The Conservancy would like to congratulate Maria Azhunova, Director Elect of the Conservancy’s Land of the Snow Leopard Network & Executive Director of the Baikal Buryat Center of Indigenous Cultures, who is this year’s recipient of Stanford’s Bright Environmental Award.

This top honor is given to individuals who are dedicating their careers to increasing sustainability & to conservation of the environment. While recognizing her past achievements, this award will enable Maria to achieve her full potential as a leader in biological and cultural conservation.

According to the Stanford Report: 

Maria Azhunova, winner of the 2020 Bright Award, supports the intergenerational transfer of traditional knowledge and biocultural approaches to nature conservation through her work at the Baikal Buryat Center for Indigenous Cultures. From her family’s ancient homeland in the mountainous region of the Buryat Republic in Southern Siberia, Russia, Maria Azhunova harnesses generations of her people’s Indigenous knowledge to preserve Buryat culture and biodiversity across a vast multinational region of Central Asia – including the preservation of critically endangered snow leopards in direct cooperation with local peoples, youth education programs focused on sustaining Buryat language and traditional lifeways, and the reintroduction of an ancient Indigenous Buryat cattle breed once believed to be extinct. Azhunova does this work as executive director of the Baikal Buryat Center for Indigenous Cultures (BBCIC) and as director-elect of a unique multinational conservation collaborative, the Land of the Snow Leopard Network (LOSL).

Maria Azhunova and Dr. Rodney Jackson at the 2019 WCN Wildlife Conservation Expo

Maria says, “I am deeply honored to be the recipient of 2020 Bright Award. This incredible award is not about me, or my own work or struggles, it is about recognizing hard work, dedication, and vision and passion of hundreds of people whom I had the honor to work with. Most of them are not recognized internationally despite their outstanding accomplishments on the grassroots level with actual global impact. These people, humble and strong, are holding this world together with their everyday work. And I also think that this award is not just a recognition, it is a potentially impactful platform for amplification of my elders,” colleagues,” and partners” visions, voices, and work.

“I would like to thank all people with whom I had the honor to work with. The entire team of BBCIC and all members of LOSL network, our Elders, spiritual practitioners, shamans, world religions clergy, herders, children, and environmentalists. A long list of names, each name – a passionate human being with a wealth of knowledge and experience and spiritual rootedness in a place, so much needed qualities in our world today. The main thing that I was taught by each of them is the need for “humanizing our life,” humanizing in its original meaning of the word, making this world a kinder, more compassionate place for humans and all lifeforms.”

To learn more about the Bright Award and Maria and to watch a video about Maria’s work with Land of the Snow Leopard network click here.