NEWS from the WHITLEY FUND FOR NATURE
Princess gives top nature award to Turkish birdlife conservationist
LONDON, UK: 21 MAY 2008 - HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) tonight presented one of the world’s top prizes for grassroots nature conservation – the Whitley Gold Award - to Dr Çağan Şekercioğlu of Turkey for his efforts to safeguard a bird-rich wetland in an area made famous by Orhan Pamuk’s novel, Snow.
The 32-year-old Kars-based anthropologist and biologist - who turned down a job on Wall Street to work in conservation - became Turkey’s first ever Whitley Gold Award winner during a ceremony held at the Royal Geographical Society, London, by The Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) – the UK-based charity which administers the annual international awards programme and which this year celebrates its15th anniversary.
His prizes included a Whitley Award of £30,000 (US$60,000 approx), donated by the William Brake Charitable Trust, another £30,000 (US$60,000 approx) as a Whitley Gold Award winner, long-term support and the opportunity to seek further WFN funding, currently worth more than £0.4m a year (US$0.8m).
A similar prize went to Rodrigo Hucke-Gaete of Chile after, for the first time in WFN’s history, the judges decided that both projects merited Whitley Gold Award status.
The award to Dr Şekercioğlu recognised his work around Kuyucuk Lake, in the harsh, mile-high, Kars province of north-eastern Turkey, that provides the setting for Snow, the best-selling novel by Nobel Laureate, Orhun Pamuk. The lake is a haven for birds, supporting up to 30,000 from over 160 species. It is also a vital for local people who rely on it to raise the livestock, crops and fuel that help them to survive minus 50 degrees C winters. It was with the needs of all lake users in mind that Dr Şekercioğlu began the Kars-Igdir Biodiversity Project. Using an approach new in Turkey, he and a local NGO are helping local people to see how good stewardship will raise their incomes, safeguard the lake and its species, and make the area attractive to bird-watchers and eco-tourists. Progress is already evident and the community is also backing efforts to win greater protection for the region.
For more details about this project and/or those of the other finalists, please see the Notes to Editors, overleaf.
Speaking before the results were announced, the fund’s founder, Edward Whitley, said: “The aim of the Whitley Awards is to find and support the environmental leaders who are helping to build a future where nature and people co-exist in a way that benefits both. Once again, this year’s finalists have risen to the challenge. They have impressed and heartened us by telling us their conservation success stories, and by demonstrating what can be achieved when vision, passion, intelligence and determination are brought to bear. In Çağan Şekercioğlu, Turkey has a real asset – a Harvard and Stanford graduate who turned down a Wall Street career to be an inspired conservation leader and someone we are privileged to be able to fund.”
The awards ceremony was co-hosted by BBC broadcaster Martha Kearney and held in front of a 350-strong audience that included Sir David Attenborough, a Turkish embassy representative, leading scientists, and celebrity conservation supporters.
In all, HRH The Princess Royal gave out prizes worth £350,000 (US$700,000). Others award winners came from Bangladesh, Borneo, Brazil, China, Guatemala, Haiti, India, and Peru.
Edward Whitley added: “As well as providing our winners with a substantial financial prize, we also strive to support them in wider ways – for instance, by offering them opportunities to seek further funding in future years and by uniting them with other donors and conservation organisations. They also become part of the Whitley Fund for Nature’s network of past finalists which, after 15 years, now takes in over 100 dynamic environmentalists in more than 50 countries, making it an invaluable source of experience, ideas and best practice.”
The Whitley Awards are sponsored and supported by a range of corporations and individuals including WWF-UK, Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, and HSBC. To find out more about the Whitley Fund for Nature and past Whitley Award recipients, please see: www.whitleyaward.org
For more info, interviews, or photos, please contact:
Pam Beddard, (t) +44 (0)117 987 0442 ; (m) +44 (0) 7767 621207
; (w) www.whitleyaward.org
Notes to Editors (includes full shortlist)
1. The Whitley Awards are the flagship grants of the Whitley Fund for Nature, (WFN) a UK-based registered charity. WFN’s aim is to identify the world’s most dynamic conservation leaders and support them in practical work that benefits both wildlife and local communities. The first Whitley Award, of £15,000 (US$30,000) was given in 1994. Since then, the number, value and reputation of the programme has grown so that it is now one of the world’s best known and respected, involving over 100 conservation leaders on 50-plus countries. Award-winners are eligible to bid for continuation funding, currently worth around £400,000 a year.
2. To be considered for a Whitley Award, entrants need to display both a strong track record in science-based conservation work and a viable plan for taking their work further. For more information about the judging process and past winners, please see: www.whitleyaward.org
3. Photographs from tonight’s awards ceremony will be available from 22.05.08 from Pam Beddard, (t) +44 (0) 117 987 0442 or +44 (0) 7767 621207, or (e)
4. More details about the people and projects shortlisted for Whitley Awards 2008 are given in the PROJECT PROFILES document, also attached. Brief details are as follows:
Deepak APTE (India), a marine biologist using the giant clam as a flagship for creating India’s first network of marine protected areas in the sealife-rich Lakshadweep archipelago, which lies around 220kms to the west of Kerala.
Rodrigo HUCKE-GAETE (Chile) who helped to locate a previously unknown breeding ground for the rare and enigmatic blue whale (as seen in the BBC’s Planet Earth) and now wants to get the area protected as a marine reserve
Zahirul ISLAM (Bangladesh), who is educating Bay of Bengal fishing communities and beach users about sea turtles, and who now wants to expand to other beaches and islands along the Cox’s Bazar coast.
Denny KURNIAWAN (Borneo) who is enabling indigenous tribes to live and work sustainably in the Sebengau National Park – a crucial carbon store and home to the world's largest population of wild orang utans
LIU Yi (China), a young environmental activist whose student efforts to raise awareness about the need to safeguard mangrove swamps have grown into an officially-backed protection project covering five south-eastern provinces.
Patrícia MEDICI (Brazil) who is rolling out nationwide an initiative that uses tapirs as ambassadors for conservation, involving environmental education and agri-environment schemes.
Carlos PERES (Brazil) who is pioneering an approach to Amazonian conservation that is taking economic drivers into account in land management plans for the ‘Arc of Deforestation’, around Alta Floresto.
Ernesto RAEZ-LUNA (Peru), an ecologist, who is educating and rallying local people and regional decision-makers in the Tambopata river basin to prevent its destruction by gold-mining, and oil boom and a new Peru-Brazil Highway.
Marleny ROSALES-MEDA (Guatemala) is weaving the traditional, subsistence, hunting customs and knowledge of Maya-Q’eqchi’ communities into sustainable conservation plans for the Laguna Lachua National Park.
Çağan ŞEKERCIOĞLU (Turkey) who is enlisting locals to reduce overgrazing and hawk poaching, and encourage wildlife tourism in a bird-rich wetland, in a region of eastern Turkey made famous by Orhan Pamuk’s novel Snow.
Jean WIENER (Haiti), a marine biologist, working to protect his homeland’s coral reefs and mangrove swamps by involving local fishing and farming families in education, replanting and reef restoration projects.