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2013 Whitley Award

Winner is Conservation leader from India

The Whitley Awards celebrate 20 years of global conservation achievements

London, UK: 2 May 2013 - HRH The Princess Royal today presented a Whitley Award, a prestigious international nature conservation prize, to Aparajita Datta at a special ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in honour of her work to protect threatened hornbills in the Himalayan forests of Arunachal Pradesh, India.

Aparajita Datta is one of eight exceptional individuals to have been awarded a share of prize funding worth £295,000 by the Whitley Fund for Nature, winning a Whitley Award donated by WWF-UK. Datta leads a programme to conserve hornbills in the Indian Eastern Himalaya at the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), an NGO established in 1996 to promote science-based wildlife conservation in India. Focussing on hornbills as a conservation flagship species, she is seeking to improve the status of the bird’s populations outside protected areas by establishing models of community-based conservation. Datta is spreading knowledge of the needs of hornbills and their importance, as seed dispersers, in the maintenance of healthy forest ecosystems. Key to her approach is raising awareness of the threats to the bird’s survival, and creating a wider rural and urban constituency for conservation through a participatory community outreach programme that gets people involved.

HRH The Princess Royal, the charity’s patron, says: “The secret of the Whitley Fund for Nature is that they find exceptional grassroots conservation leaders. Whitley Award winners hail from all over the world and come from a range of backgrounds, but they all have in common a fierce commitment and determination to make a real difference to local people and wildlife in their home countries. Every winner has a close connection with their community, as well as experience and an understanding of the issues, which often relate to human-wildlife conflict, but they also know how to make an impact through practical solutions, engaging people and initiating change at government level. That's a rare skill. Let's face it, there are 'experts' out there, who don't always have that skill, but the Whitley Award winners do.” This year, which marks the 20th anniversary of the Whitley Awards, saw a surge in applicants, with the highest number of entries yet to the scheme. First awarded in 1994, the Whitley Awards are presented annually to outstanding grassroots leaders in nature conservation across the developing world. Since then, the Whitley Fund for Nature has given almost £10 million to conservation and recognised 160 conservation leaders in more than 70 countries.

“For 20 years now, the Whitley Awards have pioneered effective ways to protect wild nature,” says Sir David Attenborough, a Trustee of the Whitley Fund for Nature. “Perhaps the greatest legacy of the charity is the growing network of winners themselves who represent some of the best conservation leaders in the world. The range of challenges the winners face is remarkable, the solutions are diverse; and together their reach is truly global.”Other winners in the 2013 Whitley Awards are:

* Whitley Award donated by Fondation Segré, Ekwoge Enang Abwe: Local community protection of the endangered great apes of Ebo Forest, Cameroon

* Whitley Award donated by the Scottish Friends of the Whitley Fund for Nature, Zahirul Islam: On Land and Sea: Community based sea turtle conservation, Bangladesh

* Whitley Award donated by The William Brake Charitable Trust, Zafer Kizilkaya: Turkey’s first community managed marine protected area in Gökova bay, Turkey

* Whitley Award donated by The LJC Fund in memory of Anthea and Lindsey Turner, Daniel Lejaroi Letoiye: Restoring grasslands for the coexistence of Grevy’s Zebra and free-ranging livestock, Kenya

* Whitley Award donated by Goldman Sachs, John Kahekwa Munihuzi: Inspiring community action for gorilla conservation, Democratic Republic of Congo

* Whitley Award donated by The Shears Foundation, Eugene Simonov: Keeping Rivers Wild and Free: International protection of the Amur River basin and wetlands in China, Russia and Mongolia

During their trip to London to accept their award, winners had the opportunity to meet the judges and HRH The Princess Royal, network with the other finalists, attend receptions with leading conservation organisations and academics, meet Whitley Fund for Nature donors and participate in professional development training.

HRH The Princess Royal also presented a special prize donated by the Friends of the Whitley Fund for Nature, the Whitley Gold Award worth £50,000, to Çağan Şekercioğlu of Turkey, a past Award winner who has used his grant money to particularly outstanding effect. Joining the Judging Panel to assist in selection, the Gold winner also acts as mentor to Whitley Award winners receiving their Awards in the same year.

Visit http://www.whitleyaward.org to find out more about the charity, its donors and past winners.

4th July 2014