25th Anniversary Funding Winners

£455k granted to five Whitley Alumni to fund largescale, collaborative initiatives

July 2019: A total of £455,000 in funding has been awarded to five outstanding conservation leaders from our global network of previous Whitley Award winners. 2018 marked WFN’s 25th anniversary, which we celebrated at our Hope Gala at the Natural History Museum to raise vital funds to meet growing demand from our global Winner Network. To that end, we set up our 25th Anniversary Fund to support the development of strategic partnerships between past Whitley Award winners as they unite to deliver largescale conservation initiatives. We were humbled and grateful to raise an additional £1million for conservation through this fund.

The initial recipients of our 25th Anniversary Fund grants below are some of the most influential conservationists in their field, and are working across regions to bring about collaborative, largescale change. The remaining funds raised from our Hope Gala will go towards our 2019 Continuation Funding programme, allowing us to meet the demand from our Winner Network for ongoing support, enabling further scale up of successful conservation work around the world.

A heartfelt thank you to all our early contributors to the 25th Anniversary Fund – Gala Partner the Corcoran Foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, LJC Fund, and Rabelais Trust who kick-started our campaign. We would not have reached our target without their support, as well as the support of all who gave to this cause over the last year.


Rodrigo Medellin (WA 2004)
Building a global bat conservation network
£90,000 over two years

The movements and migratory routes of the lesser long-nosed (tequila) bats are still virtually unknown, but identifying migratory corridors is vital to ensuring their ongoing recovery and protection in Mexico. 2004 Whitley Award and 2012 Gold Award winner Rodrigo Medellin has dedicated his career to bat conservation. With his bat conservation programme currently spanning 22 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Rodrigo uses targeted education and research to change people’s perception of these winged mammals. With support from WFN 25th Anniversary Funding, Rodrigo and his NGO BIOCONCIENCIA will fit lightweight GPS transmitters on bats to uncover their roosts and track their migratory routes. This will be the first time in history that this technology is implemented, ushering in a new era of how scientists study bat movements.

Rodrigo and his team will investigate the impact of bats on mosquito population control in Mexico, Kenya, Rwanda and Costa Rica to prove the common yet unfounded assumption that bats help control mosquito numbers. These results could encourage more positive attitudes towards bats and garner support for their conservation. Leveraging his status as Mexico’s ‘Bat Man’, Rodrigo will create and disseminate video content using his significant online following to build capacity and continue educational and outreach work for this underappreciated and mysterious species.

This trans-continental project will see the scale up of Rodrigo’s work in Latin America to Africa (Kenya and Rwanda) and eventually, Asia, with a view to develop bat conservation networks across the Global South, and will include collaborations with Whitley alumni, including Bernal Rodriguez in Costa Rica and Olivier Nsengimana in Rwanda.

Shivani Bhalla (WA 2014)
Ewaso Lions: Warrior Watch, Kenya
£100,000 over two years

In the last 20 years, the African lion has suffered a 43% population decline and now occupy only 8% of their historical range. In Kenya, there are fewer than 2,000 individuals remaining in the wild, and at current rates, they may become extinct within only two decades. Shivani and her NGO Ewaso Lions work to address human-carnivore conflict, and encourage coexistence between people and lions. First winning a Whitley Award in 2014, and receiving subsequent WFN funding in 2016, Shivani has successfully expanded her work and today, the project area is now one of the few places in Africa where lion populations are persisting outside of protected areas.

Shivani’s 25th Anniversary Funding grant will enable Ewaso Lions to maintain coverage of their expanded Warriors Watch programme, protecting lion corridors, allowing population recovery and monitoring progress across an area of 4,500km2, including National Reserves and Community Conservancies. Shivani will work to further reduce human-wildlife conflict, frequently stemming from livestock depredation and retaliatory killing, through Samburu warrior engagement, improving husbandry practices and working with youth through Ewaso’s Lion Kids Camp. Warriors, often marginalised, will also get access to highly sought after education. This project aims to increase critical lion populations, facilitate collaboration and work with communities to improve their livelihoods.

Run by an entirely Kenyan team with many Samburu Warriors now in senior roles, Ewaso’s programme has focused on building local capacity while addressing conflict and recovering the lion population in northern Kenya. Continuing this upward trajectory is critical for both people and lions in the area.

Image credit: Jillian Knox

 Charudutt Mishra (WA 2005)
Breaking boundaries for snow leopards of High Asia
£100,000 over two years

Winner of the 2005 Whitley Gold Award, and a multiple Continuation Funding winner, Dr. Charudutt Mishra has become a world leader in snow leopard conservation and has been instrumental in preserving snow leopard habitat, having expanded his work from India across South and Central Asia to cover all 12 snow leopard range countries. His 25th Anniversary Funding project seeks to create a conservation for development’ economic paradigm, and pilot an inclusive, sustainable economic development model based on conservation and sustainable resource use. Charu and his team will aim to protect over 110,000 km2 of currently unprotected snow leopard habitat using a development framework that can be applied in any landscape, along with a subsequent Action Plan for their project area in Tien Shan, a system of mountain ranges in Central Asia.

This project will also promote economic development through a snow leopard-friendly cashmere initiative in Ladakh – India’s most important region for cashmere production – so it becomes a fully-fledged livelihoods effort covering 10 communities. Finally, Charu will implement a multi-stakeholder communications strategy among industry, government and civil society to strengthen ownership and conservation support for his proposed paradigm, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

A global leader in snow leopard conservation, human-wildlife conflict mitigation and community-based conservation, Charu is well-placed to deliver this ambitious project, bringing conservation forward as an integral part of regional economic development.

Image credit: Peter Bolliger

Randall Arauz (WA 2004)
Conserving highly migratory marine species in the Eastern Tropical Pacific
£65,000 over two years

Sharks migrate thousands of miles each year, and in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, their migratory route spans across Galapagos, Colombia, and Costa Rica. Cocos Island in Costa Rica is a key site on this migratory route, and 2004 Gold Award winner and multiple Continuation Funding winner Randall Arauz will build on his past marine conservation work to protect this corridor by creating larger marine protected areas surrounding Cocos Island, significantly increasing the no take zone from 2,000-10,000km2. His 25th Anniversary Funding project also looks to develop a new coastal Marine Protected Area (MPA) of 24,000 ha in Coyote, Costa Rica, with a focus on promoting small-scale sustainable fisheries.

Further research will be conducted on the movements of highly migratory endangered marine species in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, including the identification of coastal rookeries and their interactions with small scale fisheries. Randall will use this research to better advocate for marine conservation policy and the creation of MPAs taking both biodiversity conservation and the immediate needs of fishers into account. Additionally, Randall and his team will seek to implement a total ban on catch, retention and commercialisation of hammerheads, silky sharks and thresher sharks under CITES. No stranger to the political realm, Randall will monitor the development of fisheries policy in Costa Rica and whistle blow on policy that lacks science and favours overfishing.

Randall consults with an array of organisations and researchers to attain his conservation aims, and this project includes collaboration with other Whitley Award winners in Latin America including Sandra Bessudo and Diego Amorocho. Randall’s largescale and multifaceted plan marks an important next step in his work to conserve marine mega-fauna across the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

 Image credit: CREMA CR

Farwiza Farhan (WA 2016)
Campaign against the Tampur mega-dam, a largescale infrastructure project in the Leuser Ecosystem
£100,000 over two years

The Leuser Ecosystem (LE) is recognised as one of the world’s most irreplaceable protected areas. Covering more than 26,000 km2, it is the last place on earth where Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutans, elephants, rhinos and tigers co-exist in the wild. The Tampur dam is part of the Aceh Spatial Plan, the latest government-approved project which opens up the LE to development. The dam will destroy free flowing river ecosystems, drowning 4,000 ha of pristine primary forest that serves as the last link between the north and south populations of the Critically Endangered Sumatran elephants, with only 170 individuals remaining, as well as prime orangutan habitat.

Farwiza Farhan’s 2016 Whitley Award supported her in tackling the Aceh Spatial Plan head-on, bringing citizen lawsuits against proposed construction plans and illegal logging permits issued in the LE. Now, her 25th Anniversary Funding grant will support this continued fight as she brings a lawsuit against the 173-meter high Tampur Leston dam. Her project looks to set up community roadshows, learning exchanges and roundtables to strengthen a grassroots movement against the dam as part of an advocacy campaign. Farwiza will solicit media attention, protests, and disseminate information about the impacts of the dam, hoping to garner both local and international support. The project will also seek to investigate the financing sources of the Tampur dam. By blocking the development project from going ahead, she would prevent tragic biological and environmental consequences as seen resulting elsewhere in the world from similar misinformed mega-dam projects, and will consult with past winner Dr. Eugene Simonov, an expert working with hydropower assessments and dam campaigns to help achieve her goals.

This urgent project is critical to the preservation of this last connecting forest tract for endangered elephants and orangutans in the LE.