Whitley-Segré Conservation Fund

Update October, 2016

During 2016, the Whitley-Segré Conservation Fund (WSCF) – which is a joint venture between the Whitley Fund for Nature and Fondation Segré – received 42 applications from previous Whitley Award winners.  From these applications the Executive Panel were pleased to select 10 winning conservation projects, providing grants worth a total of £1,042,000. Further details of the winning projects are given below.

Luis Torres, Cuba
Planting the seed of conservation across Cuba
£150,000 over 3 years

Cuba is the hottest plant diversity area of the Caribbean Biodiversity Hotspot and hosts the four richest island floras in the world (the flora includes: 570 Critically Endangered, 250 Endangered, 152 Vulnerable and 1175 Threatened species). These species are threatened by agriculture, mining, overharvesting, tourism and urbanisation. Development pressures are expected to increase with normalisation of Cuba-US relations, so the project is timely. Luis and colleagues will develop targeted action plans for 17 threatened species and their habitats; collaborating with local people and biologists to implement on the ground conservation activities and raise awareness in Cuba about plant conservation. By the end of the project, conservation action will be well underway and a cadre of conservation-trained locals will leave a lasting legacy for future conservation.


Pedro Vaz Pinto, Angola
Safeguarding the planet’s remaining giant sable antelope from poaching in Angola
£150,000 over 3 years

During the 1990s, the giant sable was feared extinct. Extensive work by Pedro and colleagues in Angola has brought the species back from the brink with a global population numbering 200 individuals.  But now the 150 giant sables remaining in the Luando Nature Strict Reserve are under threat again from increased poaching. Pedro’s project aims to increase local protection of these animals by training local community “Shepherds”. A state-of-the-art online tracking system will ensure that the local shepherds are able to locate and guard the giant sable closely. This is an innovative and urgent project and will be crucial to saving this species from extinction.


Paula Kahumbu, Kenya
HANDS OFF OUR ELEPHANTS! – Tackling wildlife crime in Kenya
£100,000 over 2 years

The threat to African elephant populations from poaching is well known, in East Africa numbers have halved between 2006 and 2015, largely due to poaching in Tanzania. Paula is working to tackle poaching and ivory trafficking by reforming Kenya’s legal system in an attempt to deter criminals and reduce cases of wildlife crime. The project will address this issue by training and increasing the numbers of specialist prosecutors, and educate field rangers in the collection of evidence that will be admissible in the court system. The team will also make information from wildlife crime cases publicly available through an online database.  Public awareness of poaching and illegal ivory sales will also be increased through links with a local TV channel, NTV, and media campaigns. Paula has received presidential recognition and support of her work from Kenya’s First Lady. This project could serve as a model for other countries facing similar pressures.


Jon Paul Rodriguez, Venezuela
Increasing yellow-shouldered parrot numbers: using conservation psychology, nest protection and reforestation techniques in Venezuela£100,000 over 3 years

Jon Paul has just been elected as the first Chair from South America of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, building on his early success as a Whitley Award winner. Over the 26 years that Jon Paul has worked to conserve the yellow-shouldered parrot, the numbers in Macanao have more than doubled whilst elsewhere most of its populations have gone extinct or declined greatly. The project will support the local ‘Eco-Guardians’ to protect parrot nests and increase the numbers of fledglings produced by up to a third from an average of 50 per year.  Working with conservation psychologists, Jon Paul seeks to reduce demand for wild parrots as pets.  The project team will also work with local landowners to reforest areas that have been impacted by sand-mining, planting over 5,000 trees to help the parrots and other species including the endemic Margarita deer.


Melvin Gumal, Malaysia
Bringing 95% of Sarawak’s orangutans under protection, Malaysian Borneo
£50,000 over 3 years

In 2016, the Bornean orangutan was declared as Critically Endangered according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The population loss that triggered this re-assessment is driven by hunting, habitat destruction, habitat degradation and fragmentation. Melvin’s goal is to secure an expansion of Sarawak’s protected area network by over 20%, to bring approx. 95% of the orangutans in Sarawak under conservation by 2020. He will work with local stakeholders to map orangutan distribution outside protected areas, survey numbers and review land ownership in conjunction with the government. The project is very timely following the recent declaration by Sarawak’s Chief Minister to halt the expansion and creation of additional palm oil plantations and cease the issue of timber licences as a result of lobbying conducted by Melvin.


Shivani Bhalla, Kenya
Extending Warrior Watch: promoting coexistence between people and lions in Kenya
£ 92,000 over 3 years

Africa’s lion population has declined by 90% in the last 75 years. In Kenya, the national population numbers less than 2,000 individuals. This decline is primarily due to habitat loss and conflict with humans, typically over livestock depredation. Shivani works in northern Kenya, with the country’s third largest lion population, to conserve these big cats by promoting coexistence between people and wildlife. The Warrior Watch programme engages Samburu warriors as ambassadors for conservation within their communities. Shivani has already been very successful, working with others to increase the lion population in her project area five-fold in less than ten years. This project replicates an approach that has already seen an increase in the lion population, and will expand it to new areas to build tolerance of predators.


Didiher Chacon, Cost Rica
Restoring coastal habitats for threatened marine turtles in Costa Rica
£50,000 over 2 years

Globally, marine turtles face multiple land and ocean-based threats and all seven species are threatened with extinction. The Golfo Dulce, where Didier’s project focusses is one of only four tropical marine fiords known worldwide and supports important shared populations of the Critically Endangered hawksbill and the Endangered green turtle. Threats to sea turtles in this area include destruction of coral reefs, mangrove forests and sea grass beds as well as incidental fishing, illegal hunting, egg extraction and most recently, global warming. Didiher works with local fishermen, artisans, tourism service providers and women’s groups to develop alternative livelihoods that can contribute to turtle conservation. He will extend his reach to work with land-based farmers to reduce the runoff and sedimentation that pollutes marine habitats and restore vital mangroves. Didiher represents Costa Rica on the Scientific Committee of the Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention and is successful in promoting marine turtle conservation across Latin America.


Carlos Vasquez Almazan, Guatemala
Amazing amphibians: protecting Guatemala’s Critically Endangered frogs
£100,000 over 3 years

Frogs are in rapid decline with over one third of all species threatened with extinction, making their group more endangered than birds or mammals. The major threats are habitat loss, harvesting, disease and climate change.  In Guatemala, most of the critical habitats for amphibians are not legally protected. Carlos’ project is focused on six important amphibian sites in Guatemala and at least ten Critically Endangered species. The project will support establishment of up to six amphibian reserves and a network of amphibian monitoring sites over the next three years. Importantly, Carlos and his team will raise grassroots awareness of the need for amphibian conservation in the region. Carlos is Chair of the Guatemala and Belize section of the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group and recently received the Sabin Prize for Amphibian Conservation. This project focuses on an overlooked taxon in urgent need of conservation action with potential to expand to neighbouring Honduras in the future.


Aparajita Datta, India and Indonesia
Hornbills: Working with communities and local government to save endangered hornbills and expand the nest adoption programme in India and Indonesia
£150,000 over 3 years

Aparajita’s project will urgently address the poaching threat to the Critically Endangered helmeted hornbill in Indonesia working in collaboration with Indonesian partners.  The demand for so-called ‘red ivory’ from the bird’s casque is driving the species to extinction with representatives at the recent International Meeting on Wildlife Trade (CITES) calling for action. Aparajita’s innovative Hornbill Nest Adoption Programme, was originally established five years ago in north-east India. In this area, most forests (65%) are community-owned, so the traditional approach of government protected areas is not sufficient to conserve the five hornbill species found in these forests. The current project will also scale up the successful Nest-Adoption approach both in Indonesia and to another three areas in India, also promoting habitat restoration and outreach. Aparajita champions hornbill conservation, using novel approaches to publicise the plight of these important seed dispersers.

Helmeted hornbill_credit Yokyok Hadiprakarsa

Josia Razafindramanana, Madagascar 
Safeguarding Madagascar’s dancing lemurs: extending protection for the Crowned-sifaka
£100,000 over 2 years

The Endangered crowned sifaka lemur occurs from the central highlands to the western lowlands of Madagascar.  In the dry deciduous forests of the project area, the crowned sifaka population has increased by 11-15% since 2013 with Josia’s support, but hunting and deforestation still threaten the population. The project aims to develop forest buffer zones around nearby villages so that local people can meet their needs without impacting the threatened lemurs. The project will double the numbers of crowned sifaka under protection with newly established and properly managed Protected Areas. It will also improve the livelihoods of local people by providing training on health and farming to decrease illegal timber exploitation and habitat destruction in the area. This project responds to a window of opportunity for protected area designation and will significantly improve the protection of crowned sifakas in Madagascar.


The WSCF programme is now closed to new applicants.  Going forward, conservation leaders should apply separately to the Fondation Segré or the Whitley Fund for Nature; and previous winners of Whitley Awards should apply for Whitley Continuation Funding.