Israeli bird expert wins 25,000-euro German prize

Yossi Leshem has spent decades on avian issues, including ways to avoid collisions with IAF aircraft.

November 13, 2012 22:08
2 minute read.
Prof. Yossi Leshem

Prof. Yossi Leshem 370. (photo credit: Courtesy SPNI)


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Prof. Yossi Leshem, a zoological expert from Tel Aviv University and the Society for the Protection of Nature, received the Bruno H. Schubert Prize in Germany on Tuesday, for his contribution to conservation and environmental issues.

The Frankfurt-based Bruno H. Schubert Foundation presents awards every two years in three categories, all relating to environmental protection. The first category prize – which Leshem received this year – goes to a person involved in either environmental journalism or nature conservation on the ground, the second to individuals or groups who have made outstanding contributions to nature conservation and the third to an environmentalist under 25 years old, according to the foundation.

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Leshem, 65, received the award for his unique contribution to promoting bird topics and programs around Israel, including a national project for employing owls and falcons as biological pesticides. He has also promoted cooperation among Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians on the education and use of barn owls and kestrels for similar purposes, according to SPNI.

Meanwhile, Leshem spearheaded a joint research project among the Israel Air Force, SPNI and Tel Aviv University that was able to reduce accidents with birds by 76 percent and saved $860 million in the security budget. He has also conducted joint research with the Max Planck Institute in Germany, tracking 120 storks migrating from Germany through Israel to South Africa, SPNI said.

The Schubert Foundation was established in 1984 by Bruno Schubert and his wife Olga, in order to recognize individuals who excel in areas of nature conservation and environmental protection. Leshem’s award includes 25,000 euros worth of prize money, as “a tribute to [his] remarkable achievements as well as motivation for [his] future endeavors,” according to Prof. Manfred Niekisch, chairman of the foundation’s board.

Niekisch, who is also the director of the Frankfurt Zoo, attended the award ceremony in Frankfurt’s Old Town Hall – which dates back to the 15th century – as did Frankfurt’s mayor and many conservationists.

Leshem stressed how excited he was to visit Frankfurt, as his mother grew up there until she fled during the Nazis’ rise to power.


“In 1988 she returned with a friend to visit for a week, as a guest of the mayor, and it turned out that she was the thousandth Jewish guest returning to Frankfurt,” Leshem said prior to the ceremony.

“On the descent from the Lufthansa plane, waiting for her was the mayor with an orchestra and a bouquet of flowers, and there was a celebratory ceremony at the Old Town Hall of Frankfurt, the same hall that the [Schubert prize] ceremony will be.”

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