Press Releases

Year 2 Achievements from winners of Partnership Funding by Fondation Segre

14 october 2016

Conservation results from those making them happen!

Whitley Fund for Nature announces conservation results for snow leopards, pink river dolphins, large carnivores and penguins. Highlights include:

  • Designation of new protected areas and expansion of anti-poaching programmes for snow leopards in Asia.
  • Creation of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and new Marine Protected Area for penguins and coastal wildlife in Argentina.
  • Introduction of new sustainable fishing practices and progress towards ensuring industry is held responsible for mitigating the impact of hydro-electric dams on river dolphins and freshwater ecosystems in the Amazon basin.
  • Discovery of the world’s first migratory bears and the smallest lynx on record in Turkey’s trans-boundary wildlife corridor.

For more than 20 years, the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) has provided funding, training, and recognition to some of the world’s most dynamic conservation leaders, supporting a range of projects rooted in strong science and community engagement. Working in developing countries where pressure on natural resources is high, the challenges they face are immense; from fighting bureaucracy, crime and corruption – often at great personal risk – to protecting habitat, resolving human-wildlife conflict and developing sustainable alternatives for local communities.

Every year Whitley Awards, often referred to by others as “Green Oscars” are awarded to individuals along with funding of £35,000. As alumni of the Whitley Awards, these individuals are then eligible to apply for further funding grants available from WFN.

Below is a diverse and exciting range of international conservation projects receiving support through WFN’s ‘Partnership Funding by Fondation Segré’ grants to help save some of the world’s most endangered species: snow leopards, pink river dolphins, large carnivores and penguins to name but a few.

Awarded in 2014 and distributed over three years, the Partnership Funding programme offers grants of €337,500 per project (€112,500 per year per project) to Whitley Award winning conservation leaders. This support provides much needed funding to work that is having a real and measurable impact on wildlife and communities. Together these winners are putting conservation higher up the political agenda and working closely with local people to deliver positive outcomes for endangered species.

During year two of their projects, the winners have achieved outstanding conservation results for terrestrial, marine and freshwater species and their habitat in South America, Asia and Eastern Europe. Overleaf are updates on their work…


From grassroots to global: Realising a conservation vision for snow leopards across their range


Goal 1: Create the next generation of snow leopard conservation leaders in the most important range countries.

  • Six Conservation Leaders have been supported, in India, Pakistan and Mongolia. This includes four women researchers, one of whom is the first female researcher hired by Snow Leopard Foundation in Pakistan. Each will complete a PhD and be given hands-on conservation training.
  • Best practices in community-based conservation were published in a training toolkit entitled PARTNERS Principles. The document has been developed as a go-to for community conservation internationally, and training has been held with field staff and conservation leaders from four countries to date.

Goal 2: Generate political support for conservation of snow leopards and their mountain habitat in all twelve range countries.

  • The Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) brought together governments from all 12 snow leopard range countries to agree a global strategy to conserve these big cats. Commitments have been made to identify and protect 23 priority landscapes for snow leopards by 2020. All 12 countries are now working on management plans for these landscapes. Through the GSLEP, five countries have submitted proposals worth $30 million for snow leopard conservation to help realise this goal.
  • The Snow Leopard Trust was selected as executing agency for a $1 million USD grant from Global Environment Facility to support key components and functioning of GSLEP. As a result of the programme, more funding than ever before is being allocated to support snow leopard conservation.
  • Two high-level government meetings were held; one at Conference Of the Parties 21 in Paris 2015 and another in Nepal during 2016, where 9 snow leopard range countries began landscape-level planning to mitigate climate change effects.

 Goal 3: Catalyse government-sanctioned protection of key snow leopard landscapes in 3 of the 5 most important range countries.

  • Following a seven year campaign, in April 2016 the Government of Mongolia approved creating a new c. 8,000 km2 Nature Reserve in the Tost Mountains – the first state-level Protected Area declared specifically for snow leopard protection. Tost and the two adjoining National Parks now form one of the largest continuous protected areas for snow leopards in the world and are regarded as core habitat for snow leopard conservation and population connectivity.
  • SLT launched a nationwide expansion of their Citizen Ranger Wildlife Protection Program in Kyrgyzstan, which Partnership Funding helped pilot in 2014/15. The programme, which encourages rangers and local communities to combat poaching, now operates in all 20 of Kyrgyzstan’s National Parks. Training was delivered to 21 Protected Area rangers through Interpol, and a ceremony that honoured 10 rangers for apprehending poachers was held to give anti-poaching heroes well deserved recognition. There is now interest from the Government of Pakistan to adopt a similar programme.
  • In Kyrgyzstan, an agreement was secured to convert a 100 square mile trophy hunting concession into a nature reserve. Co-managed by Government, NGOs and local people, the reserve will give ungulate populations a chance to recover, increasing prey for snow leopards. This approach could be replicated by Government in future. Again, this would not have been possible without the support of Partnership Funding.

Goal 4: Help develop a more sustainable cashmere industry for the benefit local communities and the snow leopard habitat. *Over-grazing and competition caused by increasing herds of cashmere goats to supply the growing industry degrades habitat for snow leopard prey, impacting food availability. SLT are working with communities and distributors to create a ‘snow leopard friendly cashmere’ brand based on sustainable grazing practices that benefit wildlife and increase income for herders.

  • A MoU was signed with the largest cashmere cooperative in India to pilot a new Snow Leopard Friendly Cashmere program working with local communities to boost their income whilst benefitting snow leopards and their habitat. This cashmere will be this first of its kind.

 Goal 5: Enhance social carrying capacity for snow leopards by strengthening community-based conservation initiatives in key snow leopard landscapes.

  • Herders sold over 35,000 locally produced handicrafts, earning more than £45,000, through the NGO’s programme – Snow Leopard Enterprises – boosting income for communities.
  • Nearly 100,000 livestock were vaccinated as part of an incentive-based livestock vaccination programme. In Pakistan livestock mortality was reduced by 50-80%, families in the vaccination programme experienced on average a 30% improvement in income and acceptance of predators increased.
  • Over 1,100 children and 90 teachers living in snow leopard habitats took part in Nature Clubs, and 300 enjoyed outdoor eco-camps.

 Goal 6: Improve scientific understanding of the ecology of the snow leopard and associated biodiversity, and the threats they face, to enable better conservation management.

  • Through GPS collaring and population surveys using trap cameras, the project has amassed the largest datasets in the world for snow leopard locations and images. 20 snow leopards have been collared to track their movements. This is higher than all other previous collaring studies put together! These data will be used to determine snow leopard range size and help design and manage protected areas.
  • The first ever study was launched on disease ecology of snow leopards during year 1 of the project. Samples from snow leopards, water sources and associated wildlife were collected. Preliminary analysis shows numerous pathogens crossing several species, shedding light on disease vectors in multi-use landscapes and highlighting the importance of healthy ecosystems.
  • A multi-country study into the impact of climate change and grazing on snow leopard habitat was launched during year 1 of the project. Three countries are now using outdoor ‘living laboratories’ to collect comparative data on the effects of climate change on snow leopards habitat, and research into snow leopard adaptions to climate change has been submitted for publication.


Fostering global penguin conservation


Goal 1: Improve scientific knowledge on critical aspects of the biology and ecology of penguin species in order to make fact-based recommendations to guide conservation action.

  • Pablo was appointed a member of the United Nations Ocean Sanctuary Alliance Scientific Panel to justify the need to increase the area of ocean under conservation using empirical evidence.
  • In September 2015, the 193 countries of the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It includes 17 ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ that are an inter-governmentally agreed set of targets relating to international development. Thanks to scientists including Pablo and GPS colleagues, a goal on the conservation and sustainable use of oceans was included by the UN for the first time.
  • As part of this initiative, in March 2015, Pablo addressed the United Nations at the ‘One Ocean’ symposium in New York. His presentation highlighted the ecological and financial reasons for the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and why science is fundamental to their design.
  • A peak of 160 King penguins were counted in the recently established Strait of Magellan colony in Chile. GPS staff are designing visitor guidelines for the site and have discovered where their feeding routes and food sources are located.
  • Breeding areas for the Vulnerable Humboldt and Near Threatened Magellanic penguin were identified during surveys in Central Chile. Pablo and his team are working with authorities who are enthusiastic to ensure responsible ecotourism measures are put in place that are sensitive to penguin needs.
  • The El Pedral colony in Argentina grew from just 6 pairs in 2008 to 1,791 pairs in 2015. The growth is fuelled by emigration from other colonies to the El Pedral beach which Pablo has secured as a Wildlife Refuge.
  • The Fiordland penguin project in New Zealand became the first to determine feeding corridors and food source locations, which is central to justify ocean protection and underpin management.
  • Nine scientific papers related to this project were published in peer reviewed international scientific and conservation journals.

Goal 2: Promote informed decision-making regarding the management of penguin species and its habitats. We will offer knowledge and experience of skilful professionals of the international penguin community to governments and landowners to influence and improve decisions that affect management and conservation actions.

  • The IUCN Penguin Specialist Group was established in 2015 to provide cutting-edge informing to advise international penguin conservation at the policy level. Pablo has been appointed Co-Chair of the group with Dr. Boersma and a core group of experts from every relevant region has been chosen. The first workshop was held in USA where the structure and goals of the group were defined.
  • A new 100,000 hectare Marine Protected Area (MPA) was created around the Punta Tombo Magellanic penguin colony in Argentina to protect penguin feeding grounds. Home to 400,000 breeding pairs, it is the largest Magellanic penguin colony in the world, but numbers have declined by 20% in the last 20 years. Until now penguins were protected on land but not when they entered the water to feed.
  • A major new protected area was declared in Argentina. Following GPS nomination, the Blue Patagonia Biosphere Reserve was approved by UNESCOin June 2015. It is the largest of this kind in Argentina, encompassing 3.1 million hectares; an area nearly the size of Belgium! It will protect 20 penguin colonies, 700 species and 40% of the global population of Magellanic penguins.
  • Pablo’s data, including identification of feeding routes, is helping to justify enlargement of the Peninsula Valdes protected area in Argentina (which incorporates terrestrial and marine habitat) and is ensuring responsible tourism management. The area is home to southern right whales, sea lions, penguins, guanacos and the only continental colony of elephant seals in the world.

Goal 3: Reach communities and decision makers with a clear conservation message about penguin and ocean conservation.

  • An educational book entitled ‘SEA MESSENGERS’ was published and 3,000 copies were distributed free of charge in five Spanish speaking countries where penguins occur. The book is being used in schools, by tour guides, and is available to the public.
  • ‘Penguins: Natural History and Conservation’ was published last year and brought together information on all penguin species in a book for the first time. This year it was translated into Spanish and received the Award for the ¨Best Book Edited in Argentina¨ which was presented by the Chamber of Publications and increased the profile and distribution of the book.
  • 296 children participated in lessons and school trips to visit penguin colonies for the first time and learn about them.
  • The project results were covered in 12 newspaper articles, two TV programs and 23 radio interviews. Declaration of the new MPA at Punta Tombo was covered by the BBC Wildlife Magazine.


Strengthening Local and Regional Conservation Initiatives for the Protection of Rivers & Dolphins in South America


Goal 1: Evaluate, monitor and communicate the status of river dolphins in South America.

  • Four expeditions have been conducted to estimate abundance of river dolphins in the River Tapajos (Brazil), Orinoco (Venezuela), Amazon (Peru/Colombia) and Caqueta (Colombia).
  • A scientific paper was published reporting a 75% probability that in the Colombian Amazon, pink dolphin numbers had declined. The paper was selected by the well-known journal ‘Science’ as an example of an effective approach to evaluate population trends for species where different methods have been used to collect population data.
  • 36 scientists from Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela have been trained in dolphin surveys, building in-country capacity for freshwater conservation.
  • A river dolphin workshop was held at the 10th Biennial Meeting of the South American Aquatic Mammal Society in Cartagena city with 28 presentations and 94 attendees.
  • A database that maps the locations of active and proposed dams created during Year 1 of the project, is being used to indicate where damming projects and dolphin habitat overlap in order to pin-point where development will have the largest impact on cetaceans.
  • Protocols for inclusion of river dolphin abundance estimation in Environment Impact Assessments (EIAs) have been developed in collaboration with WWF and are being translated into Portuguese. This will ensure dolphins are considered when dams are being planned and steps are taken to mitigate their impact, or prevent harmful projects from going ahead in key habitat.
  • Fishery agreements in the Tarapoto lakes systems (Colombia) are benefitting ~2,000 indigenous people from 23 communities who are already seeing positive results, with fish populations showing signs of increasing.
  • After 10 years, the project’s existing floating house was renewed. Situated at the mouth of the lakes, the floating house is used by locals to conduct monitoring and enforce the fishing agreements to enable sustainable management of these lakes and their resources.
  • The initial draft of the Action Plan for river dolphins and manatees is expected to be approved imminently by the Government of Peru.

Goal 2: Provide Technical capacity building to strengthen river dolphin conservation.

  • 106 researchers have been trained in the analysis of field data during three workshops held in Venezuela (26), Peru (20) and Colombia (60).
  • More than 500 researchers are now using the South American River Dolphin Protected Area Network (SARDPAN) online forum designed to enable resource sharing, publication of research and aid government decisions on freshwater conservation.

Goal 3: Grassroots capacity building to strengthen river dolphin conservation.

  • A total of 253 people have been trained in good dolphin watching practices in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia to promote local initiatives that encourage the conservation of dolphins or their habitat; 103 people in Colombia and Peru received training in sustainable fishing practices; and 65 artisans were trained in handicraft production to boost incomes for people living in dolphin habitat in Colombia and Peru.
  • Staff exchange trips between Omacha and other South American NGOs including WFN alumni Joanna Alfaro-Shigueto identified opportune regions in which to promote good dolphin watching practices, develop fishing agreements and initiate artisan programmes expanding the project.
  • Following scientific, social and political support, the Lakes of Tarapoto are expected to be declared a Ramsar site, giving this 90,000ha wetland which incorporates dolphin feeding and nursery grounds, international recognition of its importance.
  • Two interpretation centres have been built in Peru and Colombia to rehabilitate and house injured freshwater wildlife and educate the public about these species.
  • 20,000 people have been reached by a mobile exhibition providing educational materials about dolphins in Colombia.
  • A film about Fernando and his work called ‘Omacha Man’ will be presented at the 2017 Sundance Festival. The film exposes illegal gold mining in the Amazon basin and its harmful effects on wetland ecosystems and indigenous communities suffering mercury poisoning. Watch the teaser trailer. Out soon!

Goal 4: Find alternatives with the goal of banning the ‘mota’ (catfish) fishery.

  • Research shows mercury levels in mota fish exceed the limit set by the World Health Organization, making them unsafe for human consumption. As a result of an international campaign, Brazil banned trade in mota fish until 2020.
  • The Government of Colombia have made recommendations that people avoid consumption of mota fish and large supermarkets have stopped selling it which will not only benefit human health, but reduce the killing of river dolphins to be used as bait in the mota industry.
  • 260 mota fish samples were analysed. Results found 95% of samples contained significant levels of mercury.
  • Following the ban, Brazil’s traders are encouraging hunting of dolphins in Peru, making work to address this in these countries pertinent.


Landscape Conservation of Large Carnivores, Turkey


Goal 1: Create the next generation of conservation leaders in Turkey.

  • A team of young experts has been established through the training of PhD, MSc and undergraduate students who have benefitted from hands-on training as field assistants and have gone on to pursue careers in conservation.

Goal 2: Generate population estimates for large carnivores in this data-deficient region using population surveys, ecological research and m ark-recapture analyses.

  • A trained sniffer dog was used to collect over 1,200 carnivore scats (droppings) during Year 1 of the project from which DNA has been extracted to identify individual animals as part of a molecular mark-and-recapture study to estimate population size. A total of 49 individual brown bears have been identified. Analysis of scats for other species is on-going. This is the first genetics-based scientific population estimate for any wildlife species in Turkey.

Goal 3: Track the movements and understand the habitat requirements of large carnivores in the region.

  • GPS collars have been fitted on a total of 21 bears, 11 wolves and 2 lynx to track their movements and provide crucial information on habitat use, range and behaviour.
  • This is the first project to use crittercams (video collars) on bears and wolves in Turkey. It has led to significant media attention for the project, providing a ‘carnivore’s eye view’ of the corridor, and has even deterred poachers from killing collared animals.
  • Two scientific papers have been published including the most comprehensive survey ever undertaken on human-wildlife conflict in Turkey and the discovery of world’s first migratory brown bears.
  • A group of 16 brown bears were monitored: six of the bears seasonally migrated between feeding and breeding sites along the corridor, the first known brown bears to do so. The other 10 bears stayed in one spot all year long: the city dump – which is planned for closure and could increase human-wildlife conflict in urban areas if waste is not stored in bear-proof containers which Cagan is advocating.
  • Tracking data was crucial towards securing approval of Tukey’s wildlife corridor in 2011 and will play an important role in understanding wildlife ecology and guiding conservation measures such as identifying where animals most frequently cross roads and where underpasses would therefore be most effective.
  • Data gathered during collaring shows lynx in the project area are the smallest in the world, weighing just 15kg. This could be due to a lack of natural prey, strengthening campaigns to reintroduce prey species and highlighting the need to reforest degraded areas to improve habitat suitability.

Goal 4: Use camera traps to monitor mammal diversity and abundance.

  • The first comprehensive camera trap survey in north-eastern Turkey has been completed. A network of 40 camera traps was set-up to monitor mammal populations and interactions in the Sarıkamış forest.
  • Over 80,000 photos were collected at 65 stations over three years. These data have been analysed and are currently pending publication.

Goal 5: Increase community Involvement.

  • Community surveys conducted in 53 towns and villages since 2010 found that the percentage of people using guns in reaction to large wildlife has declined, and there has been an increase in the percentage of people avoiding large wildlife instead. Knowledge of wildlife ecotourism and desire to participate has more than doubled since 2010 following education and outreach.
  • Increasingly, people call KuzeyDoga staff and/or government officials when a bear or wolf attacks their livestock, instead of shooting them. People are now aware of deterrent solutions like non-lethal electric fencing of bee hives and are now insuring their livestock against predator attacks.
  • The project was featured in over 250 news stories about wildlife research and conservation efforts including local and national newspapers, radio and TV programmes and international news outlets. This included 11 documentaries on National Geographic Wild, TRT Belgesel (national TV documentary channel), IzTV (dedicated documentary channel), and CNN Turk (the most respected news channel of Turkey).

Goal 6: Build political support for large carnivore conservation.

  • Data collected by KuzeyDoga is being used to lobby the Turkish government to increase protected areas and conservation efforts in Turkey during national and international meetings and in national media.
  • The official process to secure the wildlife corridor as a ‘Protected Forest’ is ongoing in relevant departments of the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs and reforestation of the wildlife corridor by the Ministry has begun.
  • Following successful lobbying, to reduce road kill incidents KuzeyDoğa is working with government to construct a wildlife crossing that will connect two patches of Sarıkamış forest that are currently bisected by a high-speed, four-lane interstate highway. The location of this wildlife overpass was determined by using the data collected from GPS collars.
  • The project was chosen as one of the five most successful United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) projects in the world and KuzeyDoga was the only Turkish NGO invited to the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) 5th Assembly meeting in Mexico.
  • KuzeyDoga was elected an IUCN member in April 2016, becoming one of only five NGOs from Turkey that are IUCN members. The NGO represented Turkey at the 2016 World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. 

Notes to Editors:

  • Contact Firebird PR for further information: Jane Bevan or Susannah Penn at Firebird PR on +00 44 01235 835297 / +00 44 07977 459547 or via email to [email protected]
  • Photographs of the projects are available to download via Google Photos:
  • The Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) is a UK registered charity that champions outstanding grassroots leaders in nature conservation across the developing world. It provides Whitley Awards – often referred to by others as “Green Oscars” – to individuals in recognition of their achievements in nature conservation. Each Award Winner receives £35,000 in project funding over one year. Since 2001, the charity’s patron HRH The Princess Royal has presented the Awards at an annual ceremony in London.
  • Over the last 23 years, WFN has given £12 million to conservation and recognised more than 170 conservation leaders in over 70 countries.
  • Whitley Award winners join an international network of Whitley Award alumni eligible to apply for further Continuation Funding. These follow-on grants are awarded competitively to winners seeking to scale up their effective conservation work.
  • Launched in 2014, ‘Partnership Funding by Fondation Segré’ is a grant endowed by Fondation Segré and managed by Whitley Fund for Nature, which recognises and provides further funding to support the work of four of WFN’s most successful previous Whitley Award and Continuation Funding winners.  Over three years, grant funding totalling 1,500,000 Euros will deliver urgent conservation activities to conserve snow leopards in India, penguins in Argentina, freshwater dolphins in Colombia and large carnivores in Turkey.
  • The Whitley Awards are open to individuals working on wildlife conservation issues in developing countries. Applications are now open for the 2017 Awards; further information on eligibility criteria is available from Firebird PR and our website. The deadline for applications is 31st October 2016.
  • Alumni will be speaking at WFN’s event ‘Poaching Pesticides and Politics: Conserving the Small & Mighty hosted by wildlife filmmaker Alastair Fothergill at the Royal Geographical Society on 23rd Tickets will be available to buy from WFN’s website soon.
  • WFN is generously supported by: Arcus Foundation; The William Brake Charitable Trust; The Byford Trust; Sarah Chenevix-Trench; The Constance Travis Charitable Trust; Garden House School Parents’ Association; Garfield Weston Foundation; The G D Charitable Trust; HDH Wills 1965 Charitable Trust; HSBC Holdings Plc; Icon Films; Interconnect IT; Lund Trust: a charitable fund of Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing; Montesogno; The Rufford Foundation; The Schroder Foundation; Fondation Segré; The Shears Foundation; The Whitley Animal Protection Trust; WWF-UK; The Friends and Scottish Friends of the Whitley Fund for Nature; and many individual and anonymous donors.
  • Whitley Fund for Nature and the Whitley Awards are not associated with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
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