Obituary – Prof. Dr. Gerhard Thielcke

 

Professor Dr. Gerhard Thielcke has passed away. The Global Nature Fund has lost a founder, a longstanding companion and an irreplaceable friend. We are all deeply shocked by this tragedy. Regarding the death of Gerhard Thielcke, condolences have come from all parts of the world – especially from the members of the Living Lakes network. We still cannot fathom that this shared path, this successful path, has now come to an unexpected end. Gerhard Thielcke surprisingly passed away on 22nd July 2007 following a tragic accident.

 

1998, after years of tirelessly campaigning for the environment and after having already founded numerous organisations in the past, he devoted himself to the adventure of founding an internationally operating environment foundation – the Global Nature Fund. It did not suffice for him to only aid German conservation efforts. He wished to campaign for the protection of animals, their habitats and migratory routes on an international level. In doing so, his emphasis lay on the conservation of endangered lakes and wetlands, since these are important habitats for plants, animals and humans and provide all with an indispensable resource - water. He championed the elimination of the many dangers, such as drying up, pollution and poisoning, threatening lakes and wetlands worldwide and aiding the extinction of species. The protection of habitats and resting places of migratory birds was particularly important to him.

Thus Gerhard Thielcke founded the Global Nature Fund with two of his companions. He also persuaded three other individuals to contribute the required seed capital. Hereafter, the work of the Global Nature Fund could start proper. The first task was to create the international “Living Lakes” network, including six partner organisations from four continents. The grand announcement was made in Hollywood in cooperation with several celebrities, political and business personages. The first step was taken. Since then the Global Nature Fund has evolved not only in terms of duties and projects, but also in terms of personnel as well. Gerhard Thielcke became the chairman of the executive board and later the honorary president. In both these functions he guided the foundation’s actions in a wise and foresighted manner. The foundation’s rapid growth over the last ten years has led to creating ten new jobs within GNF. Today the Living Lakes network, coordinated by GNF, consists of over 45 lakes and wetland, which are represented by over 55 environmental organisations. Among the members are the Russian Baikal Lake, the Victoria Lake in Kenya, Lake Constance and many other lakes in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, China, South America and numerous European countries.

 

Gerhard Thielcke was present at many Living Lakes Conferences, be they in South Africa or California, at Baikal Lake in Russia or in Germany. His humour and his friendly and unassuming manner, as well as his professional expertise and literacy were all appreciated by the various members of the lakes network. Anyone could approach him with a question. Regarding the knowledge of species and correlations in nature, he was a walking encyclopaedia. The conference attendees learned something new every time they went on excursions with Gerhard Thielcke around Lake Constance or the Mindelsee. The bird-song-walks with him are legendary. In numerous publications he committed to paper his insights regarding nature and the environment. Today, titles such as “Save the world of birds” and “Living Lakes” are standard literature in any library. His short and concise letters and articles will also remain in our memories for ever. His ideas for new projects, his useful suggestions and his persistent way of pursuing a target are an example to us all. Gerhard Thielcke did not shy away from new challenges. Thus he had been concerned about climate change and protecting the climate for years. Be it against politicians, governmental agents or municipalities - Gerhard Thielcke often prevailed for the good of the environment. Various regions profited from his passionate conservation efforts, such as the idyllic Mindelsee, Lake Constance, the Radolfzeller Aach, the Elbe and the lakes and wetlands of the Living Lakes network, to name but a few.