Each year a member of our alumni network is selected to receive the Whitley Gold Award, a profile prize worth £60,000 in project funding, awarded in recognition of their outstanding contribution to conservation.
In 2009, Pablo Borboroglu founded the Global Penguin Society (GPS) – the world’s first coalition for the protection of penguins. Using a multi-faceted approach that combines science, management and education, GPS conserve penguins across the Southern Hemisphere and use them as a flagship for wider conservation of the marine environment.
Over half of the world’s 18 species of penguin are listed as Vulnerable or Endangered by the IUCN. Threatened by poor fisheries management, pollution and climate change in the oceans, penguins also face pressure on land from coastal development, irresponsible tourism and introduced predators.
Pablo is spearheading largescale action to address these threats; balancing local guardianship with strengthening national and international protection. Over the past 29 years, Pablo’s work has brought together over 125 organisations and benefitted 1.2 million penguins in four continents. Pablo’s data is helping to justify ocean protection and underpin management for penguins and other marine wildlife. The results are a great example of how science can increase conservation problem visibility, inform decision makers, influence management and catalyse grassroots, national and international action.
A Whitley Award winner in 2010 and a recipient of additional funding in 2012 and 2014, with the support of WFN Pablo and GPS have:
- Established the IUCN Penguin Specialist Group to provide a science-policy platform for informing international penguin conservation.
- Partnered with the Government of Argentina to designate the UNESCO Blue Patagonia Biosphere Reserve. The largest in the country, it covers 3.1 million ha of marine and coastal habitat across an area the size of Belgium!
- Campaigned successfully for the inclusion of ocean conservation on the list of UN Sustainable Development Goals for the first time. These inter-governmentally agreed targets have been adopted by 193 countries agreeing to the UN 2030 Agenda.
- Increased protection and improved management of penguin habitat based on data collected in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, South Africa and New Zealand, and published in scientific journals.
- Secured creation of a 100,000 ha Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Argentina, benefitting one of the largest Magellanic penguin colonies in the world, while creating revenue and jobs for local people in sustainable tourism.
- Published ‘Penguins: Natural History and Conservation’, bringing together information on all penguin species in a book, accessible in Spanish and English.
- Educated 6,000 children who have participated in lessons and school trips to visit penguin colonies, strengthening connections with nature and groundswell support.
- Raised the profile of threats facing wildlife. Armed with information, communities and land owners have been engaged with conservation activities and politicians convinced to act.
- Given penguins a voice: the project has received extensive coverage including print, TV, radio, digital and social media, reaching international audiences in their millions.
WITH HIS WHITLEY GOLD AWARD PABLO WILL:
- Collect data on the population status and trends of Magellanic, Fiordland and King penguin colonies in Argentina, New Zealand and Chile to continue to improve management and evidence protected area creation in the face of development and climate change.
- Collaborate with governments, landowners and NGOs to foster designation of five new MPAs in Argentina and provide data to support establishing a network of MPAs in New Zealand.
- Continue to help tourist operations to minimize colony disturbance through sustainable management while generating income for local people, placing a value on conservation.
- Lead cutting-edge research to identify penguin feeding corridors and assess overlap with human activity to advise MPA designation and fisheries legislation.
- Create management recommendations for core areas of Argentina’s Biosphere Reserve, consolidating Pablo’s earlier work to secure this coastal region.
- Scale up school visits to colonies, education and awareness raising to mobilize public support.
- Initiate community beach cleans to address litter and plastic pollution in penguin colonies.
- Explore ways to tackle the growing issue of illegal trafficking and trade in penguins fueled by demand in Asia.
- Consolidate a global conservation agenda to identify emerging challenges and drive forward action to address them via the IUCN Penguin Specialist Group.
“People love penguins but they do not know about their fragile conservation status. Increasing awareness is crucial to help not only penguins but also the oceans on which we, and they, rely.”
Film footage: John Downer Productions, @WorldNomads
View Pablo’s 2010 Whitley Award project here.