Rare Bird Club President dies
BirdLife International is deeply saddened to hear of the death of His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who was a keen supporter and Honorary President of BirdLife's Rare Bird Club.
Deeply committed to conservation and with a lifelong love of aviation, Prince Bernhard was affectionately known as the 'Flying Prince of Conservation'. He was the driving force behind the creation of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 1961, serving as the organisation's first International President until 1976.
The Prince was deeply involved in the creation of numerous nature reserves, including Biebrza National Park in Poland, and Chitwan National Park in Nepal. In 1973, he encouraged a number of Asian governments to set up Operation Tiger, which aimed to save the big cats he so admired from extinction. Two years later in 1975, he was also instrumental in the creation of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The Prince founded WWF's 1001 Club, persuading acquaintances from around the world to each donate $10,000 into a trust to help fund the organisation's core costs. In 1988, BirdLife established a similar scheme, The Rare Bird Club, with Prince Bernhard as its Honorary President. Today there are over 400 members from 40 different countries, who have raised more than £3 million for international bird conservation.
"The Prince's energy, enthusiasm and support for wildlife conservation was unsurpassed. He was fearless and would undertake tasks that others might have shunned, including face to face fundraising which raised thousands of pounds around the world for BirdLife's Rare Bird Club and numerous other global conservation issues." —Jane Fenton, Vice President, BirdLife International's Rare Bird Club
Paul Jepson, then Programme Coordinator for BirdLife’s Indonesia Programme, recalls flying back to Jakarta on the Dutch Royal Jet, after the Prince had visited Sumba in support of BirdLife’s campaign to create two national parks there, and realising the 82 year old Prince was at the controls.
The Prince's influence at government level was important, but Paul believes he also contributed to a new sense of the importance of their environment among the islanders, and contributed to their active involvement in proposing and championing the national parks on the island. "The Sumbanese felt they were regarded by the outside world as a little dry island without significant timber or petroleum, which had been left behind by the rapid pace of modernisation elsewhere in Indonesia. So the visit from Prince Bernhard was a matter of enormous local pride, which showed them that their nature and culture were valued by the outside world."
Bernhard Leopold Frederik Everhard Julius Coert Karel Godfried Pieter, Prince of the Netherlands, born 29 June 1911; died 1 December 2004