Broadcaster Martha Kearney will host the milestone 2008 awards ceremony, which takes place at the Royal Geographical Society in front of an audience that will include embassy representatives, leading conservationists and celebrity supporters.
A judging panel of environmental experts has already produced a short-list of 11 from this year’s 85 entries. In the run-up to the awards ceremony, each short-listed candidate will be interviewed face-to-face to decide who will receive the main prize – the Whitley Gold Award plus £60,000 (US$120,000 approx) project funding.
In addition, grants worth a further £260,000 ($520,000), will be given to the winners of individual Whitley Awards. Another £50,000 (US$100,000) will be shared by entrants who just missed out on a place on the prize list.
Director Georgina Ponder says: “Much attention is given in the media today to the hopelessness of Earth’s environmental story, but, in every part of the world, there are people taking positive action to put problems right, or avert them. For this year’s milestone 15th Whitley Awards we have been hugely encouraged by the breadth of projects submitted, and by the courage and zeal that so many individuals bring to the cause of nature conservation.”
Candidates short-listed this year are:
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 who is now working 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 establishing protected hatcheries – a scheme he now wants to expand to the rest of the Cox’s Bazar coast.
Denny KURNIAWAN (Borneo) who is enabling indigenous peat forest communities to adopt a more sustainable approach to living and working in Sebengau National Park – a crucial habitat for endangered 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 wants to extend nationwide a highly successful habitat initiative that uses tapirs as ambassadors for conservation and sustainable sdevelopment.
Carlos PERES (Brazil), who is taking a pioneering approach to Amazonian conservation by taking account of socio-economic needs in the ‘Arc of Deforestation’, around Alto Floresto.
Ernesto RAEZ-LUNA (Peru), an ecologist who is educating and rallying local people and decision-makers in the Tambopata river basin to safeguard it from a gold and oil boom, and the construction of the new Peru-Brazil Inter-cceanic Highway.
Marleny ROSALES-MEDA (Guatemala) who is working with Maya-Q’eqchi’ communities, who depend on subsistence hunting, to develop sustainable conservation plans which accommodate traditional tribal practices and wisdom and new scientific knowledge.
Çağan ŞEKERCIOĞLU (Turkey) who is working with local communities to safeguard a bird-rich wetland, in a region made famous by Orhan Pamuk’s novel Snow, by managing grazing, combatting poaching, and encouraging wildlife tourism.
Jean WIENER (Haiti), a marine biologist, who working to protect his homeland’s coral reefs and mangrove swamps by getting local fishing and farming communities involved in education, agri-environment projects, replanting and restoration projects.
A hallmark of the Whitley Awards is that entrants continue to be nurtured and supported by the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN), the charity that runs the scheme.
Georgina Ponder explains: “As well as providing our winners with a substantial financial award, we also support them in wider ways – for instance, by heightening their profile in their own country and beyond, and by putting them in touch with other individuals and organisations who will help our winners to scale up what they are doing, or do it more effectively. We stay in touch, too, and after 15 years, our network of past winners is inspirational – an inter-woven family of passionate local leaders all committed to achieving long-lasting conservation benefits on the ground.”
All of the 2008 finalists will be in London for the awards ceremony and for a programme of networking events and media engagements beforehand and afterwards.
The Whitley Awards are sponsored and supported by a range of corporations, trusts and individuals including WWF-UK, the musician Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, and HSBC. To find out more about the Whitley Awards and past recipients, see: www.whitleyaward.org/