The prestigious Whitley Awards is hosted by the Whitley Fund for Nature which offers awards and grants to outstanding nature conservationists around the world. These awards aim to accelerate the career paths of recipients by helping them raise their profiles, network, and inspire others.
This year’s Whitley Awards were held on April 29, 2015. The Arkive Team had the amazing opportunity to interview some of this year’s winners whose work focuses on several species ranging from tiny tamarins to gigantic gorillas.
The winners were all asked the same question: How is winning the Whitley Award going to help your ongoing projects?
India – Community conservation of the great Indian bustard in the Thar Desert, India: a landscape-level approach
Well, currently I work in six Indian states, but I feel that the Thar Desert in Rajasthan is the most important landscape for the long term conservation of great Indian bustards. We are going to use this funding specifically in the Thar Desert to work with the communities. Our prime targets are to work with the communities in different ways such as awareness, capacity building, then networking and also empowering the forest department to conduct anti-poaching activities effectively.
India – Elephant messengers: using innovative communication systems to enable human-elephant coexistence in southern India
We are trying to strengthen out elephant information network and develop early warning systems for the people to send us elephant information in at once so that fatalities due to elephants can be substantially reduced. This will be done in collaboration with the state forest department and the plantation companies, corporate sector, farmers, and people who are working in tea and coffee estates. It’s a collective effort. The Nature Conservation Foundation, where I work, cannot do it alone. We really need to take different people along with us, different stakeholders. This will lead to a lot of positive results.
Brazil – Giant armadillos as a flagship species for the conservation of tropical scrublands in the Cerrado
The Whitley Awards is going to make a huge difference for our project. It recognizes a team effort. It’s going to help us expand the project from the pantanal, the world’s largest wetland, to the Cerrado, an environment which is scrublands and forests .What we’re going to do in the Cerrado is look for the last populations of the giant armadillo. That is important because thanks to our outreach and communications work with the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, giant armadillos have been declared as one of the indicator species for protected areas. So the state is using a system with a lot of indicator species of plants, bats and birds, and for mammals giant armadillos are one of five indicator species. So we really need to get out there and map the distribution of these last animals which could create protected areas.
Nigeria – Saving Cross River gorillas through community-based conservation in the Mbe Mountains
This award is for the communities I work with, those close to gorillas that have the commitment to protect the forest and these gorillas. The award has come at an excellent time. Right now I am working with other communities providing the support that they need to enforce local laws that they have made themselves to protect their resources. I want to create awareness among local people, especially in helping them acquire the skills they need to pursue alternative livelihoods that are more sustainable. So winning this award will help me to expand on all of these efforts. It means having more effective communication with more communities, more people and better protecting the forest and gorillas living around these communities.
Indonesia – Conservation villages: building local capacity for the protection of Sumatran orangutans and their habitat, Indonesia
Our big project is saving the orangutan habitat, saving the forest and saving the orangutans from extinction. I actually want to expand our approach in working with local people to establish more conservation villages where we tackle the root causes of deforestation and forest degradation. So we want to introduce sustainable farming and livelihoods to local communities. There are alternatives to their livelihoods that will not destroy the rainforest. Our ultimate goal is to alleviate pressures on the forest by developing alternatives for the local communities. Secondly, I want to restore the degraded habitat of the orangutan in the protected areas by planting trees and improving the understanding of locals. Third, I want to educate the people about the importance of rainforest protection and orangutans. People represent hope. I still really believe that local people want to protect the remaining forest. That makes me feel more encouraged that hope is still there and people actually want to do good things.
Colombia – Proyecto Tití: expanding conservation efforts to protect the cotton-top tamarin in northern Colombia
For the last 15 years we have been in one area within the distribution of cotton-top tamarins in Colombia and we’ve been wanting for a long time to expand to other locations. So our specific mission with the support we are getting from the Whitley Awards is to reach these places and start working with the people there. Because with more support we can continue expanding to more places in the future and reach further with our conservation work. Specifically, there is this area called San Juan which is about two hours away from where we are right now and that is out next focus for conserving cotton-top tamarins in Colombia.
These amazing individuals have already achieved so much for conservation and through the Whitley Awards are able to advance their work further. Their inspirational work truly embodies the essence of what it means to be a conservation hero. The Arkive Team congratulates all of the winners and hopes that Arkive’s followers are inspired to find their inner conservation hero.
William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA