Two more IUCN grantees have been recognised for their innovative leadership in protecting threatened species by the Whitley Fund for Nature in 2017.
Indira Lacerna-Widmann and Sanjay Gubbi were two of six finalists each awarded the prestigious Whitley Award (including individual cash prizes of £35,000 GBP) during the ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society, London 18 May 2017. Both intend to invest their prizes to develop their conservation projects further.
Above: learn more about these and other award-winning IUCN grantees recognised by the Whitley Awards in recent years via this SOS YouTube playlist.
Indira’s work protecting the Critically Endangered Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), which has declined by a staggering 80% over the last 40 years, has involved the creation of habitat reserves and community conservation initiatives on Palawan island - home to 75% of the remaining 1,200 wild individuals.
Her work since 1998 as co-founder of the Katala Foundation (Katala is the local name for the cockatoo), has helped populations recover. This included preparations for the re-introduction of captive bred birds – a project supported by SOS - Save Our Species from 2012-2014.
But there is more to do: Indira hopes to secure foraging sites, reduce poaching and perform bird tagging to better monitor behaviour by engaging with partners including the island’s open air prison while catalysing a Katala pride campaign among the broader community through outreach. The goal is to significantly improve the parrot’s conservation status over the next five years.
Meanwhile, for three decades, Sanjay has been championing tiger conservation in his home state of Karnataka – also home to 20% of India’s Endangered tigers (Panthera tigris). His work with authorities and stakeholders to protect and connect tiger habitats has helped legally safeguard 2,385km2 of habitat representing the largest expansion of protected areas in India since 1970.
In addition to outreach and working with influential religious leaders to influence public attitudes, supporting local community needs has been central to the efficacy of his approach. For example, providing families with gas-powered forest-friendly cooking stoves reduces human encroachment on tiger habitat. And as fewer women risk collecting firewood from surrounding forests, the incidence of wildlife encounters are reduced. Much of this work has been funded by a grant through IUCN’s Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP).
Looking ahead, Sanjay hopes to scale up the provision of these stoves, speed up payments to farmers for livestock losses caused by depredation and to reduce forest degradation in two important Wildlife Sanctuaries which connect multiple protected areas. This will form one of the largest contiguous tiger habitats in the country. It would also benefit other large species such as elephants, leopards, pangolins and honey badgers.
SOS and ITHCP were each set up as partnerships to catalyse conservation on the ground and empower dedicated people from civil society. SOS was created by three founding partners in 2010: the World Bank, Global Environment Facility and IUCN with support from other donors including the European Commission joining in 2017 while the ITHCP was established by IUCN with the support of the German Government and the German Development Bank (KfW) in 2014.
Consequently IUCN is delighted to see the good work of these conservationists being recognised. We take the opportunity to congratulate all Whitley Award candidates and winners on their inspiring achievements to protect our natural heritage. IUCN looks forward to continuing to support future conservation leaders through its various grant-making mechanisms.