World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released the following statement from Carter Roberts, President and CEO on the passing of Dr. Thomas Lovejoy:
WWF remembers legendary conservation biologist Thomas Lovejoy, who passed away on December 25, 2021. Tom was one of the earliest employees of WWF-US, and our first scientist. He went on to become one of the country’s most influential leaders in conservation and was a longtime member of WWF’s Board of Directors and National Council.
Tom believed that science was what grounded our work to the reality of the world, and he understood instinctively that the best way to inspire someone to protect nature was to get them out in the middle of it. For decades, he brought visitors to Camp 41, part of the Amazon Biodiversity Center he founded in Manaus, Brazil.
“I’ve learned not to jump into making the case [for nature] instantly,” he said when interviewed for WWF’s magazine. “I like to draw the individuals out, find out what they’re interested in, and then try and raise some point that connects with that. But mostly, when I take them out into nature I let the forest do most of the education.”
But of course for as much as he will always mean to WWF, he means even more to the field of conservation. He was truly a legend, and his impact will be felt for decades to come. Tom introduced the term ‘biological diversity’ and invented debt-for-nature swaps—WWF’s expertise in conservation finance began with this innovation. From the Smithsonian to the World Bank to the United Nations Foundation, there are few globally important conservation organizations or institutions that Tom has not impacted.
At a time in our world where too often we shout at each other across a social media divide, Tom believed in relationships and cultivated those in the field and over intimate dinners with senators and scientists in his warm and cozy home near the banks of Potomac. A bright-eyed scientist who brought a kaleidoscope of bow ties and a soft spoken but insistent voice to the fray, he delivered science in a way that made it easy for world leaders to listen and to steer their institutions to remember nature and act to stem its loss.
His legacy will live through his family, his countless friends, and his many contributions to conservation, science, and humanity.