Before the world closed its doors and settled into lockdown, I excitedly collected up a bright orange envelope from the usual fare of junk mail sitting on the doormat. Carefully tugging at the corners of the distinct orange paper, my hopes were confirmed when the contents revealed itself as an invitation to attend the Whitley Awards 2020; 7pm on the 29th April.
So of course, no one is at the special celebration for the Whitley Award winners right now, but the incredible conservationists named as the recipients of this year’s Whitley Awards certainly deserve to be celebrated nonetheless.
Global conservation heroes honoured with prestigious Whitley Awards
UK charity Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) support grassroots conservationists from the Global South (i.e. the regions of Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania), recognising their outstanding dedication to protecting endangered wildlife and threatened habitats.
The highly competitive Whitley Awards – also known as the ‘Green Oscars’ – have today announced this year’s winning seven; the culmination of an international search to find some of the world’s most effective conservation leaders.
The Awards are normally presented to winners by charity Patron HRH The Princess Royal at an annual Ceremony in London, and although the 2020 Whitley Awards Ceremony has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, work to safeguard black lion tamarin monkeys (Brazil), Helmeted Hornbills (Indonesia), rare amphibians (South Africa), chimpanzees (Nigeria), hirola antelope (Kenya), and alpine musk deer (Bhutan) will all still benefit from the prize funds.
Despite the current situation, this year’s winners have each been awarded £40,000 in project funding to allow them to expand their vital work.
The prestigious Whitley Gold Award is worth £60,000 and recognises an outstanding past recipient of a Whitley Award who has gone on to make a significant contribution to conservation.
The Gold winner also acts as a mentor to Whitley Award winners receiving their Awards in the same year; joining the Judging Panel to assist in selection.
Charity Patron, HRH The Princess Royal said: “The Whitley Fund for Nature chooses leaders who have a real understanding of the challenges facing local people, which is especially important in these very worrying economic times.”
“Their goal is to enable people to understand why conservation is so important and to empower them to support global efforts to protect the environment.”
With the world’s biodiversity in steep decline, and the intertwined threat of climate change, the funding comes at a critical time to support those on the frontlines of the global environmental crisis.
Whitley Award Winners
This year’s winning projects range from combatting illegal wildlife trade in Indonesia, to protecting a newly discovered group of chimpanzees in Nigeria, to reforestation efforts to safeguard habitat and fight climate change in Brazil.
Each winning project has demonstrated real conservation gains based on the latest science and is ready to expand.
Their initiatives are rooted in community involvement and seek evidence-based solutions for both people and wildlife — delivering positive results by using strategies such as:
- environmental education
- working with governments to affect policy change
- sustainable livelihood development
- mainstreaming conservation into economic initiatives
The 2020 Award winners are…
- Abdullahi Hussein Ali – A landscape‐level approach to conserve the hirola antelope, Kenya
- Gabriela Rezende – Connecting populations of black lion tamarins in the Atlantic Forest, Brazil
- Jeanne Tarrant – A country-wide strategy for South African amphibians
- Phuntsho Thinley – Stepping up patrols to preserve the endangered alpine musk deer, Bhutan
- Rachel Ashebofe Ikemeh – Advancing participatory conservation action for rare chimpanzees, Nigeria
- YokYok (Yoki) Hadiprakarsa – Saving the last stronghold of the Helmeted Hornbill, Indonesia
The 2020 Whitley Gold Award winner is…
This year’s Whitley Gold Award, the charity’s top prize, honours previous Whitley Award winner and Brazilian conservationist Patrícia Medici, who has been awarded £60,000 in recognition of her outstanding dedication to protecting South America’s largest land mammal, the Lowland Tapir.
Patrícia won her Whitley Award in 2008 and received further funding from WFN in 2011 and 2014.
The Whitley Gold Award will enable Patricia and her team to expand their work to the embattled Amazon, which faces unprecedented deforestation rates.
Against a backdrop of political and environmental instability in Brazil, Patrícia’s project includes mapping routes used by tapirs and using reforestation activities to connect fragmented areas of forest.
She is a world expert in the science of tapir conservation, leading the largest tapir study in the world to shed light on this unusual looking, little-known species.
She also engages communities through environmental education programmes, using tapir as a flagship for largescale habitat preservation.
Whitley Fund for Nature
Since its founding in 1993, WFN has given £17million to support the work of over 200 conservation leaders, benefiting wildlife and local communities in more than 80 countries.
Whitley Award winners join an international network of Whitley alumni eligible to apply for Continuation Funding grants. These follow-on grants are awarded competitively to winners seeking to scale up their effective conservation results on the ground over multiple years.
Edward Whitley, Founder of WFN, said: “We are honoured to be able to recognise and support the vital conservation work of this year’s Whitley Award winners.”
“Their commitment to protecting threatened wildlife through programmes that also benefit people gives us real hope for the future of our planet in what has been an unprecedented year. We would like to welcome them to our network of winners and look forward to seeing their projects grow.”
Edward Whitley OBE has shared a special message on the Whitley Awards website, which can be viewed here.