Farewell Article for Tomoko and Eugene

I first met Tomoko at the Asian Parks Congress in November 2013, with our then-focal point for Japan, Makiko Yanagiya. Tomoko was organizing the Youth Forum at the Congress and I encouraged her to apply for the vacant Communications Officer position at EAAFP. Makiko was also supportive and Tomoko and I finally agreed terms in the tea room of the Grand Imperial Hotel in Tokyo three months later. Tomoko started work in April 2014 and over the last four years has developed the Communication Program to a level that is widely admired and appreciated. She has achieved this through strong collaboration with staff and interns, as well as the CEPA Working Group. Just negotiating the travails of keeping the website operating through several server crises and upgrades is alone a full-time job (thanks David and Clinton, among many others for support, in this). Tomoko has taken on both a nurturing and mentoring role with interns, leading to some of our most successful campaigns and initiatives, such as World Migratory Bird Day, To Our Winged Travellers and Year of the Knots. These have been a lot of fun to be involved with, as well as being effective campaigns. Special thanks are also due to Tomoko in coordinating the organization of MOP8 in Hokkaido, a memorable event for all who attended, but a somewhat stressful one for Tomoko, whose contribution was greatly appreciated by the Secretariat and hosts. Since then, she has expanded her range of activities to represent EAAFP at important forums such as the recent CMS COP in the Philippines and the Asian Wetland Symposium in Japan. She also initiated the monthly newsletter, now eagerly anticipated by EAAFP supporters and collaborators. Tomoko is much loved in the Secretariat office for her dedication and enthusiasm, and especially her support and encouragement to others, from the Chief Executive to the interns.

Two things that, for me, stand out when I think of Tomoko are her passion for conserving migratory waterbirds and her encouragement to young people. She has a strong faith in engaging young people in awareness and conservation activities and worked tirelessly with local schools and youth organizations in Incheon and beyond to inspire new generations about the wonders of birds and their migrations. This was able to find a focus around active groups working with Black-faced Spoonbills in Korea and Japan. Her favourite bird, however, is not the elegant Black-faced Spoonbill, but the more humble Dunlin. Maybe because, like Tomoko, this is a hardy and industrious species ?

For all that Tomoko brought to EAAFP, there is another thing she brought (quite literally). Eugene has been working with the Secretariat, also supporting activities and encouraging people in the office, since shortly after Tomoko arrived. He is a superb, professional bird photographer and many of his photos adorn the website, newsletter and social media. His is an endlessly cheerful presence around the office and he is great companion on field trips. I will never forget photographing tens of thousands of Baikal Teal “dancing” over the Geum River with Eugene and Tomoko, nor the search for the elusive Long-billed Dowitcher at Namdong Reservoir (which turned into an Asian Dowitcher – another story). Nor, for that matter, the 칼국수 (a Korean noodle dish) afterwards!

It is difficult to imagine the Secretariat office without Tomoko and Eugene, but I am sure that, like so many before them, they will continue to support the conservation of migratory birds in the future and inspire people (young and old) to want to protect them. We wish them well in the future and I feel that, somehow, they will always be supporting EAAFP, not just in spirit but also in actions.

Spike Millington

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