Bat expert wins WFN’s new Gold Award for conservation achievement

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LONDON: UK, Wednesday 9 May: Bat expert Dr Rodrigo Medellin, of Mexico, tonight became the first winner of a newly-created annual award from the UK-based Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) honouring an outstanding individual contribution to conservation.

Dr Medellin received his award from the charity’s Patron Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) during a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society, London, at which grants worth a total of £240,000 were given out.

The Gold Award comes with £30,000 project funding, donated by The Friends of Whitley Fund for Nature. The remaining £210,000 is shared by the latest seven winners of Whitley Awards for inspirational leadership – an accolade Dr Medellin won in 2004 and which he credits with helping him to set up his conservation non-profit BIOCONCIENCIA.

In a film shown at the ceremony, wildlife broadcaster Sir David Attenborough told guests:

There is arguably no one who has done more for the conservation of bats in Latin America than 2004 Whitley Award winner, Rodrigo Medellin. His pioneering work to highlight the vital role that bats play in the ecosystem, and their importance to people’s lives, has had a tremendous impact on the way bats are perceived in his native Mexico and beyond.

Dr Medellin’s most recent achievement is that, thanks to conservation measures he put in place, the lesser long-nosed bat will soon become the first species ever to be removed from Mexico’s Federal List of Endangered Species.

WFN’s Acting Director David Wallis said:

“Dr Medellin’s work with the lesser long-nosed bat is a shining example of the projects  Whitley Fund for Nature seeks to support through its flagship Whitley Awards scheme. Most people won’t have heard of this species but they will know of a product which might also be in danger if this bat was lost – tequila.”

David Wallis added: “The drink is made from agave plant and lesser long-nosed bats are its main natural pollinator. Mexico’s commercial crops are currently being hit by a new infection which has already damaged a third of the plants in a 400,000 hectares area. As a result, farmers are turning back to the bats to add more variety to the crop, to try to fend off damage. In this way, what is good for wildlife is proving helpful to people as well – exactly what our judges look for.”

Other conservationists honoured at the ceremony were:

Lisel Alamilla (BELIZE) for a community empowerment and education project in the biodiversity-rich Maya Golden Landscape of Southern Belize.  For more information: www.yaaxche.org /.  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: www.prodelphinus.org /. 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: www.ykrasi.110mb.com /. 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: www.rasapci.org /. 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: www.sifaka-conservation.org /. 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: www.fundaeco.org.gt/.  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: www.tirimbina.org /. Whitley Award donated by The Garfield Weston Foundation.

Each receives a trophy and professional development training, as well as £30,000 in grant aid, and becomes part of an influential global network of Whitley Award winners

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: www.whitleyaward.org.

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Pam Beddard,  on +44 117 987 0442 or pam.beddard@btinternet.com

IMAGES FOR PUBLICATION

Copyright-cleared photographs of each finalist and their projects can be accessed now from https://picasaweb.google.com/105548002819098368093. 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.

www.whitleyaward.org