Stories to make your heart beat faster and and your eyes shine brighter came thick and fast at this year’s Whitley Fund for Nature awards ceremony. Stories like that of Gilbert Adum from Ghana (pic). He was offered a place at Cambridge University to start an MSc this September but turned down the amazing chance because there are only 30 known Giant Squeaker Frogs left in the World and he would like to save them. Adam originally found 14 of the frogs and realised local people were illegally farming and logging on the patch of land, around the size of a football pitch, where the last remaining frogs lived. On top of that the land was being invaded by the nasty Devil’s Weed which was poisoning the soil. Gilbert has persuaded illegal farmers and loggers to halt such activities in favour of alternative livelihoods in bee keeping, and some of the Whitley Award funds, given to small-scale effective grassroots conservation leaders to them expand their work, will be used for new hives. There is also an eco-tourism programme and in September there is an expedition you can join if you feel the urge. Just contact [email protected]
Juliette Velosoa (pic bottom on right) scientific officer for Rere Conservation, has spent the past 18 years studying a critically endangered freshwater turtle endemic to western Madagascar. Called the Madagascan side-necked turtle (pic top), numbers of the reptile have crashed as human’s squeeze their habitat and feast on the turtle’s eggs. She works at two sites and there the population of the hard backed beasts has gone up to around 12,000 because, Velosoa says: “We work closely with local communities to help them to manage sustainably the wetland and the turtle.” Now locals don’t eat the turtle eggs anymore and there are teams of locals who protect the nests and are then paid for each undisturbed nest. The Whitley award money will help pay for management of the areas, meetings, patrol teams and nest payments.
Have you time for one more story? This time about Farwiza Farhan’s (on left of pic, right) work in Indonesia. Her group is helping the local community in a nature reserve to fight . There is a government development plan which doesn’t acknowledge the Leuser countryside, which covers 2.7 million hectares. There are Sumatran rhinos living there, and through local protection the population has doubled in just 30 years. They are short sighted and quite slow breeders. Local livelihoods depend on the land, in some places where it has been developed there have been floods and landslides. “People try to protest but they don’t get anywhere,” says Farhan. We facilitate them by funding lawsuits and we help them take back control. When they feel the global community is with them they feel stronger.” Recently they fought a palm oil company, PT Kalista Alam and won. The palm oil company was fined 3.6 million dollars.
If you want to find out more about the Whitley Fund for Nature, would like to donate or know of a great conservationist who could apply for an award, click here … whitleyaward