Ghanaian conservationist saving the West African slender-snouted crocodile from extinction
Ghanaian conservationist, Emmanuel Amoah, has received a Whitley Award worth £40,000 from UK wildlife conservation charity, the Whitley Fund for Nature. He is galvanising communities to restore nesting habitat for the Critically Endangered West African slender-snouted crocodile, known locally as the “river god”.
“I feel a sense of responsibility to secure a better future for the next generation.”
The West African slender-snouted crocodile is one of the world’s rarest reptiles, having declined by 90% in 75 years due to degradation of nesting riverbanks, hunting and domestic water pollution. The Whitley Award will help Amoah to reduce habitat loss by 40% in 4 communities, train 14 local conservation champions to deter illegal logging on riverbanks and restore 30ha of nesting sites for this Critically Endangered crocodilian.
Whitley Awards are world-leading prizes for wildlife conservation. On Wednesday, 27 April they were presented by WFN Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, to six grassroots conservationists pioneering solutions to the biodiversity crisis, live streamed to YouTube.
With one million species at risk of extinction and warnings of inextricable links between biodiversity loss and climate change, Whitley Award winners will use the funding to accelerate their breakthrough work to reverse declines in species from red pandas to sea turtles.
The West African slender-snouted crocodile is already feared extinct in many range countries including Nigeria, Togo, Benin, and Senegal. The Techiman-Tanoso stretch of the Tano River in Ghana, where Amoah works, is home to a crucial group of 400 individuals – the highest known population outside a protected area.
Indigenous communities’ cultures are closely linked to the ecosystem and aquatic animals; when a slender-snouted crocodile dies, befitting burials are organised as a sign of respect to the river god. With a highly unique genetic history, extinction of the species will mean the loss of both evolutionary and cultural heritage.
Amoah founded the Threatened Species Conservation Alliance (THRESCOAL) to safeguard the slender-snouted crocodile’s refuge and has already reduced vegetation loss and illegal logging. Building on this success, with his Whitley Award Amoah will recruit volunteers to prevent further habitat disturbance and replant degraded nesting sites. His project integrates science, grassroots action and traditional beliefs, engaging at least 20,000 people to protect one of the world’s rarest reptiles and improve freshwater security.
Danni Parks, WFN Director said: “Emmanuel is a true grassroots environmentalist. He has identified a crucial West African slender-snouted crocodile population; a Whitley Award will enable him to expand his successful work embedding conservation into surrounding communities to bring this reptile back from the brink.”
WFN also recognised Whitley Award alumnus, Dr Charudutt Mishra, with its top prize – the Whitley Gold Award, worth £100,000. A snow leopard conservationist working across the big cat’s range of 12 countries including India, Afghanistan, China and Russia, Mishra’s pioneering approach to community-led conservation has been named an outstanding global practice by the UN Biodiversity Conference. With ‘fortress conservation’ having displaced an estimated 130 million people worldwide, community-based conservation that champions the co-existence of people and wildlife offers a transformative solution to the biodiversity crisis. The Whitley Gold Award will enable Mishra to train conservationists on every continent in equitable approaches.
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) is a UK registered charity supporting grassroots conservation leaders in the Global South. Over 29 years it has channelled £19 million to more than 200 conservationists in 80 countries.
- A pioneer in the sector, WFN was one of the first charities to direct funding to locally-led projects. Its rigorous application process identifies inspiring individuals who combine the latest science with community-based action, to benefit wildlife, landscapes, and people.
- WFN’s flagship prizes – Whitley Awards – are presented by Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, at a prestigious annual ceremony in London. Winners receive funding, training and media profile including films narrated by charity Trustee, Sir David Attenborough. The 2022 Whitley Awards took place on Wednesday 27 April at the Royal Geographical Society, live streamed to YouTube. 2022 Whitley Award winners:
- Emmanuel Amoah, Ghana
Tales from the riverbank: safeguarding the last stronghold of West African slender-snouted crocodile
- Micaela Camino, Argentina
Empowering communities to defend their human rights and conserve Argentina’s Dry Chaco
- Pablo Hoffmann, Brazil
Rooting for the future: nurturing wild plant diversity in the Araucaria Forest region
- Sonam Lama, Nepal
People and red pandas: mutually beneficial conservation in the Himalayas
- Estrela Matilde, São Tomé and Príncipe
Stemming the tide of plastic pollution: an island-wide effort to save sea turtles
- Dedy Yansyah, Indonesia
Last stand for the Sumatran rhino: looking out for Leuser’s ecosystem engineers
- Whitley Award winners join an international alumni network eligible for WFN Continuation Funding, allowing successful conservation solutions to be scaled up. Projects receive up to £100,000 over two years and include nature-based solutions that jointly address the climate and biodiversity crises.
- Each year, a Whitley Award alumnus receives the Whitley Gold Award, worth £100,000, in recognition of their outstanding contribution to conservation. Joining the Judging Panel and acting as a mentor to Whitley Award winners, the 2022 Whitley Gold Award winner is snow leopard conservationist Charudutt Mishra.
FOR HIGH-RES IMAGES, INTERVIEWS AND INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Amy Forshaw, Head of Communications at Whitley Fund for Nature
E: [email protected]
T: +44 (0)7746 412189
Images: West African slender-snouted crocodile © Vladimir Wrangel