Here's what your funding helped to achieve for conservation in 2017
Hope for Madagascar’s most threatened ecosystem as Lake Ambondrobe is declared a Ramsar Site (May 2017). This is a great triumph for 2016 Whitley Award winner Juliette Velosoa, who has been using the critically endangered side-necked turtle, locally known as ‘rere’, as a flagship species to protect wetlands, their extraordinary biodiversity and the valuable freshwater they provide, which are crucial for communities living nearby.
Deforestation rates have slowed in Gunung Palung National Park, Borneo. 2011 Whitley Award winner, Hotlin Ompusunggu, reported a 90% decrease in illegal logging since2007, in which time the number of loggers has dropped from 1,350 to 140. This vital habitat is home to endangered species including hornbills, gibbons, clouded leopards and 10% of the global population of orangutans.
Designation of a new World Heritage Site in July 2017: the globally important, but little known, Landscapes of Dauria are now legally protected. Stretching across the Russia-Mongolia border, the area is a crucial stopping point for three million migratory birds. This is a major step forward in the region’s conservation, and was celebrated by 2013 Whitley Award winner, Eugene Simonov, who has been championing Daurian conservation for over a decade.
A long-term amphibian monitoring programme has been initiated in Ghana by 2016 Whitley Award winner Gilbert Adum. As a result, in 2017 his team re-discovered Allen’s Slippery Frog, (Conraua alleni), 30 years since it was last recorded in Ghana and previously been declared extinct. Three new frog species not previously recorded in the Sui Forest were also documented the West African Brown Frog (Aubria subsigillata), Hallowell’s Sedge Frog (Hyperolius concolor), and Striped Spiny Reed Frog (Afrixalus dorsalis). Now aware of their existence, conservation measures will be put in place to secure these populations.
A breakthrough for shark research in the Caribbean as Standard Protocol is established to monitor sharks across four countries. 2011 Whitley Gold Award winner Rachel Graham, Director of MarAlliance, has been leading efforts to conserve Belize’s top marine predators for over 25 years. A network of monitors comprising over 100 traditional fishers and 39 partners has subsequently been developed to monitor marine mega-fauna in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.
Over 12,000ha of unique coastal forest in Tanzania have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and is now under community management. 2016 Whitley Award winner, Makala Jasper, has been working to conserve endangered miombo woodlands and coastal forest habitats by empowering local villagers to take control of, sustainably manage and economically benefit from protected forests. Makala has helped the villagers establish Tanzania’s only FSC certified sustainable timber harvesting programme increasing local income. Communities now recognise the benefits of using the forest resources sustainably and want to protect it.
Over 50ha of degraded forest has been restored and another 100ha reclaimed from encroaching coffee and palm oil plantations in the Leuser Ecosystem, the only place in the world where four Critically Endangered and iconic species still survive together – the Sumatran orangutan, tiger, elephant and rhino. 2015 Whitley Award winner, Panut Hadisiswoyo and his team have planted 51,550 trees in the tropical lowland rainforest, helping safeguard the area’s precious biodiversity.
Double Whitley Gold Award winner Çağan Şekercioğlu’s ground breaking research led to the discovery of world’s first migratory brown bears, moving seasonally between feeding and breeding sites. Çağan deployed GPS collars fitted with cameras – a first – to track 29 bears and film their movements. The discovery underlines the importance of Cagan’s work to conserve a 28,543 hectare habitat corridor between Turkey and Georgia.
After ensuring the Ocean was added to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, 2010 Whitley Award winner Pablo Borboroglu is now working alongside the government of Argentina to foster the designation of five new oceanic Protected Areas including an expansion of the Biosphere Reserve created with WFN support in 2015 to secure critical breeding and feeding habitat for Magellanic penguins in South America.
In a landmark decision, bats – a vital pollinator species – received international support at the 12th Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). 2004 Whitley Award winner and 2012 ‘Year of the Bat Ambassador’, Rodrigo Medellin, importantly identified four species of migratory bats whose populations are at risk of extinction from wind turbines, with hundreds of thousands killed each year. Because of Rodrigo’s findings, in October 2017 the proposal to incentivise cooperation and improve safeguards to protect these species across their range has been adopted at an international level by 126 countries.
After three years of campaigning the government of Colombia banned the trade of mota fish indefinitely in August 2017 following research conducted by 2007 Whitley Gold Award winner Fernando Trujillo. His work proved these fish contain toxic levels of mercury from illegal gold mining, making them unsafe for human consumption. The mota trade not only risks the health of the nation’s people but fuels the illegal hunting of Amazonian pink river dolphins whose carcasses are used as bait to catch mota fish. Now the trade has been halted, the killing will stop.
Orangutan photo courtesy of Gita Defoe