Whitley Award alumni receive one million pounds of Continuation Funding.

Continuation Funding worth £972,000 has been awarded to 13 outstanding conservationists from WFN’s network of Whitley Award alumni.

The need for funding is at an all time high and we received a record number of applications. A heartfelt thank you to all those donors who have made it possible to meet this demand during an unprecedented year, and continue maximising our winners’ worldwide conservation impact.

In 2020, for the first time, more than half a million pounds has been directed to six projects presenting nature-based solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises. As we ‘build back better’ from COVID-19, WFN will channel £540,000 to programmes protecting habitat such as forests, grasslands and wetlands that support wildlife, store carbon and offer a sustainable future for local people.

The remaining £432,000 has been awarded to conservationists leading a diverse mix of terrestrial, marine and freshwater projects across a broad range of countries, who will use this Continuation Funding to scale-up their original Whitley Award-winning work.


Laury Cullen (2002 Whitley Award)
NGO: Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (IPÊ)

Project: Large-scale restoration and carbon sequestration in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest
Nature-Based Solution Award: £100,000 over 2 years

WFN Continuation Funding winner Laury Cullen in Brazil credit Laurie Hedges

Since 1990, the world has lost a staggering 178 million ha of forest. Yet forests are some of the most biodiverse environments on earth and have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20%.

In Brazil, the largest remnants of Atlantic Forest lie in the Pontal do Paranapanema area of western São Paulo state. Originally a 246,080 ha public forest reserve, it has been fragmented by large-scale cattle ranching and sugarcane plantations. This problem has been exacerbated by the government’s agrarian reform, which has promoted farming settlements and habitat degradation in some of the last remaining natural areas. Keystone species like the Endangered black lion tamarin are under threat, along with the jaguar, tapir, ocelot and king vulture.

With the support of this Continuation Funding, Laury and his team will implement large-scale forest restoration as a nature-based solution. They will replant 500 ha of forest corridors to connect existing habitat, offsetting approximately 43,000 tons of carbon. This will be achieved in collaboration with both large landowners and also communities, who will have the opportunity to earn an income through restoration services, community nurseries and biodiversity monitoring.

Laury’s project builds on three decades of expertise in habitat restoration. It has the potential to mitigate a sizeable amount of carbon while preserving precious endemic wildlife and yielding social benefits for people.

Josia Razafindramanana (2012 Whitley Award)
NGO: IMPACT Madagascar
Project: Protecting Madagascar’s unique forests in a changing climate
Nature-Based Solution Award: £100,000 over 2 years

WFN Continuation Funding winner Josia Razafindramanana in Madagascar

In Madagascar, some of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots are subject to accelerated deforestation. The northwestern dry and gallery forests are particularly vulnerable, despite their staggering diversity and high potential for carbon capture. This is partially due to their harsh conditions, remote location and security concerns, but if these forests remain unprotected they are set to be severely affected by climate change in the near future.

Communities are already feeling the effects of a changing climate: while rainfall has reduced, land surface temperatures have risen and water shortages are frequent. Additionally, the loss in revenue from tourism and conservation activities caused by COVID-19 has led to an increase in harmful activities such as poaching and logging.

Josia and her team will use Continuation Funding to establish conservation agreements that address wildlife and habitat loss. Working on 3 sites and with 17 villages where tropical dry forests remain intact, they will restore 30 ha and maintain the quality of the existing habitat. They will help communities adopt sustainable farming techniques to secure their livelihoods in the face of a changing climate. Lastly, they will look to increase local patrols by 90% to monitor the delicate biodiversity unique to this part of the world.

Makala Jasper (2016 Whitley Award)
NGO: Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative (MCDI)

Project: Scaling-up sustainable forest management & FSC certification in southeastern Tanzania
Nature-Based Solution Award: £70,000 over 2 years

WFN Continuation Funding winner Makala Jasper in Africa

Forests cover more than half of Tanzania, across 48.1 million ha of the country. They play a global role in mitigating climate change, sequestering an estimated 9 trillion tonnes of carbon, as well as being home to 9-11% of endemic species found nowhere else on earth. But habitat fragmentation, biodiversity loss and illegal hunting have all increased since the completion of a major highway connecting the largest city, Dar-es-Salaam, with northern Mozambique.

Makala and his team want to secure Village Land Forest Reserves (VLFRs) in Liwale District, giving communities their own management rights and the opportunity to earn premium revenue from sustainable timber harvesting. Makala’s NGO holds Africa’s first and only FSC certificate for community-managed natural forest. This programme gives indigenous people the economic incentive to use natural resources sustainably, while monitoring biodiversity and protecting forests from illegal logging.

Currently, 18 VLFRs cover 200,713 ha and this project will add another of 8,822 ha in the village of Nangano. Makala’s Continuation Funding will increase the overall FSC-certified area by 4% and ensure the continued, community-led conservation of Tanzania’s tropical forests.

Gerardo Ceballos (2006 Whitley Award)
NGO: Servicios Ecológicos y Científicos SA de CV
Project: Conserving grassland carbon sinks in Mexico for the prairie dog
Nature-Based Solution Award: £70,000 over 2 years

WFN Continuation Funding winner Gerardo Ceballos in Mexico

Grasslands – including pasture, crop, shrub and range lands – spanned 3.5 billion ha in 2000, covering 70% of the world’s agricultural land and 26% of land overall. However intensive farming, domestic livestock and an abundance of non-native species combined with the suppression of natural fire cycles have degraded grassland biomes. In fact, the rate of transformation is so great that they are now classified as Critically Endangered ecosystems. Largescale land use changes are reducing their capacity to support wildlife, store carbon, and supply key ecosystem services to stakeholders.

Small burrowing herbivorous mammals such as the prairie dog are ecosystem engineers but have declined over 98% of their historical grassland range. Black-tailed prairie dogs are Endangered in Mexico, with the northwestern Janos region home to one of the largest remaining colony complexes in North America. With his Continuation Funding, Gerardo will manage, restore and protect this under-represented ecosystem and its biodiversity.

Through careful relocation he will restore 5,000 ha of prairie dog colonies. His team will also help 20 private landowners to manage 50,000 ha of traditional cattle ranches sustainably. Finally they will collaborate with authorities, landowners and the Mennonite community on protecting 2,000 ha of grassland, to preserve plant biomass above ground and sequester carbon in the soil beneath.

Budiono (2012 Whitley Award)
NGO: Yayasan Konservasi RASI (Rare Aquatic Species of Indonesia)
Project: Protecting the Mahakam dolphin, freshwater and riparian habitat in Borneo
Nature-Based Solution Award: £100,000 over 2 years

WFN Continuation Funding winner WFN Continuation Funding winner Budiono in Indonesia

The Critically Endangered Irrawaddy dolphin is found in just three rivers: the Ayeyarwady (Myanmar), Mahakam (Indonesian Borneo) and Mekong. It has been fully protected by Indonesian law since 1990 and even adopted by Borneo’s East Kalimantan Province as their official symbol. Yet numbers are falling dramatically. Budiono’s efforts to establish a protected area finally paid off in 2020, but land along its edges is being converted into oil palm plantations with chemicals, waste and fertiliser polluting what habitat is left.

With Continuation Funding he aims to develop a long-term management plan for this mosaic of rivers, lakes, peat, riparian and swamp forests. He will secure 175,000 ha of buffer habitat as Essential Ecosystem Areas in the Kutai Kartanegara and Kutai Barat districts, as well as elevating its status from a district to national protection level.

Budiono will also work with fishers to reduce dolphin mortality rates by 50%, deploying acoustic deterrents on gillnets that prevent entanglement and drowning. Additionally, he will step up local patrols to deter illegal, unsustainable fishing activities that are further depleting food resources for both dolphins and people.

This nature-based solution will not only conserve the Irrawaddy dolphin and those fellow species relying on in-tact river ecosystems, but keep 180 million metric tonnes of carbon from emitting into the atmosphere.

Luis Rivera (2011 Whitley Award)
NGO: CEBio Foundation
Project: Building a community-based forest landscape resilient to climate change in the Southern Yungas, Argentina
Nature-Based Solution Award: £100,000 over 2 years

WFN Continuation Funding winner Luis Rivera credit Carlos Cuñado

The Southern Yungas are montane forests of the Andes: a biodiversity hotspot and Endemic Bird Area with an array of trees, birds and amphibians found nowhere else on earth. The forest and its wildlife also provide ecosystem services to the surrounding communities but the matrix is strained by unsustainable timber extraction and cattle farming. This mountainous ecosystem is particularly sensitive to habitat loss, with species left nowhere to go but up. Priority areas and conservation zones have been identified but no efforts have been made to inspire local participation in these strategies – until now.

With Continuation Funding, Luis and his team will go beyond legal designations and work with land owners to implement action on-the-ground. Focusing on the Tartagal and Santa Barbara mountain ranges, they will apply a participatory restoration plan to plant 10,000 trees and restore 200 ha. Luis will train hundreds of people in sustainable forest management, protecting over 600 ha that will reduce carbon emissions, improve carbon retention and protect the home of threatened species. Finally, he will implement a participatory programme to monitor biodiversity and raise awareness of the importance of these delicate ecosystems, to demonstrate how an integrated approach could be scaled widely to the provincial and national level.

Elena Bykova (2011 Whitley Award)
NGO: Saiga Conservation Alliance
Project: Saigas as flagships for the conservation of Resurrection Island in Uzbekistan’s Aral Sea basin
Continuation Funding Award: £70,000 over 2 years

WFN Continuation Funding winner Elena Bykova credit Olya-Esipova

The Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth largest inland waterbody. Now it’s one of the world’s worst examples of unsustainable human activity. Poor ecological management led to landscape-scale environmental destruction, dramatic biodiversity loss and economic collapse, with disastrous ramifications for human health and wellbeing.

Previous WFN-supported work has saved the Critically Endangered saiga antelope from likely extinction on the adjacent Ustyurt plateau. With Continuation Funding, Elena and her team can focus on another of its strongholds: Resurrection Island in the Aral Sea basin. Now a peninsula, it harbours unique, undisturbed biodiversity but is threatened by looting and poaching. Increasing unemployment and social deprivation exacerbate the problem. Simultaneously, large-scale industry is moving into the area and without sustainable management, history will be tragically repeated.

Elena will take an integrated approach to the recovery of the social-ecological system, with Resurrection Island and the saiga as its flagship. She will seek protected status for the area and work with government on law enforcement to curb poaching. Elena and her team will also collaborate with communities on sustainable, nature-based livelihoods that generate local prosperity, as well as supporting schools in delivering effective environmental education that builds pride in their natural heritage. Lastly, she will work with large-scale industrial actors to ensure that robust environmental and social safeguards are in place, supporting wildlife and people through compensatory actions.

Achilles Byaruhanga (2004 Whitley Award)
NGO: NatureUganda
Project: Strengthening livelihoods in communities reliant on wetlands and conservation of the Grey Crowned Crane
Continuation Funding Award: £70,000 over 2 years

WFN Continuation Funding winner Achilles Byaruhanga in Uganda

The Kaku-Kiyanja wetlands form a significant part of the Lake Victoria catchments and host over 100 breeding pairs of Grey Crowned Cranes – the highest number anywhere in Uganda. Despite being the national bird its population has declined by over 80% in 25 years, with threats including the smuggling of chicks.

Its wetland habitat is also vulnerable to clearance and drainage for subsistence agriculture, the introduction of non-native species and unsustainable harvesting of resources. This pressure has only increased as COVID-19 causes people to lose income and return to rural areas from urban centres. In turn, these actions reduce wetlands’ capacity to provide ecosystem services like water security. Across Uganda, wetlands have reduced from 13% in 1993 to 8% in 2019.

Achilles aims to designate Kiyanja wetlands as a Ramsar site and promote it as a wetland reserve. With Continuation Funding, he and his team will restore 20 ha of degraded environment and train 20 crane custodians to ensure breeding success. They will also develop 5 conservation agreements to improve community livelihoods through climate smart agriculture innovations such as reducing soil erosion and improving land productivity. Achilles will partner with fellow Whitley Award winner, Jimmy Muheebwa, on this project to safeguard Uganda’s wetlands and their Grey Crowned Crane.

Deepak Apte (2008 Whitley Award)
Project: Increasing coral reef resilience through the establishment of conservation reserves in Lakshadweep Archipelago, India
Continuation Funding Award: £70,000 over 2 years

WFN Continuation Funding winner Deepak Apte in India

Deepak will use Continuation Funding to build on his previous work by establishing a marine conservation reserve in the remote Lakshadweep Archipelago. With his Whitley Award in 2008, he and his team developed scientific evidence supporting the expansion of protected areas, yet recent El Niño events have resulted in a drastic decline in coral reefs worldwide, including by 40% in Lakshadweep.

Factors such as sea-level rise, elevated sea surface temperatures and unsustainable resource extraction also pose immediate risks to the lives and livelihoods of India’s islanders. Deepak has gained the support of this community, who understand the future of the reef, is marine biodiversity and their families are deeply intertwined.

To build a case, Deepak will address the lack of molecular level data on Indian coral reefs; he will conduct a pioneering study on their composition using genetic data, to establish how species diversity is linked to environmental resilience. As well as using established scientific methods he will draw on local knowledge. These results, along with community programmes and stakeholder consultations, will help the Forest Department to delineate a 200sq km conservation reserve with a sustainable management plan.

John Kahekwa (2013 Whitley Award winner)
NGO: The Pole Pole Foundation (POPOF)
Project: Anti-poaching protection of the Grauer’s Gorilla in DRC’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Continuation Funding Award: £12,000 over 1 year

WFN Continuation Funding winner John Kahekwa in the DRC

The Kahuzi-Biega National Park is home to the Critically Endangered Grauer’s gorilla and is on the World Heritage Site’s ‘danger list’. Since the civil war in 1996 its balance has tipped: poaching, logging and human pressure on the park’s natural resources have increased so dramatically that the gorilla population has plummeted by 40%. Patrols have dwindled due to lack of supplies, enabling even more illegal activity; rangers now cover less ground, access limited areas and are unable to detect or reach new criminal hotspots. Additionally, impoverished communities surrounding the park depend on charcoal for cooking and timber for building materials, adding further pressure to the park’s precious resources.

Continuation Funding will bring much needed support to this underfunded area. John and his team aim to increase law enforcement through foot and technology in both the highlands and park’s eco-corridor. Well-equipped rangers and drones will relieve some of the immediate dangers posed to the Grauer’s gorilla, reducing the number of snare traps and suppressing poaching rates. Additionally, much needed data will be collected on this great ape’s population and other wildlife, which will inform management plans for their long-term conservation.

Quyen Vu Thi (2001 Whitley Award)
NGO: Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV)
Project: Ending illegal wildlife trafficking in Vietnam to prevent future pandemics
Continuation Funding Award: £70,000 over 2 years

WFN Continuation Funding winner Quyen Vu Thi in Vietnam

Vietnam plays a global role in illegal wildlife trafficking. Many criminal networks operating around the world are run through Vietnam, while the country itself is a major consumer of wildlife as well as a back door to China.

Wildlife trafficking is a major threat to wild animal populations in Vietnam and its neighbouring countries. While progress has been made in the past decade to curb public demand and decrease trade, criminal enterprises keep evolving as highly profitable illegal activities remain undetected by law enforcement. And COVID-19 has shown us that it’s not just other animals at risk: the potential for pandemics to be caused by overexploitation of wildlife highlights the urgent need to foster a more sustainable relationship between humans and nature.

Quyen and her team will encourage the reporting of wildlife crime through their effective Wildlife Crime Hotline, with at least 50% of criminal arrests currently prosecuted and resulting in jail sentences. They will also address national policy issues such as the management of non-commercial wildlife facilities, as well as commercial farming and trade of endangered species. They will aim to set new standards for law enforcement, working with authorities to strengthen wildlife protection laws and monitor facilities to ensure that regulations are not violated.

Quyen’s actions will help mitigate the illegal wildlife trade, protecting wild animal populations from further exploitation and reducing the risk of future zoonotic diseases affecting our global health.

Sandra Bessudo (2007 Whitley Award)
NGO: Malpelo
Project: Working towards protection of an important hammerhead shark nursery on the Colombian Pacific coast
Continuation Funding Award: £70,000 over 2 years

WFN Continuation Funding winner Sandra Bessudo in Colombia

Hammerhead sharks are a high priority for conservation, as the global population continues to decline. In 2019 the species was uplisted to Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Since 2018, Sandra and her team have been searching for shark nursery areas in the Tribuga Gulf. They have discovered one such area in the community of Jurubirá where the primary threat is not meat consumption but incidental bycatch: approximately 200 sharks are lost per day due to the type of hooks used by fishers.

With Continuation Funding, Sandra and her team aim to delineate this nursery area and determine seasonal abundance by installing 8 acoustic receivers and tagging 85 juvenile sharks. They will also implement 4 hook exchange campaigns with 30 local anglers to reduce shark bycatch by 50%. Lastly, they want to raise environmental awareness by organising talks on the importance of the species and their marine habitat. Through scientific backing and community engagement, this work will feed into future plans to protect the hammerhead shark in the Colombian Pacific.

Tess Gatan-Balbas (2014 Whitley Award)
NGO: Mabuwaya Foundation
Project: Community Conservation Areas in Northeast Luzon to benefit the Philippines’ people and wildlife
Continuation Funding Award: £70,000 over 2 years

WFN Continuation Funding winner Tess Gatan-Balbas in the Philippines

The Northern Sierra Madre mountain range is one of the last wildernesses in the Philippines, boasting the country’s largest contiguous forest and unspoilt freshwater wetlands. Conservation of these habitats is crucial to both the survival of their threatened endemic species – such as the Philippine crocodile and Isabela Oriole – and also the wellbeing of those communities living along their fringes, including the indigenous Agta and Kalinga people. Illegal logging, pollution, infrastructure and large-scale tourism development all threaten their existence. Exacerbated by the pandemic, farmers are also recouping losses by increasing cultivated areas, and hunters face more demand for bushmeat to both eat and trade.

Tess and her team will apply a holistic approach embedded in the community. With Continuation Funding they aim to raise awareness and increase knowledge about these species and the importance of biodiversity among 2,000 households and 4,000 children. They will implement income generating, nature-based livelihoods such as agroforestry, sustainable harvesting and small-scale ecotourism, which, in turn, will incentivise communities to manage, protect and monitor 5 community conservation areas. In these areas they aim to reduce illegal activities by at least 50% and increase the population of each focal species by 10%.