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Sohan, Youth Ambassador for the Environment at the IUCN World Youth Summit

“Growing up on the island of Reunion, I have always had a desire to protect the indigenous and extraordinary flora and fauna of the territory.

Although eager to protect species and their ecosystems, I first had to understand them. Obtaining a master's degree in Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution specialized in Tropical Terrestrial Ecosystems in 2017 at the University of La Reunion was one of the key steps in achieving this goal. During this master's program, the choice of internships on the conservation of species or ecosystems (development of artificial nesting boxes for geckos, evaluation of the first biological control against an invasive species in natural environments) was thus essential. These internships and this curriculum have given me the necessary tools to be a versatile ecologist.

At the same time, a huge investment in volunteer work in botany/ornithology/ecological restoration/herpetology in partnership with many structures and associations in the environment was necessary to sharpen my existing skills and to obtain new ones. Some voluntary work carried out in other island ecosystems (New Zealand, Comoros) allowed me to act on biodiversity protection while enriching my knowledge as a young ecologist.

Since 2019, I have been developing and coordinating several projects related to biodiversity and ecological restoration within the commune of La Possession as a biodiversity mission officer within the Environment Department. One of my main missions consists in restoring a ravine (Ravine Balthazar) sheltering a relic of dry forest, which has been degraded by plant pests, and to allow the safeguard of endemic plants threatened with extinction, including the red Latanier (Latania lontaroides). Thus, 30,000 endemic and native plants will be reintroduced on an area of 1.5 hectares. Through my job and the Eco Mayors, I had the opportunity in 2020 to become a Young Ambassador for the Environment in order to mobilize the general public to implement actions favorable to the maintenance of biodiversity within the territory of Reunion. One of my current objectives as a Young Ambassador for the Environment is to promote the planting of endemic or indigenous plants of Reunion Island in the gardens of inhabitants in order to limit poaching in the natural environment, while raising public awareness of the fragility of the flora of the dry forest.

To achieve this, awareness of the local population will be raised through donations of seeds via harvests carried out by the Young Ambassadors but also through public workshops on planting indigenous and endemic species. Faced with the risk of the extinction of flora and fauna, and the phenomenon of global warming, I hope this project teaches the population that we still have ways to act on our level.''

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