We have a huge #cheer today for the winners of the 2018 Whitley Awards, which recognized six activists for their work with local communities to protect threatened wildlife and habitat around the world. Sometimes referred to as the “Green Oscars,” the winners of the awards received funding for their life-saving projects. Check out four of our favorite projects below:
1. Pablo Garcia Borboroglu, an Argentinian marine biologist leading a global campaign to protect penguins, was given the gold award for his outstanding contribution to nature conservation.Using an approach that combines science, management and education, he works to conserve penguins across the Southern Hemisphere. Over the past 29 years, his work has brought together more than 125 organizations and benefited 1.2 million penguins in six countries.
2. In the Congo, Dominique Bikaba promotes conservation education with the aim of protecting the eastern lowland gorilla in an area ravaged by civil unrest and intensive mining. His team is working with local people to create a protected forest corridor to connect gorilla populations in the Kahuzi-Biega and Itombwe nature reserves. His Whitley Award project will secure legal protection of this vital habitat corridor and improve local food security to reduce pressure on forest resources. Bikaba’s team will help to increase crop production and train people in more sustainable farming techniques.
3. A wildlife ecologist committed to protecting the Sri Lankan leopard, Anjali Chandraraj Watson’s project is located in the Central Highlands. The area is also full of tea plantations, which support the livelihood of many locals. Since space is at a premium in this area and leopards frequently share territory with people there’s a potential for injury and death on both sides as forests disappear. Her primary aim is to develop an understanding of the ecology and behavior of Sri Lanka’s elusive leopard and establish a protected corridor that will connect two reserves and reduce human-leopard incidents.
4.Raptor biologist Munir Virani is working to preserve endangered vultures in Africa’s Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. Virani left a promising cricketing career to begin his project in 2003 following the Asian vulture crisis, in which 40 million vultures were poisoned as a result of a now-banned painkiller and anti-inflammatory drug used in cattle. Vultures are vital to the health of the grassland plains of the Maasai Mara. They quickly consume rotting carcasses, preventing the spread of disease. Virani’s Whitley award will expand his successful anti-poisoning program—which reduced cases in the Maasai Mara by nearly 50% in 2016—to Kenya’s Southern Rift Valley.