Winner avatar
2017 Whitley Award
Indira Lacerna-Widmann Philippines Terrestrial
Partnering with prisoners to safeguard the Critically Endangered Philippine Cockatoo

Winner of the Whitley Award donated by Notting Hill Preparatory School

dramatic decline

The Philippine Cockatoo has declined by a staggering 80% over the last 40 years. Decimated by the caged bird trade and habitat loss since the late 1980s, it is now extinct from much of its former range. Since 1998, the Katala Foundation has undertaken conservation work to safeguard this species. Since work began, four reserves have been established which have seen the recovery of cockatoo populations, including one by more than tenfold. But there is more to do. Indira aims to undertake actions over the next five years that will see the parrot’s conservation status improve markedly.

novel partners

In the city of Puerto Princesa, central Palawan, an important population of cockatoos nest in the forested grounds of Iwahig prison – a large open air penal farm – and forage over both military and private land. Indira will be working with these new partners in order to secure the future of this urban population of cockatoos, training prisoners and the army as wildlife wardens to address poaching in breeding sites and working with landowners to secure feeding corridors which are under threat from development.

building pride

Katala is the local name for the Philippine Cockatoo. The NGO that Indira co-founded of the same name uses endemic threatened species as flagships for community-based conservation to ensure species survive and ecosystems continue to provide services for dependent human populations. By using specifically developed ‘PRIDE’ campaigns and reaching out to city dwellers, Indira hopes to raise awareness and build pride in the Philippine Cockatoo.

Indira’s project will:

  • Tackle poaching by training prisoners and the army in wildlife law enforcement: giving prisoners the opportunity to learn new skills whilst taking part in conservation
  • Build support within the city using a ‘PRIDE’ campaign to engage local people and schools
  • Identify cockatoo flight routes to support protection and restoration of feeding habitat, working with landowners and government

Why it matters:

  • Most people do not realise these parrots are endangered, with fewer than 1,200 left in the wild
  • 4,000 trees will be planted to restore cockatoo habitat
  • Prisoners and ex-poachers will have the opportunity to gain qualifications and build a brighter future

“Community involvement in conservation efforts is not optional but an absolute necessity.”