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

Dec 2018: A total of £590,000 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 autumn. 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. Scientific rigour remains a mainstay of programme selection, but so too are winners encouraged to aim high and take calculated risks. 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.


Sergei Bereznuk (WA 2006)
Scaling up anti-poaching efforts for Russia’s Siberian tigers and Amur leopards
£65,000 over two years

Sergei and his team at the Phoenix Fund have enabled rangers of six protected areas to crack down on threats to Amur tigers and leopards through the use of the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Recent monitoring showed populations of both species are now either increasing or stabilised.

With the support from Continuation Funding, Sergei will increase the protection of these species’ habitat by 30% by expanding their programme to the recently established Bikin National Park – the largest protected area home to tigers in the country. The project will deliver further capacity building for rangers and the promotion of closer engagement with the local community.

To increase environmental awareness, 8,000 school children will benefit from interactive classes like drama and ecological gaming workshops. Additionally, 60 teachers will be trained, receive supporting material and be encouraged to connect the regular school-based curriculum with the species conservation framework. These combined efforts will guarantee a safer environment and increased community buy-in for the conservation of these endangered big cats.

Image Credit: Phoenix Fund

Christina Garcia (WA 2011 awarded to Lisel Alamilla)
Landscape level conservation of Belize’s Maya Golden Landscape
£35,000 over one year

Private Protected Areas (PPA) in Belize cover 15.7% of  land area and are one of the key components of four biological corridors already established by the National Protected Area System (NPAS). PPAs play a fundamental role in the protection of over 68 recognised terrestrial and marine ecosystems in the country and help provide habitat connectivity for numerous species inhabiting the Mesoamerican Forest, including jaguars.

Christina Garcia and the Ya’axche Conservation Trust have been instrumental in gaining government recognition for Private Protected Areas in Belize and improving the protection of biological corridors nationally. Continuation Funding will enable them to develop a programme of financial incentives for the declaration of PPA, to be ratified by the government, as well as formally registering seven new PPAs to the national network, working hand-in-hand with landowners to protect land in perpetuity. A national communication campaign will be launched to raise awareness of the significance of these sites for biodiversity, reaching all stakeholder communities in order to safeguard Belize’s natural heritage.

Image Credit: Maximiliano Caal

Rachel Graham (WA 2011)
Reversing declines in hammerhead sharks in Panama and the Eastern Tropical Pacific
£70,000 over two years

Scalloped hammerhead populations have dropped by up to 91% in the NW and Western Central Atlantic. A lack of information on the status of hammerhead sharks and the connectivity of these species’ spatially separated demography in the Eastern Tropic Pacific (ETP) is undermining effective management. It is therefore imperative to identify migratory corridors between coastal nurseries and offshore foraging areas.

Continuation Funding will allow Rachel and her NGO MarAlliance to study four nursery sites in Panama, engaging local fishers in the process who target juveniles in these areas. Public engagement will help alter negative perceptions and change consumer behaviour to reduce shark meat consumption. Migratory patterns and connectivity of nearshore and pelagic hammerhead populations in Panama’s Eastern Tropical Pacific region will also be confirmed. The findings will contribute to the protection of key shark ‘swim-ways’ and migratory corridors, working in collaboration with other Whitley Award alumni including Randall Arauz, Kerstin Forsberg, Didiher Chacon Chaverri and Sandra Bessudo.

Image Credit: P. Oxford, Mar Alliance

Vivek Menon (WA 2001)
Rite of Passage for India’s Asian elephants
£70,000 over two years

With a population of 1.2 billion people, space in India is at a premium. Fragmentation of elephant habitat here brings herds into more frequent contact with humans, creating conflict that can have fatal consequences for both parties. Vivek Menon and his organisation Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) have been instrumental in identifying and protecting corridors in the North East of the country to allow elephants to move safely between patches of suitable habitat whilst reducing the risk of human encounters.

Continuation Funding will allow Vivek to scale up his operation, by establishing a cadre of 15 organisations to monitor and protect 28 corridors in Southern India. These ‘Green Corridor Champions’ will form part of a nationwide network of 55 such teams across 101 corridors benefitting the world’s largest population of Asian elephants. To execute this largescale project, WTI will work alongside fellow Whitley Award winners Ananda Kumar, MD Madhusudan and Raman Sukumar.

Support for the corridors approach will be built through sensitization activities in fringe communities and local policy changes will be ensured to tackle emergence of new threats.  Highly collaborative and landscape level in approach, this project will secure a ‘Right of Passage’ for one of India’s most revered animals.

Bohdan Prots (WA 2007)
Engaging communities to protect Europe’s largest remaining old growth forests, Ukraine
£70,000 over two years

Western and Northern Ukraine contains some of the largest remaining tracts of forest on the European continent, home to some of the last viable populations of brown bear, Eurasian wolf, lynx and European bison. The old growth and virgin forests of Ukraine are recognised by UNESCO, but these forests are threatened by illegal logging, illegal wood exports and timber related corruption. In the Ukrainian Carpathians at least 100,000 ha of unique virgin and old growth forests have been lost over the last 20 years alone.

Bohdan Prots has been instrumental in ensuring protection for these key sites, both in terms of policy and reducing threats on the ground. WFN Continuation Funding will now expand Bohdan’s work in the Carpathians to the Polissia region where his team will empower communities to take action against illegal activities, encourage reporting of crime and support monitoring of biodiversity hotspots. The project will also provide support towards the establishment of new protected areas and improve local involvement in Protected Area management planning.

Image Credit: B. Prots

Marleny Rosales-Meda (WA 2008)
Empowering young conservation leaders, Guatemala
£70,000 over two years

With WFN support Marleny Rosales-Meda and her NGO ORCONDECO have led two participatory programmes tackling threats of unsustainable hunting and empowering indigenous communities to conserve their natural environment with the introduction of Guatemala’s first government approved environmental education programme. Thanks to this work, overhunting is no longer a threat in the project’s priority conservation landscape in the Lachua Ecoregion – a Ramsar site.

However, the long term sustainability of their operation’s impact has been threatened by a lack of employment opportunities for young community members, resulting in migration to cities and even as far as the USA. Continuation Funding will enable ORCONDECO to build youth leadership through applied socio-environmental alternatives, establish 10 learning spaces for training and innovation in sustainable production initiatives and engage further youth leaders in their long term sustainable livelihoods programme. In doing so Marleny will build vital local capacity to manage conservation projects and empower future leaders to protect this important area and its biodiversity.

Çağan Hakkı Şekercioğlu (WA 2008)
Protecting globally Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in northeastern Turkey
£70,000 over two years

Extremely biodiverse northeastern Turkey is located at the intersection of Caucasian and Iran-Anatolian Global Biodiversity Hotspots. Since 2004 Dr Çağan Hakkı Şekercioğlu has monitored and tracked birds in the region, demonstrating the significance of the wetlands for millions of breeding, wintering and migrating birds coming from 31 countries across Europe, Asia and Africa. The work by Çağan and his team has been instrumental in the declaration of Lake Kuyumuk as eastern Turkey’s first Ramasar site. However, these globally significant sites remain threatened by development projects such as mining and hydro-electric dams in the face of weakening environmental legislation.

Çağan will use his Continuation Funding to continue to petition local and central government for increased protection of 11 Key Biodiversity and Important Bird Areas. He will also expand environmental education and successful village based ecotourism programmes in the local communities that could be affected by flooding should damming go ahead. Long term ornithological monitoring will also serve to help better understand and safeguard this wetland from being lost.

Image Credit: Joshua Horns

Fernando Trujillo (WA 2007)
River dolphins and Ramsar sites: a conservation strategy for the Amazon and Orinoco aquatic ecosystems
£70,000 over two years

Fernando and his NGO, Omacha, promote trans-boundary conservation of freshwater habitats and their wildlife using river dolphins as a flagship in the Amazon and Orinoco basins, covering their entire global range across Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. Their work has resulted in the declaration of key river dolphin habitats as Ramsar sites and significant advances in fisheries management and regulation of trade.

Continuation Funding will enable them to scale up their work to two new important dolphin nursery and feeding sites across Colombia and Ecuador, engaging with more than 25 indigenous communities (~4,000 people) to promote sustainable fishing practices and responsible dolphin observation as an alternative livelihood. An environmental education programme will target schools and broader audiences, encouraging and creating plans for waste management and recycling, particularly single-use plastic.

Eugene Simonov (WA 2013)
Keeping rivers free and wild in the era of “Belt and Road.”
£70,000 over two years

Eugene Simonov and the Rivers without Boundaries coalition (RWB), formed by 35 members, are protecting transboundary rivers in multiple countries such as Russia, China, Mongolia, and most recently expanding into Central Asia (Irtysh, Balkhash and Aral Basins). Freshwater biodiversity is disappearing faster than terrestrial or marine species populations and habitats, with unsustainable and poorly planned development of water infrastructure among the leading causes for degradation of aquatic ecosystems.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken with implications for massive river alteration at the scale of transboundary basins. The BRI presents an international development opportunity and it is vital that it is implemented in a way that takes the environment into account.  As BRI policies are currently under formation, now is the critical time to advocate for sustainable development. Continuation Funding will enable Eugene and RWB to continue to oppose unsustainable and irreversible destruction of key freshwater habitats, whilst introducing alternative energy options and pathways into transboundary water policy dialogues and encourage green investment from financiers. Delivery of this momentous project will impact the global agenda by setting the standard for clean development.

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

The Balcombe Charitable Trust; The Frank Brake Charitable Trust; Earlymarket; The G.D. Charitable Trust; Sarah Greaves and Nick Harrison; The LJC Fund; Britta & Jeremy Lloyd Family Charitable Trust; Lund Trust, a charitable fund of Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing; The Points Charitable Trust; The Schroder Foundation; The Shears Foundation; The Constance Travis Charitable Trust; The Waterloo Foundation; The Foundation For The Promotion Of Well-Being; Matthew and Lucinda Webber; Whitley Animal Protection Trust; Charles and Ruth Plowden and the 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 ([email protected]).