17 May 2017
Conservation leader from South Africa wins 2017 Whitley Award
Prize awarded for protecting South Africa’s threatened grassland biodiversity
HRH The Princess Royal will tomorrow present a Whitley Award, a prestigious international nature conservation prize worth £35,000 in project funding, to Ian Little at a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society, London, in honour of his work to protect South Africa’s threatened grasslands.
Demand for fresh water is expected to outstrip supply in South Africa by 2025.
The Eastern Great Escarpment of South Africa provides catchment services for
three of the country’s largest rivers, making it a vital source of water for cities
such as Durban and Johannesburg in one of the world’s most arid nations. As
the world’s third most biodiverse country, these grasslands support a plethora of plants and animals found nowhere else, including golden moles and the
sungazer lizard. Despite their importance, less than 3% of grasslands in South
Africa are protected. Intensive livestock farming, coal mining and gas
exploration are inflicting untold damage – with fracking now an imminent
Ian Little of the Endangered Wildlife Trust works with farmers to champion
conservation of grassland habitat. Working with farmers and tribal leaders, Ian is building capacity for sustainable farming and introducing improved
management practices, such as less intensive grazing and burning regimes to
decrease pressure on grasslands and boost productivity. He has already
secured 60,000 hectares of grassland for conservation purposes; a figure Ian
plans to increase with his Whitley Award by creating a corridor of legally
protected areas linking with others along the escarpment. In doing so he will
safeguard these grasslands and the important source of freshwater they
Edward Whitley, Founder of the Whitley Fund for Nature, said: “WFN focus on
conservation success stories which give us a reason for optimism. The Awards
Ceremony is about recognising progress – winning those small battles which
cumulatively equate to change at the national level. In addition to the
financial benefit of winning an Award, winners receive professional
communications training to turn scientists into ambassadors, so they are able to communicate effectively with the public and inform change at the political
Ian is one of six individuals to have been awarded a share of the prize money
worth £210,000, winning the Whitley Award donated by the Garfield Weston
Other winners in the 2017 Whitley Awards are:
- Sanjay Gubbi – India
Reducing deforestation in Karnataka’s tiger corridors, India
The Whitley Award donated by WWF-UK
- Indira Lacerna-Widmann – Philippines
Partnering with prisoners to safeguard the Critically Endangered Philippine
The Whitley Award donated by Notting Hill Preparatory School
- Purnima Barman – India
Inspiring women to protect Assam’s greater adjutant and its wetland habitat,
The Whitley Award donated by The Shears Foundation in memory of Trevor
- Alexander Blanco – Venezuela
Nest protectors: conserving Venezuela’s magnificent harpy eagles as a
The Whitley Award donated by The William Brake Charitable Trust in memory of William Brake
- Ximena Velez-Liendo – Bolivia
An uphill climb: enabling coexistence of Andean bears and farmers in the
The Whitley Award donated by the Savitri Waney Charitable Trust
Sir David Attenborough, a Trustee of the Whitley Fund for Nature, added: “It is
now more important than ever to invest in those working to protect our planet.
The Whitley Fund for Nature is at the forefront of supporting these heroic
HRH The Princess Royal will also present the 2017 Whitley Gold Award – a
prestigious profile and funding prize awarded to a previous Whitley Award
winner in recognition of their outstanding contribution to conservation. The Whitley Gold Award is donated by The Friends and Scottish Friends of the
Whitley Fund for Nature and is worth £50,000.
This year’s recipient is 2013 Whitley Award winner, Zafer Kizilkaya for his project – ‘Guardians of the sea: securing and expanding marine reserves along the Turkish coastline’. Zafer is President of the Mediterranean Conservation Society, an NGO which aims to conserve Turkey’s marine and coastal ecosystems. He leads a series of projects in the area working with local fishing communities, coastguards and government to promote ocean conservation and sustainable fishing practices that benefit wildlife such as monk seals, sand bar sharks and loggerhead turtles, and boost fisher income. With his Whitley Gold Award Zafer will consolidate his efforts in Gökova Bay and scale up his successful approach in nearby Fethiye Bay. His long term vision is to replicate his work throughout the Mediterranean.
Press materials available:
• Video footage of the Awards Ceremony, individual films featuring the award
winner and copyright-cleared photographs will be available upon arrangement
with Firebird PR: contact Jane Bevan or Jana Fickerova at Firebird PR on +00 44
01235 835297 or via email to [email protected]
Notes to Editors:
• Contact Firebird PR for further information: Jane Bevan or Jana Fickerova at
Firebird PR on +00 44 01235 835297 or via email to [email protected]
• The Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) is a UK registered charity that champions
outstanding grassroots leaders in nature conservation across the developing world.
• The Whitley Awards are prestigious international prizes presented to individuals in recognition of their achievements in nature conservation. Each Award Winner receives a prize worth £35,000 in project funding over one year. The charity’s patron, HRH The Princess Royal, presents the Awards each year at a special ceremony in London.
• The Whitley Awards have been presented annually since 1994. Since then, the
Whitley Fund for Nature has given over £13.5 million to conservation and
recognised more than 185 conservation leaders in over 80 countries.
• WFN operates a rigorous application process involving expert panel representation from international NGOs including WWF-UK, Fauna and Flora International and the World Land Trust. This year, WFN received 166 applications which passed through four stages of assessment, reviewed at every step by expert screeners and panellists who kindly offer their expertise voluntarily.
• The Whitley Awards are open to individuals working on wildlife conservation issues in developing countries. Further eligibility criteria are available from Firebird PR.
• During their trip to London for the Awards week finalists have the opportunity to meet the judges, WFN trustees, including Sir David Attenborough and WFN’s patron HRH The Princess Royal. In addition they are able to network with the other finalists, attend receptions with leading conservation organisations and academics, meet Whitley Fund for Nature donors and participate in professional media and speech training. Meeting the media is also a significant event since publicity both in the UK and their home countries helps raise the profile of their work.
• Whitley Award winners join an international network of Whitley Award alumni
eligible to apply for Continuation Funding grants. These follow-on grants are
awarded competitively to winners seeking to scale up their effective conservation results on the ground over 1-2 years.
• The Whitley Gold Award recognises an outstanding past recipient of a Whitley Award who has gone on to make a significant contribution to conservation. Joining the Judging Panel to assist in selection, the Gold winner also acts as mentor to Whitley Award winners receiving their Awards in the same year.
• WFN is generously supported by: The Arcus Foundation; The William Brake
Charitable Trust; The Byford Trust; Sarah Chenevix-Trench; The Constance Travis Charitable Trust; Notting Hill Preparatory School; The G D Charitable Trust; HSBC Holdings Plc; Icon Films; Interconnect IT; Jeremy & Britta Lloyd; Lund Trust: a charitable fund of Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing; The Thomson Reuters Foundation; The Rufford Foundation; The Savitri Waney Charitable Trust; The Schroder Foundation; Fondation Segré; The Shears Foundation; The Garfield Weston Foundation; HDH Wills 1965 Charitable Trust; The Whitley Animal Protection Trust; WWF-UK; The Friends and Scottish Friends of the Whitley Fund for Nature; and many individual and anonymous donors to whom we are grateful.