Deeper investment: nearly £600k granted to nine Whitley Alumni

Oct 2017 –  A total of £595,000 in further funding has been awarded to nine outstanding conservation leaders from our global network of previous Whitley Award winners. Continuation Funding grants of up to £70,000 will support another two years of vital conservation action led by each winner, helping to scale up their successful conservation work.

Applications to the programme open annually to WFN alumni in February, with funding given the following October. Following the submission of concept notes, grants are applied for on a competitive basis and funding is not guaranteed. 55% of all previous Whitley Award winners have gone on to win Continuation Funding. Our commitment to the most effective conservation leaders is long term; our relationship with the projects repeat funded in this round ranging from two to 17 years in length. Scientific rigour remains a mainstay of programme selection, but so too are winners encouraged to aim high and take calculated risks. Proposals are assessed by a panel of expert reviewers from a range of conservation and science organisations who generously donate their time to identify the most compelling projects. Such funding – which is greater in value and over a longer time period than the Whitley Award – is given to some of the most influential conservationists in their field, contributing measurable impact whether at the grassroots or now at national level.

The 2017 WFN Continuation Funding winners are:

Gargi Banerji, India (WA 2000)
Ecosystem conservation & disaster risk reduction in the Himalayas
£70,000 over 2 years

Gargi is working in a fragile mountain environment with a plethora of uniquely adapted plants and animals where climate change and uncontrolled development are swiftly degrading the Himalayas beyond repair. Over-exploitation of resources has caused largescale loss of biodiversity and local livelihoods, compromised ecosystem services and increased exposure to natural disasters. Already, the occurrence of floods and landslides are increasing and resulting in loss of human lives, property and agricultural lands. The project aims to create grassroots environmental activism by training youth to carry out innovative ecological monitoring and community-based mitigation and conservation actions. Gargi’s NGO will become the regional environmental monitoring center for the Himalayas and so has the potential to make a great difference at the landscape level through the adoption of a region-wide conservation strategy. Following the 2013 flooding disaster and the earthquake in Nepal, decision-makers are now open to environmental work that will help to reduce vulnerability to natural hazards and mitigate the effects of climate change in this area.

Randall Arauz, Costa Rica (WA 2004)
Halting extinction of Eastern Pacific sharks
£70,000 over 2 years

A quarter of all shark and ray species are threatened with extinction and Costa Rica is a major shark finning nation. Randall’s project aims to protect blue, thresher and hammerhead sharks from unsustainable fishing practices while tackling domestic consumption of shark meat through a public and political campaign. It is an exciting project that seeks to establish transnational ‘shark swim-ways’ to protect and connect key habitat for sharks across the Galapagos-Costa Rica-Colombia migration corridor and deploy aerial drones to monitor marine reserves. Expansion of protected areas and the introduction of no take zones, seasonal fishing closures, and restrictions in international trade will be sought to safeguard sharks and cutting-edge research will guide future management. The new ‘swim-ways’ offer an opportunity to develop further collaboration with other Whitley Award winners and NGOs in Latin America, with sharks migrating thousands of miles each year.

Angela Maldonado, Colombia & Peru (WA 2010)
Tackling illegal trade in night monkeys at the Colombia-Peru border
£70,000 over 2 years

It will be surprising to many that monkeys are still taken from the wild for research. As a result of this harvest, Nancy Ma’s night monkey faces local extirpation in Colombia. Angela’s long-term work has proven that to effectively curb illegal capture of night monkeys, alternative income sources must be available for communities involved in the trade. This project aims to replicate in Peru the successful nature tourism developments and hunting bans implemented in the Colombian Amazon. It will deliver greater protection for overharvested game species and Amazonian ecosystems at the tri-national Colombian-Peruvian-Brazil border, by improving local economies, monitoring and law enforcement. The grant will also support Angela to bravely pursue a law suit against a laboratory to prevent unsustainable capture of night monkeys for malaria research.
In doing so Angela is ensuring the future of these unique nocturnal primates and tackling illegal wildlife trade; which is the world’s third most valuable illicit commerce behind drugs and arms.

Zahirul Islam, Bangladesh & Myanmar (2013)
Expanding sea turtle conservation in the Bay of Bengal
£70,000 over 2 years

Five of the world’s seven marine turtle species are found in the subtropical coastal and marine habitat of the Bay of Bengal, where sandy beaches offer ideal nesting rookeries. Bangladesh’s sea turtles remain under threat from entanglement in offshore fishing nets, exploitation for their meat and eggs and habitat fragmentation caused by indiscriminate tourism and coastal development. The project aims to expand Zahirul’s earlier successful approach over the whole Bangladesh coast and into neighbouring Myanmar (a first!). The team will use rapid boat surveys along the south-central and west coast and drones for remote areas to survey and map turtle habitat. Once identified, nesting beaches will be included in regular monitoring and conservation measures in conjunction with local communities. The team will train Forest Department officials, and Defence and Fisheries officers, and bolster awareness by establishing an education and research centre. By the end of the project the status of turtles nesting along the entire coastline of Bangladesh will be known and action taken to safeguard turtles both on land and sea.

Rosamira Guillen, Colombia (WA 2015)
Restoring forest for cotton-top tamarins in northern Colombia
£70,000 over 2 years

Cotton-top tamarins are only found in the tropical forests of northern Colombia, and are one of the most threatened primates on the planet. With only a few thousand remaining, these tiny monkeys are Critically Endangered due to extensive deforestation, and capture for the illegal pet trade. Following a learning exchange with fellow Whitley Award winner Laury Cullen from Brazil, Rosamira is now promoting reforestation with local landowners. Using conservation agreements with landowners and the reforestation methods from Brazil, the team is linking forest fragments to double the area of suitable habitat for cotton-tops and connect isolated populations. Collaborating with specialist forest and human development organisations to undertake independent monitoring, the project will deliver robust reforestation with the support of local landowners to provide a lasting refuge for cotton-tops in this area of Colombia.

Panut Hadisiwoyo, Indonesia (WA 2015)
A real life Jungle Book: Safeguarding orangutans in the Leuser Ecosystem
£53,000 over 2 years

The Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra is the only place in the world where orangutan, rhino, elephants and tigers still co-exist. Panut works here to encourage local communities to embrace conservation actions and improve their own livelihoods. This project will incorporate new methods developed by Hotlin Ompusunggu , 2016 Whitley Gold Award winner, and shared during an exchange visit whereby local people undertake conservation actions in return for a local service – in this case for junior schooling. The home grown tree seedlings produced in exchange for schooling, together with seedlings produced in the restoration nursery will be planted to restore 100 ha of forest over two years. Similarly, 200 orange farmers will benefit from learning more sustainable cultivation practices to decrease agricultural encroachment into forest habitat. Over 1,000 community members will benefit from greater environmental awareness and each year 50 primary school children will obtain schooling in their village. This project will enable old and young to work to maintain their unique ecological heritage for future generations.

Jayson Ibanez, Philippines (WA 2015)
Conserving the Philippine’s Bird King
£70,000 over 2 years

The Philippine Eagle is Critically Endangered and only 400 breeding pairs remain on four islands. This apex forest predator is the national bird of the Philippines yet shooting, hunting and deforestation continue to threaten it. To save the eagle and its forest home, Jayson will expand his earlier successful work combining indigenous knowledge and science to manage eagle habitats in local territories and community conservation sites. Focusing on five Key Biodiversity Areas, the project will set up local governance structures to manage the sites and build the capacity of forest wardens. It will also collect vital data on the species to lay the foundations for directly measuring impact on eagle populations going forward. By establishing the country’s first national education scheme on the Philippine Eagle the project will also raise local awareness of the importance of local biodiversity and the irreplaceable ecosystem services that these forests provide.

Inaoyom Imong, Nigeria (WA 2015)
Community conservation of Cross River gorillas in the remote Mbe Mountains
£52,000 over 2 years

With just 300 Cross River gorillas remaining in the wild, this population is in urgent need of action. Imong is from the Mbe Mountains of Nigeria where 25-30 of the gorillas remain (10% of the global population!). Support for community-based conservation is critical as the area lacks formal protection. Building on his previous work, Imong’s project will continue to provide support for improved law enforcement monitoring through newly introduced SMART monitoring to further reduce hunting pressure The work will further develop the capacity of community conservation associations by providing training in project management, fundraising and financial reporting, and will support new livelihood activities that reduce pressure on the forest such as sustainable cocoa farming and non-timber forest product collection and marketing. Nest surveys and DNA sampling are also being used to confirm gorilla population estimates and measure impact. And there are already signs of success with the area seeing a reduction in deforestation and hunting since work began, giving these rare gorillas a chance of survival.

Ananda Kumar, India (WA 2015)
Sharing space: using communications technology to reduce human-elephant conflict in southern India
£70,000 over 2 years

The Asian elephant population in India numbers over 27,000 and 44% are found in the southern states. However, as the majority of elephants occur outside protected areas, both people and elephants continue to die as a result of human-wildlife conflict. Ananda’s ground-breaking use of innovative early warning systems such as SMS, voice call alerts, alert beacons and GSM based digital display boards is already proving a life-saver in the Valparai region. This project will consolidate the information networks in Valparai and replicate these to the Hassan landscape. Hassan has experienced episodic removal of elephants but this has failed to resolve human-elephant conflict where the root cause is a lack of information about elephant presence. This novel project will save lives, both human and elephant, in a country where co-existence is a priority for the long-term benefits and co-existence of both.

We are extremely grateful to the generous donors who have chosen to give exclusively to our Continuation Funding programme:

Arcus Foundation; The Byford Trust; Earlymarket; The G.D. Charitable Trust; Britta & Jeremy Lloyd Family Charitable Trust; Lund Trust, a charitable fund of Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing; The Schroder Foundation; The Constance Travis Charitable Trust; Whitley Animal Protection Trust; and the Friends and Scottish Friends of Whitley Fund for Nature, and all those who have chosen to give anonymously.

Our winners tell us the ability to re-apply for funds when they need them to expand their work or address emerging threats is a vital source of support. However demand for Continuation Funding far outstrips resources – we want to change this! We welcome further donations to our Continuation Funding Programme to enable us to get closer to the £1.5 million being sought by our winners annually. With your help, we could support more of these impactful projects. If you would like to learn more or are interested in giving to this programme and supporting conservation heroes, please contact WFN’s Donor Manager, Georgie White: georgie@whitleyaward.org