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Whitley Award donated by The William Brake Foundation

Building bridges to encourage coexistence with the Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin in Brazil: Brazilian conservationist, Pedro Fruet, has received a prestigious Whitley Award worth £40,000 GBP

Pedro grew up surfing waves alongside the Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin, also known for collaboratively catching mullet with artisanal fishers. He will use his Whitley Award to reduce bycatch in one of Brazil’s busiest fishing grounds, as well as promote coexistence between communities and this social cetacean.

The Whitley Awards are presented annually to individuals from the Global South by UK-based charity Whitley Fund for Nature. Iroro is one of six conservationists recognised in 2021 for their commitment to leading grassroots action that benefits wildlife, habitats and communities.

Sir David Attenborough, WFN Trustee, said: “Whitley Award winners are local environmental heroes, harnessing the best available science and leading projects with passion. I admire their courage, their commitment, and their ability to affect change. There are few jobs more important.”


The Patos Lagoon Estuary and surrounding coastal waters are home to the largest numbers of Lahille’s bottlenose dolphins, which were recently declared a distinct group. Currently, the number of dolphins accidentally caught and killed in fishing gear is unsustainable for a subspecies with fewer than 600 individuals left.


A no-take zone was created in 2012 but the lack of local consultation, and ever-increasing dependence on fishing for income, has failed to reduce bycatch.


Founder of Kaosa, a not-for-profit environmental organisation, Pedro is building bridges between communities, scientists, and authorities. He will train local people in participatory management of the no-take zone and launch a citizen science app to engage the wider public.

Whitley Award winner, Pedro Fruet, said: “From spending my childhood summers surfing at Cassino beach, I was able to get up-close to the friendly Lahille’s bottlenose dolphins. They are truly wonderful creatures and have the ability to show us that it is possible for humans and wildlife to enjoy the world together. I believe that by promoting them as a flagship species we can protect the entire ecosystem and improve the livelihoods of coastal communities.

“It’s an honour to be recognised by Whitley Fund for Nature. The funding will allow us to expand our efforts and educate more people into becoming protectors of their local habitats and its abundant wildlife.”

Pedro first learnt of these dolphins’ complex and fascinating social lives while at the Federal University of Rio Grande. A long-term study, started in the 1970s, allows Pedro to track individuals from birth to old age. He has found that this intelligent species interacts with artisanal fishers to feed yet avoids developing long-term bonds.

Habitat degradation and overfishing in the 1980s and 90s has led to a dramatic decline in dolphin numbers. Many become accidentally entangled in fishing nets and killed.

Due to this severe impact on the dolphin population, the Brazilian Government banned gillnet fishing around Patos Lagoon estuary in 2012. However, a lack of local consultation and insufficient enforcement is failing to reduce bycatch; over the last 10 years it has been responsible for 40% of dolphin mortality in the area.

Pedro and his team will build relationships with artisanal fishers and educate the community about legal fishing areas to avoid both penalties for them and further damage to the environment. The aim is to provide them with a platform to share their opinions, build their awareness of conservation and help them become involved in decision-making. Pedro will also train local people to conduct citizen surveillance of the protected waters to increase the effectiveness of the ban.

Edward Whitley, Founder of the Whitley Fund for Nature, said: “Pedro’s vital work shows us that successful conservation is about the connection between people and our natural world. As a 2021 Whitley Award winner, Pedro is not only protecting a newly discovered dolphin group but is helping artisanal fishers to operate more sustainably so this marine ecosystem may continue providing livelihoods and supporting ocean life for generations to come.”

This year’s Whitley Gold Award, worth £100,000 GBP, honours Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu for her outstanding work securing justice for wildlife and citizens. Paula is pioneering a new approach, that protects the country’s wildlife and habitats while recognising Kenyans’ legitimate aspirations for economic development. CEO of WildlifeDirect, her Whitley Gold Award will enable her to expand her efforts, empowering concerned citizens through the first ever Environmental Justice Desk, educating field rangers in the collection of evidence admissible in court, and defending iconic habitats from unchecked development by powerful interest groups that override environmental concerns with impunity. Paula will foster a culture of public participation in environmental decisions and promote African leadership of wildlife conservation across the continent.

Whitley Gold Award winner, Paula Kahumbu, said: “I want to see a global shift in the narrative where Africans are the storytellers about African wildlife and assume the lead in efforts to protect it”.


  • Lucy Kemp | A community-based approach to conserve the Southern Ground-hornbill | South Africa | Winner of the Whitley Award donated by Anne Reece
  • Nuklu Phom | Establishing a biodiversity peace corridor in Nagaland | India | Winner of the Whitley Award donated by the MAVA Foundation
  • Iroro Tanshi | Bats from the brink: Participatory action to save the short-tailed roundleaf bat | Nigeria | Winner of the Whitley Award donated by the Arcus Foundation
  • Kini Roesler | Hooded Grebe: Guardian of the Patagonian Steppe | Argentina | Winner of the Whitley Award donated by The Frank Brake Charitable Trust
  • Sammy Safari | Transforming the future of sea turtles through coastal stewardship | Kenya | Winner of the Whitley Award donated by The Corcoran Foundation
  • Pedro Fruet | Building bridges to encourage coexistence with the Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin | Brazil | Winner of the Whitley Award donated by The William Brake Foundation


  • Paula Kahumbu | Justice for people and wildlife | Kenya | Winner of the Whitley Gold Award donated by the Friends of Whitley Fund for Nature


Press materials available:

  • Copyright-cleared photographs of Pedro’s project are available here.
  • A tailor-made short film featuring Pedro narrated by WFN Trustee, Sir David Attenborough, is available here.

Notes to Editors:

  • Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) is a UK registered charity supporting grassroots conservation leaders across the Global South.
  • The Whitley Awards are prestigious international prizes presented to mid-career conservationists leading successful projects in their home countries. Each winner receives training, media profile and £40,000 in project funding over one year.
  • Whitley Awards are normally presented to winners by charity Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, at an annual ceremony in London. This year, the winners were celebrated on a virtual stage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Whitley Gold Award is worth £100,000 and recognises a past Whitley Award winner who has gone on to make an outstanding impact. Joining the Judging Panel, the Gold recipient also acts as a mentor to Whitley Award winners and an international ambassador for conservation success.
  • Since its formation 28 years ago, the Whitley Fund for Nature has given £18million to more than 200 conservation leaders in over 80 countries.
  • WFN operates a rigorous application process involving expert panel representation from international NGOs including WWF-UK, Fauna and Flora International (FFI), the Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). This year, WFN received 107 applications that passed through four stages of assessment, reviewed at every step by expert screeners and panellists who kindly offer their expertise voluntarily.
  • The Whitley Awards are open to individuals working on wildlife conservation in countries that are poor in capital for conservation but rich in biodiversity.
  • Whitley Award winners receive professional media and communications training, network with leading conservation organisations, meet WFN donors and are interviewed by the media. The associated publicity of winning a Whitley Award puts a spotlight on their important work, boosting profile both in the UK and winners’ home countries.
  • The 2021 Whitley Awards week has been generously sponsored by Earlymarket LLP, Whitley Awards Partner.
  • Whitley Award winners join an international network of alumni eligible to apply for Continuation Funding. Awarded competitively, these grants allow winners to scale up effective conservation solutions over multiple years. Half of WFN’s annual Continuation Funding is directed to nature-based solutions that benefit the climate, wildlife and human wellbeing.
  • WFN is generously supported by: Anne Reece; Arcus Foundation; The Frank Brake Charitable Trust; The William Brake Foundation; The Badenoch Fund; The Benindi Fund; The Corcoran Foundation; Earlymarket LLP; The Evolution Education Trust; Thomas Gibson; Global Wildlife Conservation; The Britta & Jeremy Lloyd Family Charitable Trust; Lund Trust, a charitable fund of Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing; MAVA Foundation; Charles and Ruth Plowden; The Foundation for the Promotion of Wellbeing; The Rabelais Trust; The Rufford Foundation; Fondation Segré; The Shears Foundation; Maurice and Vivien Thompson; The Constance Travis Charitable Trust; The Waterloo Foundation; Garfield Weston Foundation; Whitley Animal Protection Trust; the Friends of Whitley Fund for Nature; all our partners and supporters and those donors who have chosen to give anonymously.