Young naturalist Dara receives RSPB award for his conservation campaigning

Brian Campbell

Friday 1 November 2019

Young naturalist, activist and writer Dara McAnulty has been awarded the RSPB Medal at the nature conservation charity’s AGM in recognition of the Co Down teenager’s contributions to conservation.

Dara, who has long been a passionate campaigner for wildlife and nature, received the award from Kevin Cox (pictured, above), Chair of the RSPB Council, at the event at the QEII Centre in London at the weekend.

He said he was incredibly honoured and deeply humbled to be the youngest ever recipient of the RSPB Medal – an award previously given to high-profile recipients including Sir David Attenborough – and vowed that he will “never stop working for nature”.

Dara said: “When I was told I’d won the RSPB Medal, I thought it was a joke, I couldn’t believe that I deserved it. I was given a list of previous winners and made the mistake of looking at it. I have actually had the privilege of meeting three RSPB Medal holders: Prof Sir John Lawton – an incredible scientist and brave individual – MP Caroline Lucas and The Prince of Wales.”

Dara (15), who lives in Castlewellan in Co Down, was involved the Youth Climate Strikes in September, which saw countless thousands take to the streets of cites across the UK – including an estimated 4,000 in Belfast - to demand action on climate breakdown. He has also worked with TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham and he was also one of a dozen young people who fronted the launch of the State of Nature report. Each of them was quoted in the report with Dara stating that “nature is our life support system”.

Claire Barnett, RSPB NI Area Manager (East), said: “Every year we recognise those individuals who inspire us all to celebrate, discover and be amazed by our natural world. Dara has embodied all of that as he brings more of us closer to the wonderful species found in Northern Ireland. 

“Dara is playing an important role in helping more people to understand not just what is on their doorstep but the threats faced by our natural world. We are immensely proud to have made Dara the youngest ever recipient of the RSPB’s Medal for Services to Conservation as he continues to inspire us all.”

Dara’s knowledge, activism and work for nature is so amazing because he is autistic. Nature helps his anxiety and the challenges that come with being autistic in this world. He has inspired and engaged thousands of children and adults to speak up to campaign on issues including climate breakdown, biodiversity loss and the persecution of birds of prey. 

He represents a new youth movement which recognises that they cannot and must not wait until adulthood to make their voices heard and is soon to publish a book called Diary of a Young Naturalist based on his popular blog.

Dara added: 
“I wouldn’t be getting this award without the immense support and encouragement I have received from my family, my community and the wildlife organisations I have volunteered for over the last few years. 

“Getting this award will, I hope, inspire and encourage other young people to be the change they wish to see in the world. 

“There is still so much to do, though, so many obstacles in our way – but we must all rise to the job which is so essential to all life – to protect nature, our life support system, immediately.”

Tagged with: Country: Northern Ireland Topic: Climate change Topic: Conservation Topic: Youth