The Prize Winners

The MIDORI Prize for Biodiversity 2016

Yury Darman

Yury Darman
Director, Amur Branch, WWF Russia (Russia)


All my life I devoted to the Amur River – to keep it free-flowing and to conserve outstanding biodiversity. Under the fast infrastructure development on the Border of Russia and China, it was so urgent to ensure the balance between economics and ecology, between people and Nature. And formation of the comprehensive and representative network of protected areas, linked by floodplains as natural corridors is the main tool and preventive action. Within WWF Amur Ecoregion Program, the territory of nature reserves, national parks and wildlife refuges was doubled, and at least in Primorsky province reached the AICHI Goal of 17%. Moreover, 25% of Amur tiger habitats are under protection now, while Far Eastern leopard stepped back from the edge of extinction.

The ecological situation on the Planet became more and more worth and we are here on the front line trying to conserve for Mankind the last islands of Wildness. It is not easy to live and to work here, not because of frost and snow, mosquito and ticks, roadless and impassable ridge. But sometime we give way to despair because of the incomprehension of governmental authorities, ignorance of local citizens, collapse of some long-term efforts. We need for moral support, we need the feeling that we are the important mesh in a worldwide environmental movement and many people know about our work for nature conservation. The AEON Environmental Foundation MIDORI Prize is the highest award for CBD Goals implementation, and I am very thankful for recognition of my input and WWF Russia efforts.

Reasons for Awarding the Prize

Dr. Yury Darman is a champion of the Russian conservation movement who has given inspiring leadership to the Amur Ecoregion Program. He has devoted 40 years of professional service to the Amur River − one of the ten greatest rivers in the world. Since 1989, he has investigated the impact of dams on freshwater ecosystems and organized five campaigns against dam construction on the main stem of the Amur River. He has integrated scientific and traditional knowledge into a comprehensive program for biodiversity conservation under the umbrella of iconic rare species, such as the Amur tiger, the Far Eastern leopard and the Oriental stork. Thanks in large part to his efforts, protected areas in the region have been increased and species populations have recovered.

Dr. Darman took leadership in the elaboration and implementation of the Program for Protected Area Network development, which now covers 12% of the Amur Ecoregion. He prepared scientific background materials and contributed to the establishment of Norskii nature reserve, Orlovsky federal refuge, and seven provincial wildlife refuges (in total 980 thousand hectares) to save the unique migratory population of Siberian Roe deer (more than 40,000 animals) and the biodiversity of the boreal taiga and the northern wetlands. In cooperation with the Wild Bird Society of Japan, and Tokyo and Hokkaido Universities, he conducted a large-scale investigation of the migratory paths of cranes and stork. Based on the results, all important stop-overs and breeding grounds were designated as protected wetlands along the Amur River and its tributaries (12 new protected areas on 943 thousand hectares). Since 2000, he has been focusing on the creation of a protected area network for the Amur tiger. Through his efforts, 2 million hectares of protected areas were created, including innovative arrangements related to national parks and ecological corridors. The biggest success has been the gazetting of the Bikin national park (1,160 thousand hectares) in 2015. Now, 25% of Amur tiger habitats are under protection which, together with anti-poaching and law enforcement, has contributed to increasing the population from 350 to 430 adult cats.

Cooperation with civil society, engagement in policy-making, and international cooperation are each essential to the success of such conservation activities. Dr. Darman initiated a public campaign, “Save each of the survivors”, to protect the last population of the Far Eastern leopard (also known as the Amur leopard) and, consequently, this rarest cat has stepped out from the edge of extinction (recovering from 30 to 80 animals). The establishment by Government of a united federal protected area, the “Land of the Leopard”, which covers 262 thousand hectares (60% of the species remaining habitats) was a major success of the efforts. An initiative to prevent forest fire (leading to a major decrease of burned area) and promote reforestation (planting 1.5 million Korean pine seedlings) was implemented to restore degraded habitats. His conservation activities reach across borders. Cooperation between bordering nature reserves along the Amur River is conducted with reserves in China and Mongolia under a large international initiative, the “Amur Green Belt”.

Dr. Darman also elaborated and implemented a large project to ensure sustainable use of non-timber forest products instead of logging in the context of a Russian-German Climate Initiative. He has given focus to interlinkages between biodiversity and climate change and faced important biodiversity challenges through his influential work on the ground.

Given the reasons mentioned above, the contributions made by Dr. Yury Darman to biodiversity are tremendous and he well deserves the MIDORI Prize.

Biographical Summary

Born in Blagoveshchensk, Amurskaya Province, Russia
1973 – 1978
Master Degree in Biology at the Wildlife Biology Faculty, Irkutsk Agriculture Academy, Russia
1976 - 1977
Technician, Researcher of Scientific department of Barguzinsky Nature Reserve, Buryatia Republic, Russia
1978 – 1987
Researcher, Senior researcher, Deputy director of Kningansky Nature Reserve, Amurskaya Province, Russia
Ph.D. “Biology of Roe deer”. All-Russia Institute for Nature Conservation and Nature Reserves, Moscow
1987 - 1994
Senior researcher of Amur Research Center, Far Eastern Branch of Russian Academy of Science, Blagoveshchensk, Russia
1988 – 1993
Elected as Deputy Chair of Environmental Commission of Amur Province Parliament, Blagoveshchensk, Russia
1994 – 1999
Director of Non-profit organization Amur Social-Ecological Union, Blagoveshchensk, Russia
1999 - 2016
Protected areas coordinator, Director of Amur branch of WWF Russia, Vladivostok, Russia

Record of Honors and Awards

The Ecological Society of Japan - The 5th Ecological Research Paper Award, “Network analysis of potential migration routes for Oriental White Storks (Ciconia boyciana)”
Russian Ministry of Natural Resources - Title of Honorary Nature Conservation Worker.
WWF International Staff Award for Outstanding Service.
IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas - Fred Packard Award for outstanding services and innovative contributions to protected areas management worldwide.
President of Russia – Title of Honoured Ecologist of Russia for the saving of Amur leopard and creation of national park “Land of Leopard”.
President of Russia - Honorary Diploma for the saving of Amur tiger and creation of national park “Bikin”

Related Website

WWF Russia

WWF celebrates Yury Darman as the MIDORI Prize 2016 winner

More about Dr. Darman

Dr. Darman CV