Sir David Attenborough awarded Ecuadorian National Order of Merit 

The Ceremony

“This is a very great honour and one for which I am extremely grateful coming from a country that has done so much for one of the treasures of the whole world. The Galapagos Islands are, without question, one of the most extraordinary places on Earth.” 

This is how Sir David Attenborough thanked the Ambassador of Ecuador to the UK, Sebastián Corral, after he was awarded the National Order of Merit for his outstanding and continuous support to the preservation of the natural environment of the Galapagos Islands. The ‘National Order of Merit’ is the highest decoration granted by Ecuador and was awarded on behalf of the President of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, on Friday 22 July at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.  

Sir David Attenborough receiving his award from the Ambassador of Ecuador to the UK, Sebastián Corral. © GCT

Ambassador Corral opened the ceremony by emphasising the importance of the work of Sir David over the years to protect the environment, the nature and the oceans. In particular, he highlighted Sir David’s documentary Galapagos 3D, which made the Archipelago even more famous, but also raised environmental awareness of its fragility, as a way of promoting its care and preservation. 

Ambassador Corral thanked Sir David for inspiring new generations of children and young people through his documentaries and books, which will remain as the best legacy of a man whose life has been devoted to love and protect our living planet.  

Sir David responded by saying, “Your country [Ecuador] has a great responsibility in looking after this huge global treasure which has no parallel anywhere else in the world. You are doing so in a remarkable way and always have done. But now you’ve taken this extra step forward, to protect the seas around these amazing Islands… what you see there is a marvellous addition to the precious and glorious and wonders of the land. And it’s also particularly vulnerable. Vulnerable to fishing, vulnerable to pollution. And your action in constituting a reserve there, is an important model to the rest of the world.”  

You can see Sir David’s speech here:

GCT’s Chief Executive, Sharon Johnson, and President, Monty Halls, were both lucky enough to attend the ceremony and were moved by the words of Sir David. Afterwards, Sharon commented, “The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, are recognised as one of the most unique, scientifically important biodiversity hotspots on Earth. However, more than 80 of the Archipelago’s species are now listed as either Critically Endangered or Endangered. Today the world is facing unprecedented changes in climate and biodiversity loss driven by human activities. We are working with the Ecuadorian Government and partners to tackle these issues in Galapagos through restoring the Islands’ ecosystems and protecting the ocean surrounding them. We are grateful to Sir David for highlighting the importance of the Galapagos Islands and would like to congratulate him on his award.”    

Monty recorded this message after the ceremony:  

Protecting the ocean 

We were particularly pleased that Sir David recognized the importance of protecting the ocean around the Galapagos Islands. By keeping the fish in and taking pollution out, we can not only protect marine species, but also mitigate climate impacts in the region.  

With our help, in early 2022 the new Hermandad Marine Reserve was declared covering an important migratory route and expanding Ecuador’s ocean protection from 13% to 18% of its waters. However, there is still a long way to go to attain the goal of protecting 30% of its ocean by 2030, which will help us to build climate resilience for Galapagos as well as protect sharks and other marine species throughout their lifetimes.  

GCT President Monty Halls, Sir David Attenborough, GCT Chief Executive Sharon Johnson and Ambassador Corral © GCT.

How you can help

Galapagos Conservation Trust has been working for over ten years with our partners to restore the habitats of the Galapagos Archipelago and recover threatened species. With your help, saving iconic Galapagos species can become a reality. Find out more about our projects, and how you can support them.