Firstly, what is a CNN Hero?
According to CNN, it is “an award-winning television special created by CNN to honor individuals who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and make a difference in their communities. The program was started in 2007. As of 2014, the program was hosted by Anderson Cooper. Nominees are introduced during the fall of each year and the audience is encouraged to vote online for the CNN Hero of the Year. Ten recipients are honored and each receive USD $50,000 ($25,000 in 2014). The top recipient is chosen as the CNN Hero of the Year and receives an additional USD$250,000 ($100,000 in 2014) to continue their work. During the broadcast celebrating their achievements, the honorees are introduced by celebrities who actively support their charity work. To celebrate the 10th anniversary, the 2016 edition had an additional segment where five previous Hero of the Year winners were chosen as candidates for the Superhero of the Year award, which was decided with an online poll.”
The nominees have been chosen for 2017, and you can view a list and description of all 21 nominees on CNN’s website.
If you have followed this blog, you will notice a familiar face and name—Siew Te Wong, a sun bear biologist from Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, who has become the first and foremost conservationist and expert of the sun bear, an amazing, little-known species that is in serious danger of extinction. Read all about Wong and his contributions to conservation.
One of the ways each of these 21 heroes will make the top ten list is through donations collected during the current fundraiser. You can donate safely and securely, and the donations go straight towards Wong’s conservation projects while helping his overall score for the CNN contest. Recently, Wong told me that winning this CNN Hero of the Year award would elevate his cause to a new level of global awareness. In developing Asian nations, conservation efforts MUST have powerful NGO’s such as Wong’s Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center to address insufficient government protections, habitat-stripping corporate entities, and poaching.
The role of charismatic umbrella species is crucial for conservation efforts. One great example is the polar bear, which is threatened by climate change. Likely everyone on Earth has heard of polar bears, and most admire their majesty and hope they are not lost to extinction. Polar bears are the global icon of the fight against climate change. Polar bears are an umbrella species, so if humans decide to save the polar bear, they must preserve the integrity of the entire Arctic ecosystem.
The Bornean sun bear could be one of the icons of Southeast Asia’s conservation efforts, but most people have never heard of them. In Wong’s words, “sun bears are likely to become extinct before they are known to the world.” Helping Wong gain funding and global recognition by winning the 2017 CNN Hero award could mean the difference between this endangered species’ extinction or survival.