Press Releases

Whitley Award donated by The Garfield Weston Foundation – winner Bernal Rodriguez Herrera, Costa Rica

Princess gives £30,000 WFN conservation award to Costa Rican scientist

Download Press Release – Princess gives £30,000 WFN conservation award to Costa Rican scientist

LONDON, UK: 9 MAY 2012 – HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) tonight presented a Whitley Award for inspirational conservation leadership to  Bernal Rodriguez Herrera, of Costa Rica, for his efforts to get four Central American countries working together to safeguard bats .

Bernal, the founder and President of the Costa Rican Bat Conservation Programme, received the honour during a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in London, hosted by Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN)  – the UK-based charity which organises the international awards scheme.

His Whitley Award comprises a project grant of £30,000 – donated by The Garfield Weston Foundation – an engraved trophy, membership of the influential network of past Whitley Award winners and professional development training.

The award recognises Bernal’s success at improving how bats are viewed in his home country and his drive to create a co-ordinated network of similar conservation, research, training and public education initiatives in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras which, with Costa Rica, support more varieties of bats than anywhere else in the world.

Congratulating Bernal on his win, WFN’s acting director David Wallis said: “The aim of the Whitley Awards is to identify and support conservationists who are inspiring real and positive change for people and wildlife and the habitats they share.  In the case of Bernal, the judges were particularly impressed by his desire to make a sizeable part of Central America into a place where bats are safe, understood and valued for the services they provide to people and our food needs, as pollinators, seed dispersers and pest controllers.”

The same ceremony also saw Dr Rodrigo Medellin of Mexico become the first-ever recipient of the newly-created Whitley Gold Award for outstanding achievement and an accompanying project grant of £30,000, donated by The Friends of the Whitley Fund for Nature. His award recognises the globally-significant contribution he has made to bat conservation since his success in WFN’s leadership grants scheme in 2004.

In addition, Her Royal Highness presented six other conservationists with £30,000 Whitley Awards for leadership, bringing the night’s grants total to £240,000 overall.

[For more details about the winners and their work, please see below]

The presentations were watched by a 350-strong audience, including embassy representatives, Whitley Fund for Nature donors and leading environmentalists.

As part of the ceremony, The Princess Royal and other guests watched a series of short films showing finalists at work. The screenings included a film about Bernal’s project, narrated by the distinguished wildlife broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough, a Trustee of WFN.

The Whitley Awards scheme is an annual competition, first held in 1994. Since the scheme began, it has given grants worth more than £6m to support over 140 conservation leaders worldwide. To learn more about the charity, its donors, past winners, and how to apply for the 2013 awards scheme, please see: 

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For more information, interviews or images, please contact 

Pam Beddard(tel): +44 117 987 0442 or (email): [email protected]


Copyright-cleared photographs of each finalist and their projects can be accessed now from Photographs of winners receiving their Whitley Awards from HRH The Princess Royal will be available from the same site from about 2200hrs BST on 9 May.  In addition, short films about each of the winning projects will be on Green TV as soon as the ceremony ends.


This year’s Whitley Award winners are:

Lisel Alamilla (BELIZE) for a community empowerment and education project in the biodiversity-rich Maya Golden Landscape of Southern Belize.  For more information: /.  Whitley Award donated by The William Brake Charitable Trust.

Joanna Alfaro Shigueto (PERU) for her work to engage and involve coastal fishing communities in the conservation of several marine species, including turtles and seabirds. For more information: /. Whitley Award donated by Goldman Sachs.

Ir ‘Budi’ Budiono (INDONESIA) for rallying local support in the wetlands of the Mahakam River to save his country’s last freshwater dolphins. For more information: /. Whitley Award donated by WWF-UK.

Inza Koné – 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. For more information: /. Whitley Award donated by The Shears Foundation.

Josia Razafindramanana – MADAGASCAR – for bringing sustainable benefits to local people while also protecting newly-discovered populations of endangered crowned sifaka lemurs. For more information: /. Whitley Award donated by The LJC Fund, in memory of Anthea and Lindsey Turner.

Carlos Vasquez Almazan – GUATEMALA – for creating a network of ‘zero extinction’ zones for amphibians including an important new reserve. For more information:  Whitley Award donated by Fondation Segré.

Bernal Rodriguez Herrera – COSTA RICA – for reaching across national borders to co-ordinate conservation action for Central America’s rich array of bats. For more information see: /. Whitley Award donated by The Garfield Weston Foundation.