Defender of the Himalayas: An Appreciation
Mingma was born in 1955 in a Sherpa village near Mt. Everest and became of protégé of Sir Edmund Hillary, whose focus on building schools around Everest helped Mingma start his career.With the help of the Himalayan Trust Fund scholarship, he was able to finish high school in Nepal. The Columbia Plan scholarship further enabled him to carry on his studies in New Zealand. There he went on to receive a diploma in Parks and Recreation from Lincoln College, University of Canterbury in New Zealand in 1980. He received his Masters degree in Natural Resources Management from the University of Manitoba in 1985with the help of the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation of Canada scholarship.
Between the studies abroad, Mingma returned to Nepal and worked as a park Warden for Sagamartha National Park, home to Mount Everest. He is the first Sherpa to have Served as Warden of Sagamartha after Sir Edmund Hillary and New Zealand helped establish the Park in 1973.
When he returned to Nepal in 1985, he became very involved in the Annapurna Conservation Area (funded by WWF), initially as a principle investigator for the feasibility of study of the Annapurna area, and later as the Director of the Project itself. Mingma held this position for three years prior to joining World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as the Director of the Himalayan program for WWF’s Nepal, Bhutan and Himalayan Program.In this capacity, Mingma was responsible for the development and oversight of a variety of projects including ACAP, as well as the management of Shey Phoksundo National Park in Nepal and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan.
Among his achievements, Mingma was a Fulbright Scholar in 1987 at the School of Natural Resources, University of Michigan, to develop a strategy for environmental education in the ACAP. While he was working in Sagamartha Park, he received the Sewa Patak medal in 1983 from the King of Nepal for his work. Additionally, he is recipient of the Gorkha Dhaksin Bhahu medal from his Majesty the King of Nepal for his conservation work in Nepal. Mingma has also been awarded the Order of the Golden Ark Award from His Royal Highness Prince Bernard of the Netherlands for his conservation achievements in the Himalayas in 1997.
Mingma played a key role in shaping public opinion in Tibet on issues relating to environmental conservation. In November 2005 during a presentation to his Holiness the Dalai Lama at a National Geographic hosted symposium, Mingma highlighted the problems of trafficking of illegal animal parts between India, Nepal and Tibet. He requested the Dalai Lama to use his good offices to curtail this menace. Coincidently, about a month after that, at a Kalachakra teachings that was attended by thousands of Tibetans from Tibet, the Dalai Lama exhorted Tibetans to stop wearing furs of endangered animals on their clothing. Within weeks, Tibetans in different parts of Tibet responded by undertaking actions, including public burning of furs, to stop wearing such animal products.
Mingma was known above all for his modesty. Always giving credit to others and downplaying his own role was a hallmark of Mingma. If asked about any link between the Dalai Lama’s initiative, and his role, Mingma surely would have denied any possible connection, preferring to let others take the credit. And while other conservationists and organizations were appealing to the Dalai Lama, it is not unlikely that the Dalai Lama was moved by Mingma, the modest, yet persistent Sherpa who in his lifetime, moved mountains.
This article was provided by the International Campaign for Tibet
Awards, tributes and remembrance.
While he was working in Sagamartha Park, Mingma received the Sewa Patak medal in 1983 from the King of Nepal for his work.Mingma Sherpa also received the Gorkha Dhaksin Bhahu medal from his Majesty the King of Nepal for his conservation efforts in Nepal while working in Annapurna.
Mingma also received “The Order of the Golden Ark” from Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands at Soestdijk Palace, 29th June 1997 in recognition of his furtherance of the conservation cause in Nepal and Bhutan and for helping to place nature conservation on the governments’ agendas. In particular he was honored for developing the Annapurna Conservation Area, resulting in a major conservation project and a major policy change in Nepal.”