20 things to feel positive about from 2018
Around the world, Whitley Award winners are working hard to break new ground for species, habitats and communities with your support. 2018 highlights from our winners include:
Snow leopard cubs were recorded for the first time in Shamshy Nature Reserve, Kyrgyzstan in March 2018. This was a milestone moment, and the first time cubs had been sighted in the Kyrgyz Ala-Too Mountain range. A former hunting concession, Shamshy was converted into a reserve for snow leopards as a result of 2005 Gold winner Charu Mishra’s work to protect these big cats across their range.
The UK passed legislation banning the sale of nearly all ivory products regardless of age in December 2018, in a move welcomed by the public and conservation sector. To address the on-going challenges on the ground, last year saw 2014 winner Paula Kahumbu scale up her work to deter wildlife crime in Kenya by strengthening courtroom procedures, and gathering public support for the cause through her ‘Hands Off Our Elephants’ outreach campaign.
Mountain gorillas were removed from the list of Critically Endangered species by the IUCN in November 2018. Recent surveys estimate wild gorilla numbers have risen to a total of 1,004. This celebrated win is a direct result of efforts led by many dedicated conservationists including 2009 Gold winner Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka who runs community health and livelihood projects to safeguard gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Today the world’s most prized and endangered fish, the bluefin tuna, is swimming in Gökova Bay Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Turkey and is fully protected from fishing by pur-seiners. The species was captured by underwater cameras installed by 2017 Gold Award winner Zafer Kizilkaya, making Gökova Bay the only MPA in the Mediterranean with proven presence of bluefin tuna, and demonstrating that well protected, sizable, marine reserves can turn the tide for endangered giants and marine life. In 2018 Zafer continued to make waves, securing a $3million USD grant from the Endangered Landscape Programme to scale up his project across the Mediterranean coast, from Gokova to Antalya. This largescale project will restore 500km of marine habitat to help recover this seascape and strengthen defence against invasive species from the Red Sea in the face of climate change.
In 2018 WFN celebrated its 25th Anniversary and 25 years of partnership with Brazilian NGO, IPÊ, founded by winner Claudio Padua. An early supporter of IPÊ’s flagship project to conserve the black lion tamarin led by winner Laury Cullen, 25 years later the species is in recovery and IPÊ has become one of the country’s largest environmental NGOs overseeing 40 projects in five states. Both WFN and IPÊ have grown together, and we are proud of our shared history.
21 highly threatened turtles and tortoises including the Arakan forest turtle and Asian giant tortoise have been rescued and released thanks to efforts led by 2018 winner Caesar Rahman who is training Mro communities as biologists in Bangladesh’s remote and biodiverse Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Due to an effective anti-poaching and habitat restoration programme, 2002 winner Jon Paul Rodriguez’s project to protect Venezuela’s yellow shouldered Amazon parrot recorded 126 fledglings in 2018, the highest number in the project’s 30 year history.
Cuba’s flora is better protected thanks to the development of 17 new Species Recovery Plans for threatened plants by 2014 winner Luis Torres and his team, making this a first for the Caribbean country which hosts some of the richest island flora diversity in the world.
Over 40 sharks have been tagged by winners Randall Arauz (2004) and Sandra Bessudo (2007) to identify transnational swim-ways for marine mega fauna and foster protection of key breeding, feeding and migration corridors in the Eastern Tropical Pacific seascape.
A 10 year Action Plan for the Helmeted Hornbill has been published with involvement from 2013 winner Aparajita Datta and colleagues in Indonesia providing a legally binding strategy for the conservation of these Critically Endangered birds threatened by poaching for their red casques to fuel demand in China.
As part of a programme to save Kenya’s threatened vultures, 2018 winner Munir Virani has trained 35 local conservation leaders to champion anti-poisoning programmes in their communities and respond swiftly to incidents of wildlife poisoning in high risk areas, reducing wildlife fatalities and human-wildlife conflict.
400 Assamese woman joined forces with 2017 winner Purnima Barman and her project to conserve the greater adjutant stork, which saw record numbers of women participate in 2018. Women involved with the project benefit from livelihoods and education initiatives; boosting local income, whilst transforming the image of a bird that has long been persecuted in India.
2018 winner Kerstin Forsberg and her team have fitted 5 GPS and 5 acoustic devices to giant manta rays to track their behaviour and movement patterns. The results will inform plans to reduce harmful interactions with fishers in Peru.
4,019 Rwandan school children have participated in conservation workshops to learn about grey crowned cranes and the need to protect them and their wetland habitat as part of a holistic initiative led by 2018 winner Oliver Nsengimana.
2012 winner Josia Razafindramanana and her team have discovered two new populations of crowned sifaka lemurs – also known as dancing lemurs – bringing renewed hope for these Endangered Madagascan primates.
Expeditions led by 2007 Gold winner Fernando Trujillo in collaboration with 27 NGOs covering 30,000km of rivers in six countries have generated the first population estimate for the pink river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis). With 28-35,000 believed to remain in the Amazon and Orinoco Basins the species was reclassified from Data Deficient to Endangered by the IUCN in August 2018, filling a vital knowledge gap.
Camera traps have recorded 19 different leopards using a ridge area in Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands, providing important evidence to support 2018 winner Anjali Watson’s ambition to protect this wildlife corridor.
Two pregnant giant squeaker frogs were discovered in Ghana’s Sui Forest reserve by 2016 winner Gilbert Adum and his team providing hope for one of the world’s most endangered frogs and affirming efforts to save this unique amphibian are yielding success.
Nearly 5,000ha of rainforest, home to Critically Endangered Bornean orangutans, received increased protection when Malaysia’s Sabal Forest Reserve was officially granted National Park status in August thanks to work co-led by 2014 winner Melvin Gumal and partners. All three species of orangutan are threatened by habitat loss throughout their range in Indonesia and Malaysia.
2012 Gold winner Rodrigo Medellin is helping the energy industry take steps to reduce the number of bats killed by wind turbines during their migration and feeding flights, with new international amendments coming into place that will dramatically reduce the numbers of bats lost from collisions each year in 116 countries.
Featured snow leopard image by Emmanuel Keller; ‘Hargila Army’ image by Anupam Nath