John had been awarded an Honorary Doctorate from University Campus Suffolk (UCS) in 2011 but unfortunately he had been unable to attend the ceremony as it clashed with a site visit he had planned for Mexico at the same time. However, he did collect his doctorate, which is awarded by the Universities of East Anglia and Essex, this year at a ceremony held at the Corn Exchange in Ipswich on 23 October.
The award, bestowed by the Provost and Chief Executive, Professor Mike Saks, was in recognition of John's career as a life-long naturalist and leader in the conservation movement. As John’s biography describes, he has been instrumental in the development and success of several national and international conservation organisations and has written extensively on natural history and conservation-related subjects. His passions still lie with less emotive species, such as bats and reptiles, and habitats that most people would pay not to visit such as the inhospitable Dry Chaco of Paraguay. This does not mean that he doesn’t work tirelessly with the World Land Trust (WLT) to develop innovative ways of saving all important, but threatened habitats, and their species.
Recently John has returned from a site visit to the Atlantic Rainforest in Misiones Province, Argentina, where he was accompanied by journalist Fran Yeomans. The Independent Magazine published her 5-page story entitled The Mission to Protect Paradise on 20 October. The multi-cultural agreement that was reached during this visit, designed to protect 9,301 acres (3,764 hectares) of Atlantic Rainforest as a protected reserve will be managed by local NGO partners in Argentina in collaboration with the Guarani community. Commenting after the signing of the agreement on 25 September the Argentinian Minister of Ecology, Viviana Rovira, said: "This alliance is unique. I don't think in the world there is another like us."
Also receiving an Honorary Doctorate from UCS this year was Simon Barnes, a WLT Council member. Simon is an acclaimed journalist and writer who is as passionate about wildlife as John. As a journalist for The Times he has won a number of awards and regularly writes about WLT; he has recently returned from a site visit to Borneo to see the work being carried out by WLT project partners to save forests for Orang-utans and other rare species like Pygmy Elephants.