Leone Pippard

Pioneer of research and conservation for the St. Lawrence beluga

Journalist and militant for belugas

Leone Pippard saw his first whale in 1973. With a friend photographer, the then 26-year-old freelance journalist from Toronto had come to Quebec to cover the work that a group of researchers was planning to do on marine mammals. However, at the last minute, due to a lack of financial support, the researchers aborted the operation. “We found ourselves in Montréal with all our equipment and nothing to report on. We then decided to conduct our own research.”

In the 1970s, almost nothing was known of the belugas of the St. Lawrence. Together with her colleague, Ms. Pippard was the one that sounded the alarm. After that first summer spent observing these white whales, they had returned both worried and outraged. Then, year after year, they returned to Tadoussac. Ms. Pippard subsequently carried on alone in what would become an unfaltering commitment. In order to be closer to her cause, she moved to Quebec and learned French.

Her efforts paid off. A beluga carcass recovery program was spearheaded in 1982, an action plan developed by the two levels of government addressed chemical pollution issues, a beluga recovery plan was implemented, and the first marine protected area in Quebec was created in the heart of St. Lawrence beluga habitat: the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. Since then, she created her own consulting firm specializing in sustainable development, based in New Brunswick. Rewarded many times over, Leone Pippard was able to distinguish herself despite lacking a scientific background. “Of course, nobody knows if we’ll save the animals”, she says. “But the important thing at this stage is all these people who are prepared to fight to save them.”

 

  • Leone Pippard – Excerpt from the film The Cry of the Beluga by Alain Belhumeur
  • Video credit: An Alain Belhumeur film, produced by Richard Elson © Imageries P.B. Ltd. and Les Productions du Mile-End.