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PLANETA Presents 2008 Colibri Ecotourism Award to Gerhard Buttner in honor of World Environment Day


Publication Date: June 2008

Gerhard Buttner

FLICKR ALBUM: Colibri Award

OAXACA DE JUAREZ, MEXICO -- To celebrate World Environment Day, presents the eighth annual Colibri Ecotourism Award to Gerhard Buttner, who has trained guides and artisans in the Yucatan and Oaxaca.

"I can think of no better candidate this year and it is hard to know where to begin in touting his professional work in Mexico and the assistance he has given," said founder Ron Mader. "This year's winner's list of achievements is great and all directions pointed to Gerhard. His work is beyond exemplary and validates what the Colibri Award represents," said award sponsor Emilio Kifuri of Canyon Travel, a prominent North American ecotourism operator.


Colibri means 'Hummingbird' in Spanish and in 2008 the Colibri Award celebrates its eighth anniversary, making this one of the longest-running ecotourism awards. The winner of the annual award receives a trophy, diploma and a $1,000 cash award from Emilio Kifuri, president of Canyon Travel.

"Mexico is one of the world's mega diverse countries with one of the most successful tourism industries," said Emilio Kifuri.

"If ecotourism is to overtake the senseless destruction of the world's natural areas, it has to develop at a faster pace. We feel fortunate to be in a position to demonstrate to the tourism industry that ecotourism can be more profitable than mainstream tourism."

The Colibri Ecotourism Award's co-sponsor, Destination Ventures, contributes directly to to develop supporting projects documenting the winner's work. The company specializes in travel industry education and currently works for the Mexico Tourism Board and United Nations Foundation in promoting sustainable travel to UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Previous winners include Steve Bridger, Jennifer Morfín, Hector Ceballos-Lascurain, Jorge Chàvez de la Peña, Fernando Garcia Aguinaco, Marlene Ehrenberg, Juan Carlos Ibarra and Antonio Suárez and Francisco Verastegui.

The winner of the award is selected by founder Ron Mader following consultation with previous award winners and colleagues.

CRITERIA presents the Colibri Ecotourism Award to those whose work in Mexico is exemplary and who share what they learn. Good ideas require good work to come to completion and good work needs to be documented so that lessons can be shared.

Nominees participate by helpful edits, connecting using Web 2.0, Planeta Wiki or contribute editorial suggestions for at least a year. Bonus points are given to those who participate on other websites and forums. This is part of's desire to create incentives for communication, collaboration and continuity, all vital elements in the development of responsible travel and ecotourism.


Gerhard Buttner wins the 2008 Colibri Ecotourism Award. "I can think of no better candidate this year and it is hard to know where to begin in touting his professional work in Mexico and the assistance he has given," said founder Ron Mader.

Gerhard has worked as tourist guide and development consultant in South Africa, as cartographer in England and traveled widely in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Europe and Latin America. In the last five years he has been in Mexico where he married Gabriela Ramírez Galindo, a Mexican. On arrival in Mexico he worked as guide trainer, English teacher and ecotourism consultant in Celestun, Yucatan and in recent years is based in Oaxaca. Here he has worked in participative community cartography using GIS (Geographical Information system), community development and as ecotourism guide trainer and related issues mainly in Oaxaca and occasionally in neighboring states of the Mexican southeast.

Oaxaca Amigos (Cartel Para Teotitlan)

A geographer from Cape Town, South Africa, Gerhard prepared location maps for several pages. His geographical know-how also inspired's guide to geography.

"I met Gerhard several years ago at the bird watching conference in Merida," Mader said. "He impressed me from the start and later wrote one of the most popular features we have published -- Crossing the Atlantic -- which compared ecotourism in South Africa and Mexico. This is precisely the type of content that can be created by those with a global vision."

Gerhard also has been an active participant on the Planeta Forum and has participated in several of Planeta's online conferences.

Gerhard has been working with the community of San Antonio Cuajimaloyas providing guide training and promotion, as the town has developed its annual mushroom fair. He has documented the innovative festival in the Planeta Forum in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Conversations with Gerhard led to the Survey on Community Tourism Guides which is one of the few evaluations of travelers and their views on what they want from community tourism.

In 2008 Gerhard is the English-language teacher of the new program Oaxaca Amigos: English Classes for Community Guides and Rural Artisans in the town of Teotitlán del Valle.


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g South Africa and Mexico
g Game Parks, Reserves and Communities
g Western Cape Province and Mexico


b Ecotourism as development option for Africa? - sustainable options

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Itt is hard to know where to begin touting his professional work, list of achievements is great and all directions pointed to Gerhard. His work is beyond exemplary and validates what the Colibri Award represents.
- Emilio Kifuri, Canyon Travel

Gerhard has recognized that in order to develop conscientious travel that connects Mexicans with foreign visitors, we Mexicans must have the communication tools to get the word out about local protocols, cultural history and the environmental diversity of our country. Capacity building is a critical element that requires teachers who able to share not just the technology but the mindset of working with others. The result of Gerhard's work is a tapestry of ecotourism success stories from the lancheros in Celestún to the mushroom collectors (and forest protectors) in San Antonio Cuajimaloyas and now with the weavers in Teotitlán del Valle. Those who value Mexico's outstanding artesania, bird-watching and forest protection are advised to review how Gerhard has managed to listen to rural communities and given them a voice to connect directly with visitors.
- Marlene Ehrenberg, 2002 Colibri Award Winner

I recognise Gerhard's frequent contributions and influence. Gerhard's list of achievements is great and my respect for his work, from afar, very real, not least because of his obvious passionate commitment to local communities. He keeps his feet very firmly on the ground. If I may be so bold, what shines through is his humility. In advance of the official announcement in June, heartfelt congratulations to Gerhard (and Gabriela), and to you, Ron, and the sponsor, for your tireless dedication.
- Steve Bridger, 2006 Colibri Award Winner

Having searched Mexico for a very special person who understood how tourism needs to benefit local people if it is to be sustainable and successful and who could deliver training on issues of social and cultural impacts, all directions pointed to Gerhard Buttner. Gerhard has been exceptionally open and flexible and professional in delivering training that will enable villagers to better manage the tourism that impacts upon them.'
- Patricia Barnett, Tourism Concern

Me parece ideal y trasatlánticamente valioso que el Colibrí este año vaya dirigido a una persona que ha trabajado en áreas diversas y vitales para el ecoturismo; En la elaboración de los siempre indispensables mapas, en la capacitación de proyectos de comunidades en aspectos tan necesarios como dar clases de inglés a los locales, así como a un escritor de viajes. Celebro también que vaya dirigido a un guía pero sobre todo a alguien que se considera ecoturista. Enhorabuena.
- Fernando García Aguinaco, 2003 Colibri Award Winner

I have known Gerhard Buttner for several years. In all the time I've known him, he has shown his joy for travel, at the same time working passionately to help to preserve for others the environments and cultures he enjoys so much. Since settling in Mexico, he has done much to heighten other people's awareness of the importance of responsible tourism, that respects environments and people's cultures.
- Marianne Heredge, Mountain Forum

Por medio de la presente me dirijo a ustedes para manifestarle mi agradecimiento a Gerhard Buttner por haber participado de maestro de inglés, interpretación ambiental y ecoturismo, en Celestún, Yucatán. Por habernos capacitado durante mas de un año por medio de Pronatura Península de Yucatán, participando también con nosotros en los monitoreos de aves (birdwatching), siendo siempre muy entusiasta y amable tanto con adultos y niños de la comunidad. Un cordial saludo de sus amigos los PEREGRINOS.
- Representante: Víctor Marín, Guía de Celestún (con Ramiro Lara, Francisco Cutz, Luis Garma)

I know Gerhard as a man with a passion for applying his knowledge on nature, geography and economics to the benefit of those around him. This set of unique skills coupled with a humble character makes him a perfect match for any ecotourism venture!
- Martin de Wit, Sustainable Options, South Africa

I have known Gerhard well when he was a student and later when he became a tour guide in South Africa. He was a very meticulous guide who researched his tours and established good relationships with everyone he worked with.
- Christien Malan (retired) Tourism manager at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town, part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Gerhard es una persona excepcional. Lo conocí cuando llegó a México como voluntario de un proyecto de ecoturismo en Yucatán. Desde entonces me deslumbran su profundo aprecio y conocimiento de la cultura comunitaria y de las riquezas naturales de nuestro país, su compromiso y entrega al trabajar en proyectos comunitarios y de ecoturismo, su insaciable curiosidad, su vitalidad y entusiasmo en los proyectos y viajes que emprende, su sencillez, calidez y honestidad. Agradezco a Gerhard compartir conmigo sus viajes y proyectos, sus aprendizaje y experiencias, su alegría, su energía, su vida.
- Gabriela Ramírez Galindo (comunicadora ambiental y esposa de Gerhard)

Mi opinión es que Gerhard ha tenido una buena disposición de trabajo con la gente de las comunidades colaborando en diversos proyectos relacionados con la Conservación de la biodiversidad en la Chinantla a través de su participación en Methodus Consultora S.C. También colaboró como instructor de guías comunitarios de ecoturismo y observación de aves y hongos tanto en la Chinantla como en Pueblos Mancomunados y en la Selva Lacandona. Durante varios años a promovido el evento de la Feria de los Hongos con apoyo de Ron Mader en la página de
- Josefina Jimenez, Methodus Consultora

I met Gerhard through the Internet when he was looking for a volunteer job in the Yucatan Peninsula. We managed to find him something to do through Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatan. Gerhard jumped right into the Celestun Nature Guide Training Project. His work was outstanding and his friendly attitude towards local culture and people put him immediately in the heart of the success in terms of ecotourism in the Yucatan coast. Our local guides group from Celestun, Los Peregrinos, just loved working with him. We all miss Gerhard in the Yucatan, but we know he continues his valuable contribution to the better management and understanding of nature and cultural tourism.
- Eduardo Galicia, Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatan

Colibri Ecotourism Award
Short history of the Colibri Ecotourism Award
Reflections on Awards
World Environment Day
Colibri Slideshow b



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