when he was only seven years old. At McKinley High School in Chicago, Disney divided his attention between drawing and photography, contributing both to the school paper. At night he attended the Academy of Fine Arts.

During the fall of 1918, Disney attempted to enlist for military service. Rejected because he was only 16 years of age, Walt joined the Red Cross and was sent overseas, where he spent a year driving an ambulance and chauffeuring Red Cross officials. His ambulance was covered from stem to stern, not with stock camouflage, but with drawings and cartoons.

After the war, Walt returned to Kansas City, where he began his career as an advertising cartoonist. Here, in 1920, he created and marketed his first original animated cartoons, and later perfected a new method for combining live-action and animation.

In August of 1923, Walt Disney left Kansas City for Hollywood with nothing but a few drawing materials, $40 in his pocket and a completed animated and live-action film. Walt’s brother Roy O. Disney was already in California, with an immense amount of sympathy and encouragement, and $250. Pooling their resources, they borrowed an additional $500 and constructed a camera stand in their uncle’s garage. Soon, they received an order from New York for the first “Alice Comedy” short, and the brothers began their production operation in the rear of a Hollywood real estate office two blocks away.

On July 13, 1925, Walt married one of his first employees, Lillian Bounds, in Lewiston, Idaho. They were blessed with two daughters — Diane, married to Ron Miller, former president and chief executive officer of Walt Disney Productions; and Sharon Disney Lund, formerly a member of Disney’s Board of Directors. The Millers have seven children and Mrs. Lund had three. Mrs. Lund passed away in 1993.


Mickey Mouse was created in 1928, and his talents were first used in a silent cartoon entitled Plane Crazy. However, before the cartoon could be released, sound burst upon the motion picture screen. Thus Mickey made his screen debut in Steamboat Willie, the world’s first fully synchronized sound cartoon, which premiered at the Colony Theatre in New York on November 18, 1928.

Walt’s drive to perfect the art of animation was endless. Technicolor® was introduced to animation during the production of his “Silly Symphonies.” In 1932, the film entitled Flowers and Trees won Walt the first of his 32 personal Academy Awards®. In 1937, he released The Old Mill, the first short subject to utilize the multiplane camera technique.

On December 21 of that same year, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length animated musical feature, premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles. Produced at the unheard of cost of $1,499,000 during the depths of the Great Depression, the film is still accounted as one of the great feats and imperishable monuments of the motion picture industry. During the next five years, Walt completed such other full-length animated classics as PinocchioFantasiaDumbo and Bambi.

In 1940, construction was completed on Disney’s Burbank studio, and the staff swelled to more than 1,000 artists, animators, story men and technicians. During World War II, 94 percent of the Disney facilities were engaged in special government work including the production of training and propaganda films for the armed services, as well as health films which are still shown throughout the world by the U.S. State Department. The remainder of his efforts were devoted to the production of comedy short subjects, deemed highly essential to civilian and military morale.

Disney’s 1945 feature, the musical The Three Caballeros, combined live action with the cartoon medium, a process he used successfully in such other features as Song of the South and the highly acclaimed Mary Poppins. In all, 81 features were released by the studio during his lifetime.

Walt’s inquisitive mind and keen sense for education through entertainment resulted in the award-winning “True-Life Adventure” series. Through such films as The Living DesertThe Vanishing PrairieThe African Lion and White Wilderness, Disney brought fascinating insights into the world of wild animals and taught the importance of conserving our nation’s outdoor heritage.

Disneyland, launched in 1955 as a fabulous $17 million Magic Kingdom, soon increased its investment tenfold and entertained, by its fourth decade, more than 400 million people, including presidents, kings and queens and royalty from all over the globe.

A pioneer in the field of television programming, Disney began production in 1954, and was among the first to present full-color programming with his Wonderful World of Color in 1961. The Mickey Mouse Club and Zorro were popular favorites in the 1950s.


But that was only the beginning. In 1965, Walt Disney turned his attention toward the problem of improving the quality of urban life in America. He personally directed the design on an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT, planned as a living showcase for the creativity of American industry.

Said Disney, “I don’t believe there is a challenge anywhere in the world that is more important to people everywhere than finding the solution to the problems of our cities. But where do we begin? Well, we’re convinced we must start with the public need. And the need is not just for curing the old ills of old cities. We think the need is for starting from scratch on virgin land and building a community that will become a prototype for the future.”

Thus, Disney directed the purchase of 43 square miles of virgin land — twice the size of Manhattan Island — in the center of the state of Florida. Here, he master planned a whole new Disney world of entertainment to include a new amusement theme park, motel-hotel resort vacation center and his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. After more than seven years of master planning and preparation, including 52 months of actual construction, Walt Disney World opened to the public as scheduled on October 1, 1971. Epcot Center opened on October 1, 1982.

Prior to his death on December 15, 1966, Walt Disney took a deep interest in the establishment of California Institute of the Arts, a college level, professional school of all the creative and performing arts. Of Cal Arts, Walt once said, “It’s the principal thing I hope to leave when I move on to greener pastures. If I can help provide a place to develop the talent of the future, I think I will have accomplished something.”

California Institute of the Arts was founded in 1961 with the amalgamation of two schools, the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and Chouinard Art Institute. The campus is located in the city of Valencia, 32 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. Walt Disney conceived the new school as a place where all the performing and creative arts would be taught under one roof in a “community of the arts” as a completely new approach to professional arts training.

Walt Disney is a legend, a folk hero of the 20th century. His worldwide popularity was based upon the ideas which his name represents: imagination, optimism and self-made success in the American tradition. Walt Disney did more to touch the hearts, minds and emotions of millions of Americans than any other man in the past century. Through his work, he brought joy, happiness and a universal means of communication to the people of every nation. Certainly, our world shall know but one Walt Disney.

Disney Conservation Fund Celebrates its 2020 Heroes

the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) recognizes the hard work and effort of individuals and teams around the world working to conserve wildlife and protect wild places every year. In a world that needs wildlife heroes more than ever, the DCF is proud to celebrate the following 20 individuals and teams awarded in 2020, who join more than 200 passionate, dedicated Disney Conservation Heroes recognized to date in more than 50 countries around the world.

Calvin “Blacka” Fenton

Nominated by American Friends of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Inc.

Calvin “Blacka” Fenton can often be found awake at 5 a.m. checking wildlife camera traps for five hours, before spending the afternoon tending his goats and returning to the forest at dusk to study critically endangered “mountain chicken” frogs until after midnight—all without complaint and with a smile on his face. Born and raised on the mountain island territory of Montserrat in the Caribbean, Blacka spent his youth exploring the island and learning all he could about his home’s native wildlife and environment. Today he is the go-to wildlife expert and field worker on the island, and his self-learned skills have made him an indispensable asset to numerous conservation projects, visiting researchers and even local hunters—who grew to respect Blacka and follow his guidance to more sustainably hunt the mountain chicken and support the survival of the species. Blacka’s work with the Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme for nearly 17 years has been critical in preventing the extinction of his island’s iconic species.

Photo Credit Luli Martinez

Juan and Felipe Cuevas

Nominated by Arizona State University Foundation for a New American University

Living with only their family on a 2.5 acre island in Baja California Sur, Mexico—two hours away from the nearest human settlement—Juan and Felipe Cuevas grew up fishing and today are two of the most successful fishers in the region. At a young age, the brothers mastered a variety of fishing techniques and began to notice that some methods led to unintended capture and declines of endangered marine species, like sea turtles. They were inspired to take action: Over the past decade, they changed their methods to avoid accidentally capturing sea turtles and other non-target species for only sustainable finfish species, participated in nearly 30 workshops with local fishers to advance sustainable fishing methods and partnered with the Mexican nonprofit Grupo Tortuguero de las Californias to launch a long-term program to protect critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles. They also helped Arizona State University develop the world’s first solar-powered illuminated fishing nets that are significantly reducing accidental catch of endangered sea turtles. The brothers continue to help test and improve design and efficiency of the nets, and support both endangered species and sustainable fisheries globally.

Commanding Officer Francis Legei

Nominated by Big Life Foundation

Officer Francis Legei grew to love wildlife while passing animals as a young boy on his way to school in the Laikipia District of Kenya. After serving as a Kenya Wildlife Service ranger for 15 years, Francis joined Big Life as the Commanding Officer of a team of 300+ rangers working to reduce illegal wildlife poaching over an area of 1.6 million acres in the Greater Amboseli ecosystem. Due to his knowledge, expertise and leadership of an incredible team, illegal poaching of wildlife like elephants and critically endangered Eastern black rhinos has been halted or significantly reduced in Big Life’s area of operation. His job is 24/7 while on duty, often requiring him to be away from family for months at a time. But Francis’ dedication drives him to make the most of this time, building strong relationships between his ranger team and communities to reduce human-wildlife conflict, and collaborating with other partners and local authorities to protect wildlife.

Sarasota Dolphin Research Program Team

Nominated by Chicago Zoological Society

Beginning in 1970, the Florida-based Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP) team, including co-founder and current director Dr. Randall Wells, discovered that inshore bottlenose dolphins reside in long-term local communities. This important finding allowed the team to dedicate the next 50 years to conducting the longest running study of wild dolphin populations in the world, making incredible contributions to knowledge of dolphin behavior, social structure, health, ecology, communication and the effects of human activities on these complex marine mammals. The team is using their research to help local people get to know their local dolphins as individuals—from creating school curricula to outreach efforts among fishers—ensuring people know how to protect and care for dolphins. The team also helps rescue entangled or injured dolphins, and has trained more than 400 researchers and students from more than 30 countries in dolphin research techniques that are now being applied to protect species around the globe.

Alex Ngabirano

Nominated by Conservation Through Public Health

The world’s population of mountain gorillas recently surpassed 1,000 individuals, changing their conservation status from “critically endangered” to “endangered.” While many celebrated this achievement, Alex Ngabirano saw it as a reason to work even harder. Growing up in the Bwindi community of Uganda, home to 43 percent of remaining mountain gorillas, Alex believes that to protect wildlife, we must also help communities who rely on forest resources to meet the basic needs of their families. Through his work as a field officer at Conservation Through Public Health, training teams to support local community health, grow kids’ participation in conservation and health programs across eight schools and identify community members to train as “gorilla guardians” and community scientists, Alex has helped create a community that respects and protects their environment. Alex’s strong communication and relationship building skills, along with leadership by example, have helped empower his community to improve their own lives and the future of endangered mountain gorillas.

Le Van Hien

Nominated by Fauna & Flora International U.S.A., Inc.

Like many in his rural Vietnamese community, Le Van Hien learned to hunt and trap wildlife at a young age to provide food for his family. He became so well known for his ability to hunt and navigate the Kim Bang forest that he was hired by a visiting primatologist to assist with research on the critically endangered Delacour’s langur. After witnessing the dedication and care the scientists had for this species and others, Hien decided to stop hunting and trapping. Although a better hunter than farmer, he returned to farming and encouraged other hunters to do the same. Now the leader of the local Community Conservation Team, Hien’s work is driven by passion for wildlife and devotion to his community. He is an indispensable resource of local knowledge and biodiversity expertise for scientists, journalists and local groups. He has made real and lasting contributions to the future of the critically endangered Delacour’s langur and has been an instrumental part of a collaborative effort to establish Kim Bang forest as one of Vietnam’s newest protected areas.

Melvin Smith

Nominated by Fauna & Flora International U.S.A., Inc.

Growing up on a farm in the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, Melvin Smith began studying wild plants when he was 19 years old. With no formal education beyond secondary school, his personal passion drove him to learn all he could about food crops, as well as wild plants and their uses. A born naturalist, Melvin singled-handedly identified 400 new wild plant species previously undocumented on the island. With his incomparable green thumb, Melvin supported the restoration of Sandy Beach coastline by growing 800 individual plants in his own nursery to help revegetate the coast. And upon discovering a small mountain-top population of pencil cedar trees, an endemic species nearly extinct in the wild, Melvin used his extraordinary climbing skills to collect seeds and carefully cultivated 300 new saplings through trial and error, patience and a fierce determination to bring this species back from the brink. A true conservationist, he is not only helping to save rare species but using his extraordinary talents, knowledge and enthusiasm to teach and inspire others to appreciate and care for plants, too.

Nelson Alvarez

Nominated by Fundacion Proyecto Tití

At 13 years old, Nelson Alvarez joined Proyecto Tití’s CARTITILLA school program to learn about critically endangered cotton-top tamarins in Colombia and how to help these special little monkeys that live nowhere else in the world. Through all of Proyecto Tití’s youth leadership programs, Nelson became a talented youth leader, launching a door-to-door campaign to encourage his community to recycle, and organizing community projects to collect more than 1,000 pounds of recyclable materials and more than 2,000 plastic bags. These items that once posed a risk to wildlife were transformed by local artisans into ecomochilla bags sold to help provide families with an income or into durable fence posts used to keep community livestock safe. While pursuing his goal of education to advance his career in conservation, Nelson continues to volunteer, raise awareness and support for both cotton-top tamarins and local artisans and inspire countless kids to be heroes for conservation.

Murthy Kantimahanti

Nominated by Houston Zoo Inc.

Early in life, Murthy Kantimahanti learned his passion for snakes was not shared by many people in his small coastal hometown in India. King cobras, the largest venomous snakes in the world, are critical to a balanced ecosystem; but traditions, superstitions and fear continue to threaten the species. So, Murthy pioneered the first community-based snake conservation program in the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh. He has trained more than 500 frontline staff of wildlife departments as well as amateur snake rescuers in the state, and taught people from 40 villages over 200 square kilometers to live in harmony with snakes. His efforts are reducing snakebite incidents and unnecessary killings of threatened snake species, and resulted in the first successful rescues and releases of king cobras in the region. His passion even drives him to risk his own safety to continue protecting snakes with his local “snake saviors” in villages during the COVID-19 pandemic, while following all required precautions.

Maurice Wanjala

Nominated by International Crane Foundation

As a boy, Maurice Wanjala spent significant time exploring nature in western Kenya as a scout. He developed such a passion that he created a local community-based organization to protect Saiwa Swamp National Park, home to grey crowned cranes and many other plants and animals. Every day, without funding or means of transportation, Maurice walked to schools, churches and public gatherings to teach about the importance of wetlands and inspire others to join his conservation cause. In 1991 Dr. George Archibald, the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation (ICF), was so inspired by meeting Maurice during a visit to Kenya that he gave Maurice his first grant of $70 to continue his efforts. With it, Maurice bought a bicycle and began riding longer distances to monitor breeding pairs of cranes, establish environmental clubs and expand community work. Now an ongoing partner of ICF, he has established village birder clubs, trained community members to safeguard breeding cranes, expanded awareness campaigns to 32 schools and initiated the planting of 1.2 million tree saplings to protect the wetland area.

Rahul Dutta

Nominated by International Rhino Foundation

Twenty-five years ago, Rahul Dutta sat at his desk and decided he was meant to do more. Inspired by a passion for wildlife, he quit his office job to put his software programming skills to use fighting wildlife trafficking and poaching crimes, and never looked back. Working with several agencies and nonprofit organizations, and currently with International Rhino Foundation, he has helped set up databases to track wildlife offenses, and successfully led and facilitated crime investigations all over the country, including the largest-ever seizure of illegal tiger and leopard parts in India. Rahul recognized that wildlife criminals are only discouraged when held responsible for their crimes, and created an intensive training program in evidence collection and judicial procedures for park personnel tasked with combating poachers. His effective training is in high demand throughout the region and his dedication is helping agencies throughout India and in other countries identify and deter more wildlife criminals and significantly reduce poaching of endangered wildlife.

Ephantus Mugo

Nominated by Lewa Wildlife Conservancy USA

Ephantus Mugo’s passion and dedication have inspired thousands of Kenyan students to become stewards of the environment, all of whom have the potential to develop solutions to the country’s biggest ecological challenges like poaching, deforestation and climate change. When the Lewa Conservation Education Program began, Ephantus worked alone to connect with 20 schools each year. Nine years later, he leads a dedicated team that reaches more than 10,000 students annually by hosting more than 100 school groups for game drives and experiential learning, or supporting Conservation Clubs at an additional 23 local schools. Ephantus also worked with 350 teachers to integrate conservation education into school curriculums and was the inspiration for Lewa to build a 50-room dormitory to host students from low-income areas of northern Kenya and provide a chance to learn firsthand the value of conservation. His efforts to shape students into stewards for Kenya’s vulnerable wildlife such as rhinos, Grevy’s zebra, lions and hyenas are creating a brighter future, as these children become passionate conservationists.

Eleanor Osgood

Nominated by the Los Angeles Audubon Society

After joining a nature club in her mid-30s, Eleanor Osgood became fascinated with birds and the challenges they faced in Los Angeles County, California. This fascination led Eleanor to dedicate the next 30 years to volunteerism with the Los Angeles Audubon Society and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. She tirelessly helped recruit community volunteers, initiated public outreach projects, led local nature walks for the public and helped develop bilingual educational materials to engage her community’s Spanish speakers in bird conservation. Eleanor also launched the “Weed Warriors” project in Baldwin Hills Parklands, a three-mile area of a dwindling and rare coastal sagebrush habitat that is surrounded by dense urbanization. Their work over six years to restore this habitat is providing food and shelter for birds and other wildlife populations, reducing urban runoff, and improving the environmental health of the community. Eleanor’s work has helped to engage people of all ages in the wonders of birdwatching and the importance of restoring and protecting nature within our urban communities.

Brad Rumble

Nominated by Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History Foundation

Elementary school principal Brad Rumble proves that a little bit of nature goes a long way. Working as an educator in the urban core of Los Angeles where very little nature can be found and gang activity is common, Brad partnered with the Los Angeles Audubon Society to transform 5,000 square feet of his campus’ underused blacktop into a “schoolyard habitat.” The restored space became a vibrant living laboratory for students to discover local wildlife and an outdoor haven where children could safely explore. As a result, student science test scores and morale improved significantly, and the project became an example for green spaces in schools throughout the United States. Brad has helped create additional wildlife habitats at a second school, goes out of his way to make himself available after school hours to take families on bird walks and partners with local organizations to give students real-world nature and science experiences. His efforts are unleashing the academic potential of thousands of students and demonstrating the remarkable impact that wildlife habitat restoration and exploration can have on student achievement and on creating a more healthy planet.

Emerson Narciso Neves

Nominated by the Marine Megafauna Foundation

Emerson Narciso Neves’ passion for helping his community began during primary school as he volunteered along the biodiverse coastlines of Mozambique to support local youth, health and the environment. Although Emerson lacked the desired experience for his first position with the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF), he proved his dedication and enthusiasm in only six weeks as a volunteer and was given a full-time job. Now a manager, Emerson’s passion for the ocean and diplomatic social skills make him an influential member of the community who is helping to lead MMF’s Sustainable Seas Project to protect wildlife including whale sharks, manta rays, marine turtles and cetaceans. Emerson’s work to train local people as community leaders and launch sustainable tourism and alternative livelihood programs has empowered communities to manage their resources sustainably and reduce pressure on local fisheries. His efforts are also helping to instill a sense of ownership with the fishing community and protect vulnerable species and local fisheries, which in turn protects local food security.

Photo Credit Tsewang Dolma

Tsewang Namgail

Nominated by Panthera

In the northern Indian region of Ladakh, home to 60 percent of India’s snow leopards, Tsewang Namgail leads a team of 13 dedicated people along with students and volunteers to reduce conflict between snow leopards and farmers, and find solutions to benefit both through community-based tourism, education and research. Alongside his team, he has helped build snow leopard-proof corrals to protect livestock, promote local food production and expand innovative micro-enterprises like eco-cafes and more than 200 homestays that invite tourists to stay in community homes. These programs help local people earn an income, offset livestock losses to snow leopards and show the value of a thriving population of snow leopards to help increase tourism. Tsewang’s passion for positively impacting this special place where he grew up has helped grow a community-based conservation and education program into a model that has been emulated not just in India, but across snow leopard range in Asia.

Photo Credit Steve Winter

Land of the Snow Leopard Network

Nominated by the Snow Leopard Conservancy

Snow leopard habitat spans 12 mountainous countries throughout Central Asia, each diverse in traditions and culture, and each with their own challenges for big cats. The Land of the Snow Leopard Network (LOSL), comprised of more than 100 members including Indigenous Cultural Practitioners—shamans, sacred site guardians, respected leaders of regional faiths and revered Elders—brings communities together and advances snow leopard conservation while also preserving unique cultures. Four country teams manage the work of educators and spiritual and cultural leaders to promote community wildlife, engage children and parents in multi-disciplinary education courses and nature clubs based on traditional culture and monitor biological and cultural data around snow leopards and poaching incidents. LOSL’s inclusive approach is based on both traditional ecological knowledge and western science. Reviving indigenous cultural practices and attitudes toward sacred species is seen by the LOSL’s members as crucial to conservation. Their efforts have already been impactful in communities where snow leopards have been caught raiding livestock; instead of retaliating, the people have forgiven the cats and released them back into the wild in peace.

Rungwa Human-Elephant Coexistence Team (Abneri Nombo, Shabani Ramadhan, Jonas Jackson, Hamisi Nasoro)

Nominated by Southern Tanzania Elephant

In Tanzania, elephants’ futures depend on peaceful coexistence with humans who share their space and resources. In communities where people often fear and dislike elephants for threatening farms that are sources of both food and income, the Human-Elephant Coexistence (HEC) team bravely collects data on elephant movements, records incidents of elephants raiding resources and risks danger and unpopularity to be a voice for elephant tolerance and understanding. Team members have conducted hundreds of days of monitoring and collected three years of data on elephant activity in the region, often walking long distances alone in remote areas, and working through heavy floods and extreme heat. They have engaged thousands of community members and students in events and education programs, supported programs to boost community economic resilience while helping people and wildlife and helped local leadership use data to reduce conflict with elephants. With smiles, laughter and dedication, the HEC team is helping current and future generations to participate in land use planning to create a more sustainable future for human-elephant coexistence.

Okapi Conservation Project Agroforestry Team (Muvi  Yalala, Enckoto Bameseto, Makubuli Mwanika, Masiyiri Mulawa, Mpinda Tchinkunku, Muvi Yalala, Muhindo Muliwavyo, Kasereka Tsongo, Sambi Mukandilwa, Lobo Lina, Nadepa Awelekyalanga and Manbgeto Bambakonda Therese)

Nominated by Wildlife Conservation Global, Inc.

What began as a small effort to combat the degradation of critical forest habitat in the Democratic Republic of Congo has grown into a comprehensive program led by the Okapi Conservation Project Agroforestry Team to empower communities to produce their own food sustainably, improve their standard of living and, at the same time, protect the okapi and its habitat by reducing their dependence on mining, poaching and forest resources. Across five key okapi habitat sites in the Ituri Forest, the team engages more than 500 farmers in a sustainable farming program that has increased crop yields by up to 25 percent compared to traditional methods. They also collect native fruit and nut tree seeds from the forest to grow in nurseries and involve local people in planting tens of thousands of new saplings each year, instilling a love and appreciation of nature in local children and ensuring forest habitats for wildlife. True leaders in their communities, this team has even increased distribution of supplies and adapted strategies to support communities safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Nominated by Wildlife Conservation Society

Motivated by a volunteer opportunity that led him to witness how wildlife trafficking was negatively impacting wildlife, Tabah has spent more than two decades supporting forest-edge communities in reducing conflict with threatened wildlife including tigers and elephants in and around Bukit Barisan Selatan (BBS) National Park on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Tabah has supported research to find  win-win solutions for wildlife and people, helped resolve more than 370 human-wildlife conflict cases in more than 50 villages surrounding BBS, aided communities in building nearly 200 tiger-proof livestock enclosures to reduce conflicts with wildlife, educated communities and deescalated conflicts that would otherwise result in retaliation against critically endangered Sumatran tigers. His personal approach has gained him trust and respect among communities, and his dedication has shown clear and positive results with reduced frequency of human-tiger conflicts across the landscape and surveys once again showing a healthy density of tigers in the core forest areas of the park.

Leonardo’s new film ‘The Revenant’ set in Canadian wilderness

Leonardo DiCaprio will follow up his performance in the successful The Wolf of Wall Street with the role of Hugh Glass in The Revenant. Glass is a 19th century fur trapper who is mauled by a grizzly bear, left for dead and then robbed.  When he survives against all odds, he sets out on a treacherous journey to exact revenge on his betrayers in this captivating and inspiring story based on the Michael Punke novel, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge.

The film, written by Mark L. Smith and Inarritu, started production in September 2014, and has a fall 2015 release planned through New Regency’s distribution deal with 20th Century Fox. Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin, Keith Redmon and David Kanter will produce the film along with Inarritu, Arnon Milchan and James Skotchdopole. Executive producer is Paul Green. RatPac and Worldview Entertainment will co-finance the film. The film co-stars Tom Hardy and Will Poulter.

Fox said the film shot for six months in remote Canadian wilderness, using only natural light.