Press Releases

Bat expert named as first winner of new international nature award

NEWS from the WHITLEY FUND FOR NATURE                   


Bat expert is named as first winner

of new international nature award


Diary dates                                 Wednesday 9  May (10.30am – 11.30am) 

A chance to meet the seven conservationists short-listed for the Whitley Fund for Nature’s Whitley Awards 2012  over coffee & pastries. See Notes for details.

Royal Geographical Society, London, SW7 2AR, UK


Wednesday 9 May, 7pm start (please see Notes)

HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) presents grants worth £210,000 to this year’s top grassroots conservationists + the coveted Whitley Gold Award for exceptional achievement

Royal Geographical Society, London, SW7 2AR, UK


Bat expert Dr Rodrigo Medellin, of Mexico, is to become the first winner of a new annual award from the UK-based Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) honouring outstanding conservation field-work of benefit both to threatened species and their human neighbours.


Dr Medellin will receive his trophy + a £30,000 project grant in London on Wednesday 9 May during this year’s Whitley Awards ceremony, hosted by the charity’s patron Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) at the Royal Geographical Society.


The same ceremony will also witness presentations of the latest Whitley Awards for inspirational conservation leadership – an accolade Dr Medellin won in 2004.


Seven candidates heard this week that they have won through to the 2012 finals and will now travel to London in May for interviews with a panel of experts and a decision on which of their projects merits a share of project funding worth £210,000.


Chosen from applications from all around the world, the seven finalists are Lisel Alamilla, of Belize; Joanna Alfaro-Shigueto , Peru;  Ir  Budiono, Indonesia;  Inza Kone, Côte d’Ivoire; Josia Razafindramana, Madagascar;  Carlos Vasquez Almazan, Guatemala, and Bernal Rodriguez-Herrera , Costa Rica.


WFN’s acting director David Wallis says: “It is a tough competition but offers great rewards, including extra grant aid and greater recognition. Dr Medellin is a case in point. He’s the first to acknowledge that his 2004 Whitley Award was invaluable in setting him on the path which makes him a very worthy first recipient of our new-style Whitley Gold Award,”



In the past, the Whitley Gold Award has gone to a finalist from the current year’s shortlist but from this year the charity will use it to honour a past winner who has used their previous grant money to particularly outstanding effect.


Dr Medellin’s selection recognises his exemplary work to overturn public misconceptions about bats and put in place such robust conservation measures that a bat species once thought to be heading towards extinction is about to become the first ever to be removed from Mexico’s Federal List of Endangered Species.


Hoping to join Dr Medellin in collecting an award this year will be:


Lisel Alamilla  – BELIZE – for a community empowerment and education project in the biodiversity-rich  Maya Golden Landscape of southern Belize.


Joanna Alfaro-Shigueto – PERU for her work to involve coastal fishing communities in the conservation of marine species, including turtles, seabirds and marine mammals.


Ir ‘Budi’ Budiono – INDONESIA – for rallying local support in the wetlands of the Mahakam River to save the area’s last freshwater dolphins.


Inza Kone – IVORY COAST – for acting to secure a better future for people and wildlife in a last stronghold of West Africa’s three most endangered primates.


Josia Razafindramana – MADAGASCAR – for bringing sustainable benefits from forest conservation to local people while also protecting newly-discovered populations of crowned sifaka.


Carlos Vasquez Almazan – GUATEMALA – for creating a network of ‘zero extinction’ zones for amphibians including an important new reserve.


Bernal Rodriguez-Herrera – COSTA RICA – for reaching across national boundaries to co-ordinate conservation action for Central America’s rich array of bats.


[Please see separate attachment for more detailed project profiles]


Commenting on the shortlist, David Wallis said: “An uplifting feature of the Whitley Awards is that they highlight an aspect of conservation which is often overlooked: that it is not all doom and gloom on the conservation frontline; there are also signs of hope and cause for optimism . All of our 2012 finalists are dynamic and inspirational people who have good news to share about how they, and the communities with whom they are working, are building a better future both for wildlife and for people.”


The Whitley Awards scheme is an annual competition, first held in 1994. In the 19 years since the scheme began, it has given grants worth more than £6m to support the work of more than 130 grassroots conservation leaders in over 60 countries. To learn more about the charity, its donors and past winners, please see:


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Media enquiries:

Pam Beddard

+44 117 987 0442, landline; +44 7767 621207, mobile/cell; [email protected]


Notes to Editors  


The Whitley Awards are the flagship grants of the Whitley Fund for Nature, (WFN) aUK registered charity. WFN’s aim is to identify the world’s most dynamic conservation leaders and support them in practical work of benefit both to wildlife and local communities. The first Whitley Award was given in 1994 when a single winner received £15,000 GBP. Since then, the number and value of the prizes has grown and the awards are now acknowledged internationally as one of most valuable accolades a conservationist can win.


To be considered for a Whitley Award, entrants need to display a strong track record in science-based conservation work and a viable plan for taking their work further. For more information about the judging process and past winners, please see:


A hallmark of the scheme is that WFN seeks to remain in close contact with past winners, offering further grants and facilitating the sharing of best practice, lessons learned, contacts and ideas. As a result, WFN maintains links with more than 130 international conservation leaders across the developing  world.


Meet the finalists:  Wednesday 9 May


Media representatives and embassy officials will be most welcome to meet/ interview the candidates on Wednesday 9 May over coffee and pastries at the RGS, SW7 2AR, (10.30am start to 11.30am approx). To help with catering arrangements, please tell Annabel Lea if you plan to attend: [email protected] tel: +44 (0) 20 7221 9752 To fix interviews at other times, please contact WFN’s publicist, Pam Beddard, (t) +44 (0) 117 987 0442 or (e) [email protected]


Photographs – copyright-cleared photographs of each finalist and his/her project can be accessed now via  To pre-order awards ceremony photographs (available from 10pm, 9 May), please contact Pam Beddard (see contact details above).


Awards Ceremony – demand for seats is very high and admission is by invitation only. To check availability, please contact Annabel Lea_ [email protected]; +44 (0)20 7221 9752






The Whitley Fund for Nature

6 Walmer Courtyard

225 Walmer Road

London W11 4EY

United Kingdom

+44 20 7221 9752