Continuation Funding Winners 2019

Over £740k granted to 13 Whitley Alumni in WFN's largest round of Continuation Funding

Nov 2019: A total of £742,000 – the most ever given through WFN Continuation Funding – has been awarded to 13 outstanding conservation leaders from our network of past Whitley Award winners.

This year’s exceptional round of Continuation Funding has been made possible due to the fundraising success of our 25th Anniversary Hope Gala, where we were humbled and grateful to raise an additional £1million for conservation. We distributed an initial round of grants through our 25th Anniversary Fund this past July to support largescale conservation initiatives, and the remaining funds raised from our Hope Gala have bolstered this year’s Continuation Funding programme. This, combined with the ongoing support of our Continuation Funding donors, has allowed us to meet demand from our Winner Network and enable further scale up of successful conservation work around the world. A heartfelt thank you to all those who have made these grants possible!

Applications to our Continuation Funding programme open annually to WFN alumni in spring, with funding usually given in late autumn. 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. This 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. Our inspiring network of winners are working together more than ever before, and through these grants, we are maximising their collective impact.

The 2019 Continuation Funding winners are:

Emil Todorov (WA2009)
Restoring wetlands along the Lower Danube to safeguard the world’s most endangered pelican
£37,000 over 1 year

Although the Dalmatian Pelican was recently downgraded to Near Threatened in Europe, their overall population trend is declining. They are the most endangered pelican species in the world, with less than 5,000 pairs remaining, and breed in only nine countries in Europe. Given that they are conservative reproducers congregating in specific locations, maintaining healthy ecosystems and establishing new breeding sites are pivotal to stabilising pelican numbers. In the last few decades, an estimated 72% of the original floodplain areas along the Lower Danube have been lost, having been converted to fishponds or drained for agriculture. Shrinking habitat has increased competition between birds and local fisherman and this has resulted in the complete cutoff of some wetlands to the river.

With WFN Continuation Funding, Emil aims to strengthen breeding conditions in three key wetlands along the Lower Danube River which will secure not only habitat for the pelican, but also for hundreds of waterbird populations. His team will build a new artificial platform in the Kalimok wetland to increase breeding success as well as improve the hydrological regimes of these marshes. The project also aims to reduce human pressure on wetlands by tackling poachers’ raids in the reserves, including training local stakeholders and bolstering law enforcement against unmonitored fishing, both which disturb nesting and reduces feeding sources.

Image credit: Sebastian Bugariu

Arnaud Desbiez (WA2015)
Preventing Giant Armadillo Extinctions
£70,000 over 2 years

The Giant Armadillo is a rare, South American species classified as Vulnerable to extinction; however, increasing human-wildlife conflict is threatening their existence in Brazil. They were found in two sites in the Atlantic Forest biome 10 years ago but recent studies have sadly indicated their functional extinction in one of these sites. There are already emerging threats in Rio Doce where they remain, with increases in poaching, frequency of fires due to climate change and habitat fragmentation. Arnaud’s project aims to prevent their extinction in what is potentially their last remaining habitat in the Atlantic Forest by conducting research on their population status, improving habitat management and implementing education and awareness raising programmes in Rio Doce State Park to build pride in this critical population.

Adopting a multi-site approach, Arnaud will also work in the Cerrado biome, where local extinctions have been documented due to conflict with beekeepers who kill armadillos in retaliation when precious hives are raided. Arnaud and his team will look to eradicate the conflict by seeking solutions to protect farmers’ beehives and establish a honey certification scheme to create benefits from the presence of giant armadillos and incentivise the conservation of this amazing species.

Purnima Barman (WA2017)
Building a conservation movement for the unlikely Greater Adjutant Stork
£70,000 over 2 years

The Greater Adjutant Stork (locally known as ‘Hargila’) is categorised as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, residing only in the states of Assam and Bihar of India and in Cambodia. There are an estimated 1,200 individuals remaining globally, with Assam harbouring 75-80% of the population. They are a creature of habit, making nesting colonies in the same large, tall trees year after year. However, these trees are outside the protected area network of India and mainly within populated villages where villagers often fell trees for wood and to rid themselves of these “dirty and smelly” birds. It is fair to say that the species needs a bit of a reputational overhaul.

With Continuation Funding, Purnima aims to replicate the success of her phenomenally successful work in Kamrup village, in a further 4 areas in Assam where storks are found. She will experiment with artificial nesting platforms so that the bird can raise their chicks in absence of suitable trees and importantly, change the attitudes and behaviours of villagers by encouraging them to join her conservation movement as stork supporters, with members benefitting from education and livelihood opportunities in sustainable horticulture. In addition, Purnima will collaborate with other scientists and Whitley Award alumni including Karen Aghababyan to develop a 10-year action plan to conserve the species and its wetland habitat, with government buy-in.

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka (WA2009)
Strengthening and scaling an integrated gorilla and human health conservation model
£40,000 over 1 year

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) lies in southwestern Uganda and is home to Endangered mountain gorillas, with just over 1,000 individuals remaining in the wild. High human population growth, with the associated risk of cross-species disease transmission and increasing pressure on gorilla habitat continue to be the main threats to and around BINP. Gladys’s NGO Conservation Through Public Health will work with people from communities bordering the park; many of whom are amongst the most impoverished in Uganda.

Her team are using Continuation Funding to scale up their “One Health” approach, addressing these threats through an integrated conservation and health model. The project will improve hygiene, sanitation and agricultural practices to prevent the spread of infectious disease between people, gorillas and livestock. Specifically, Gladys will use her funding to take forward recommendations following a recent evaluation of the project, including working with the Ministry of Health to support Village Health and Conservation Teams to improve the health of community members and boost access to contraceptives for women at a larger scale, whilst raising awareness of conservation issues. She will also introduce a livestock project to incentivise volunteers without the financial burden of monetary allowances and strengthen gorilla health monitoring, deworming at-risk communities and monitoring the reduction of cross-species pathogen transmission.

Munir Virani (WA2018)
Scalable solutions to reducing vulture poisoning 
Kenya and Tanzania
£70,000 over 2 years

Vultures are one of nature’s most important scavengers, yet in only 50 years, the populations of seven African vulture species have collectively declined by at least 80%. The primary cause of this decline is poisoning whereby farmers poison carcasses in response to livestock predation intending to kill predators such as lions. When vultures arrives at the scene, they become the unintended victims of these actions. Kenya and Tanzania are two countries that have the last stronghold of Critically Endangered vultures and if continued, this “African Vulture Crisis” could lead to regional extinctions of multiple vulture species.

With his Continuation Funding, Munir and his team aims to upscale and intensify current efforts in central Kenya to northern Tanzania. This project looks to expand on the ground poisoning prevention measures to significantly reduce the number of vultures and other wildlife fatalities from poisoning by tackling the root cause of livestock depredation in poisoning hotspots. Munir also aims to build local capacity, training the next generation of conservation leaders across communities to prevent poisoning and further build on the existing Vulture Protection Network. He will look to develop a state-of-the-art GPS tracking system to allow real-time identification of poisoning incidents with quicker response times.

Hotlin Ompusunggu (WA2016)
Expanding conservation models from Borneo to Sumatra to protect two Critically Endangered orangutan species
£35,000 over 1 year

The Leuser Ecosystem is the last place on Earth where Sumatran orangutans, elephants, tigers, rhinos and sun bears reside. Leuser National Park and the Batang Toru Forest are important habitats for Critically Endangered orangutans in Sumatra, yet these forests are being rapidly lost to illegal logging, government-backed development and human encroachment. The Batang Toru Forest is the only known habitat of the newly discovered Tapanuli orangutan of which just 800 remain.

Building on her previous work supported by WFN in Borneo, Continuation Funding will enable Hotlin to expand her successful model into Sumatra to provide access to healthcare for 10,000 remote villagers near Leuser National Park in exchange for implementing conservation activities. This is done through providing dental care to communities at either a discounted rate or accepting conservation payments in lieu, such as tree seedlings. Saplings will be used to reforest degraded areas of Leuser in partnership with fellow WFN alumni, Panut Hadisiwoyo, and local communities. In the Batang Toru Forest area, Hotlin will conduct “radical listening” to identify the  root causes of deforestation and discuss potential solutions suggested by local people, working together to implement future interventions in an area where community consultation is desperately needed if these great apes are to persist.

Alexander Blanco (WA2017)
Ensuring Harpy eagles continue to fly free
£70,000 over 2 years

Considered a biodiversity hotspot, the Sierra Imataca region consists of the highest recorded densities of Harpy Eagle populations. Although listed as Near Threatened, they have become rare in many parts of its home range of Venezuela. A mixture of human population growth, poverty, unsustainable land use and weak policing of protected areas, coupled with political instability throughout the country, have resulted in a dramatic unregulated increase of human encroachment into the eagle’s habitat and subsequent loss of harpy populations.

With Continuation Funding, Alexander and his team aim to train new conservation leaders, replicating his current conservation model to other areas of habitat in the region to increase the number of eagle nests under local protection. The focus will be on community-based methods of reducing and reversing forest loss in key conservation and biodiversity areas and expanding agroecosystem initiatives – such as shade coffee – for the benefit of local communities. In doing so, the project will promote forest connectivity and the creation of ecological corridors whilst looking to secure economic independence for families in rural communities, consolidating viable agroecosystems with communal micro-enterprises.

Image credit: Kevin Jordan

Ian Little (WA2017)
Custodians of South Africa’s threatened grassland biodiversity
South Africa
£70,000 over 2 years

South Africa is one of the world’s 10 most biodiverse nations. It is also one of the top 30 most arid countries in the world. Only 2.4% of grasslands in South Africa are formally protected, and over 60% have already been irreversibly transformed. The 200km Eastern escarpment where Ian’s project is focused is also part of South Africa’s Strategic Water Source Areas, producing freshwater to surrounding cities in this water-scarce country.

In the face of climate change and rapid expansion of mining and agriculture, preserving the last remaining escarpment habitat is critical for endemic and threatened species as well as surrounding human settlements. Building on his previous work, Continuation Funding will enable Ian to connect the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site with several existing protected areas further north, forming an intact corridor benefitting numerous species of birds, plants and reptiles. He will work with landowners and engage new neighbours to formally secure protected areas and improve management of grassland habitat to preserve ecosystem services, ensure sustainable livelihoods and increase climate resilience for the future.

Karen Aghababyan (WA2007)
Protecting wetlands in the South Caucasus and beyond
Armenia, Turkey, Georgia, with influence on Kazakhstan, India, Rwanda
£70,000 over 2 years

With WFN Continuation Funding, Karen aims to address largescale wetland degradation and pollution across multiple countries, working with the Armenian government to implement sustainable solutions which can later be expanded into the Caucasus region and other post-Soviet countries. This includes decreasing pesticide pollution in Turkey and Georgia through developing national policy; piloting a sustainable model of carp-farms in Armenia, Georgia and Kazakhstan; introducing sustainable hunting management through the improvement of the licensing system, involving hunters in game bird monitoring in Armenia; and transferring the monitoring of White Storks and other indicators of healthy wetland ecosystems into use of mobile apps and online data storage.

The wetlands in South Caucasus have been heavily degraded in recent decades resulting from drainage and pollution. Currently, the level of threats are increasing, with issues stemming from intensification of agricultural and carp-farming. Hunting is causing local extinctions of endangered species and a dramatic decrease of common species which Karen’s current project will seek to address, working with Whitley Award winners such as Cagan Sekercioglu in Turkey.

Gilbert Adum (WA2016)
Protecting the last home of the Giant Squeaker Frog
£70,000 over 2 years

The Sui River Forest Reserve in Ghana is the last refuge for the Critically Endangered Giant Squeaker Frog. Ghana has one of the world’s highest rates of tropical forest loss. With a combination of its remote location, relatively high poverty levels and limited opportunities, logging is permitted in the reserve and increasing, thus, impeding into the species’ only known breeding site. Significant areas of habitat have already been lost and damaged by timber extraction. Invasive plants in these disturbed areas also prevent regeneration of native rainforest species and the buildup of leaf-litter which the frogs depend on.

Habitat protection is essential for these amphibians and can be obtained by upgrading the reserve to a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA), an IUCN designation that will provide strict government protection, outlaw logging and help reverse encroachment. Without this protection, the Giant Squeaker Frog is anticipated to become extinct very soon thereafter. Gilbert and his team aim to secure GSBA designation for the area and will continue engaging communities towards improved forest guardianship and sustainable use. With the support of WFN Continuation Funding, they will use an evidence-based approach to set up Community Development Funds and extend reforestation and viable livelihood activities to reduce forest resource extraction, encompassing four communities living around the reserve.

Emilian Stoynov (WA2007)
Saving the Balkans’ last vultures: introducing Vulture Safe Areas as a model for scavenger conservation in the Anthropocene
Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina & the Middle East 
£35,000 over 2 years

Vultures are fast declining in a world where their conservation is not always considered a priority. Their expansive range makes it difficult to implement conservation action, as successful approaches in one location can be compromised by a lack of control in others. A joined-up approach across countries is therefore needed.

With WFN Continuation Funding, Emilian aims to create a network of Vulture Safe Areas (VSA), a concept based on implementing conservation action in well-defined sites to quickly mitigate the full spectrum of threats – including that of poisoning – to numerous vulture and raptor species. He will tag 30 Griffon Vultures with solar-powered GPS/GPRS transmitters, tracking their migratory routes between wintering grounds in the Middle East and summering grounds in the Balkans to identify candidate VSA sites. The data will reveal migration routes, stopovers and both potential and actual threats and allow Emilian’s team to respond to incidents in real time.

Jean Wiener (WGA2014)
Strengthening management of Haiti’s marine resources
£70,000 over 2 years

Jean’s organisation, FoProBiM, has helped establish Haiti’s first six Marine Managed Areas (MMAs) including the 750 km2 of the 3Bays MMA. Situated in the northeastern part of the country, it comprises five counties and approximately 1,000 fishers where fisheries have been found to use destructive methods that are “vacuuming” juvenile fish from the ecosystem. These are wiping out what should be, by many estimates, the most productive ecosystem in Haiti, which if properly managed, would easily produce more than 20 times the marketable catch currently harvested. Overfishing here is causing incalculable harm to local ecosystems and biodiversity including endangered sea turtles and manatees, with livelihood repercussions in a country where 80% of the population are living in poverty.

With his Continuation Funding, Jean aims to address the 3Bays management plan’s priority actions. This includes providing training to rangers, increasing the number of MMA patrols and monitoring and providing a gear swap programme where current illegal and damaging fishing gear can be traded for legal and sustainable gear. Finally, by working with fishers, Jean aims to develop alternative sources of revenue in apiculture to reduce pressures on the fisheries, which without the improved management his is working to instil, face collapse. Thanks to this work, Jean is turning the tide for marine life and those reliant on ocean resources in Haiti.

Jimmy Muheebwa (WA2010)
Securing Grey Crowned Cranes and improving community livelihoods through conservation agreements
£35,000 over 1 year

Uganda’s national bird, the Grey Crowned Crane (GCC), has declined by more than 80% over the last 25 years. The main threats to this majestic species are habitat loss and degradation of wetland breeding grounds, driven by rapid human population growth, grinding poverty, and the expansion of subsistence and commercial agriculture. Most GCCs reside in privately owned farmlands of which only a small fraction is protected in Uganda. As the cranes are pushed into marginal wetlands to care for their eggs and young, they are increasingly disturbed by people, dogs and livestock and become unable to breed successfully. Grey Crowned Cranes are also targeted for domestication and illegal trade, where chicks make for easy pickings on fragmented wetlands.

Jimmy focuses on two critical strongholds for cranes in the country: the Mugandu and Nyamuriro wetlands. With his Continuation Funding, he will work extensively with communities to reduce threats and protect wetlands by promoting local stewardship through the development of conservation agreements which implement conservation actions, such as restoration, in return for benefits via innovative and economically viable alternative livelihoods. The goal is to boost GCC breeding success and help recover populations of this iconic bird for future generations.

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

The Frank Brake Charitable Trust; Sally and Edward Benthall; Chris and Laura Caulkin; Earlymarket; Peter and Griselda Gordon; Sarah Greaves and Nick Harrison; Duncan and Marie-Josee Hunter; The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation; 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 Rabelais Trust; The Reece 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; WWF UK and the Friends of Whitley Fund for Nature, and all those who have chosen to give anonymously.

We also thank 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.

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. We welcome further donations to our Continuation Funding Programme to enable us to continue to meet the demand from our Winner Network for Continuation Funding annually. With your help, we can continue to support these impactful projects. If you would like to learn more or are interested in giving to this programme, please contact WFN’s Head of Partnerships, Georgie White ([email protected]).