Trinidad and Tobago conservationist, Len Peters, today had an audience with Queen Elizabeth II, in recognition of being awarded one of three Commonwealth Points of Light awards.
The virtual conversation took place together with recipients from Cyprus and Mozambique, with the queen joining them from Windsor.
The queen awards one volunteer from across the Commonwealth each week with a Points of Light award, in recognition of the difference they have made in their local community.
Although the conversation took place today, Peters from Trinidad and Tobago, had received the first ever Commonwealth Points of Light award in February 2018 in recognition of his community-driven conservation organisation – the Grande Riviere Nature Tour Guide Association.
Over 30 years, his educational work in local communities and regular patrols of local beaches has transformed entire communities, with Trinidad and Tobago now home to one of the densest leatherback sea turtle nesting sites in the world.
Talking about his organisation, which was founded in 1990, Mr Peters said: “The organisation was formed to try to convince the residents who live in my community that the leatherback sea turtles, the most ancient of all sea turtles, that come to our island every year to nest, needed protection. My community consists of persons who would eat the leatherback turtle as food. Every leatherback turtle that crawled onto the beach at night would be consumed by the residents. ”
He explained that his own family was one of the largest turtle-eating families in the villager but, despite that, he and a group of friends came together “to try and make a difference”.
“Here you have a young boy from a turtle eating family wanting to make a difference,” he said.
“At night we would walk the beach back and forth protecting the turtles that came up, to try to convince people that it was the right thing to do. What we didn’t know, that 30 years later that effort would see Trinidad being recognised as one of the most important nesting sites for the leatherback seas turtles in the world.”
He said when they started their conservation programme they would have 20 to 30 turtles coming to nest – now they have 500-600.
“This project has transformed the entire community, the lives of the residents. The economic drive of the community now is all about conservation now,” he said.
“So David Attenborough got to know what you were doing?” the Queen enquired.
Mr Peters explained that the celebrated naturalist spend two weeks with them, and “inspired the children to dream”.
“That’s very interesting indeed to hear that,” the Queen said.