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Whitley Awards 2024: Celebrating Conservation Heroes

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The Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) has unveiled the winners of the prestigious 2024 Whitley Awards, recognizing remarkable conservation efforts from around the globe. Among this year’s recipients, Dr. Purnima Devi Barman from Assam, India, stands out, clinching the coveted Gold Award for her groundbreaking work with the ‘Stork Sisters’ movement.

Whitley Awards Celebrates Conservation Heroes

The Whitley Awards, often hailed as the ‘Green Oscars,’ spotlight grassroots conservation leaders who demonstrate unwavering dedication to safeguarding the world’s most fragile ecosystems. These individuals are lauded for their innovative approaches in addressing the myriad threats faced by nature, and the prizes they receive provide essential funding to scale up their initiatives and drive global impact.

Dr. Purnima Devi Barman’s triumph in securing the 2024 Whitley Gold Award, accompanied by a £100,000 grant, underscores her pivotal role in mobilizing over ten thousand local women to champion the conservation of the greater adjutant stork and its wetland habitats in Assam.

Whitley Awards

Through her leadership, the ‘Stork Sisters’ have emerged as influential figures in conservation, fostering a symbiotic relationship between the scavenger bird and the communities it inhabits.

Other Recipients Of Whitley Awards

In Papua New Guinea, marine biologist Naomi Longa and her all-female team are harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to protect coral reefs. Their innovative approach involves scaling up a network of locally managed marine areas, empowering indigenous divers and snorkelers to safeguard the biodiversity-rich Coral Triangle, which harbors a staggering 76 percent of the world’s coral reef species.

Whitley Awards

Cameroon’s Aristide Kamla, renowned for his expertise in manatee conservation, is spearheading efforts to restore habitat for the African manatee in Lake Ossa.

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By tackling invasive freshwater ferns that threaten the marine mammal’s habitat, Kamla is not only reviving crucial ecosystems but also training local fishers to monitor and protect these elusive creatures.

In Brazil, Fernanda Abra collaborates with the Waimiri-Atroari people to construct low-cost canopy bridges over the Amazon rainforest’s BR-174 highway.

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This pioneering initiative aims to mitigate the impact of road collisions on tree-dwelling mammals, thereby enhancing connectivity and safeguarding biodiversity in one of the world’s most ecologically diverse regions.

Meanwhile, in Bhutan, wildlife biologist Kuenzang Dorji is striving to reconcile the coexistence of local farmers and the Endangered Gee’s golden langurs. With climate change altering the monkeys’ behavior and leading to crop raids, Dorji is training citizen scientists to collect crucial primate data, facilitating long-term monitoring efforts in the Himalayan Ranges.

Guyana’s Leroy Ignacio, an Indigenous Makushi conservationist, is leading conservation endeavors to protect the Endangered Red Siskin songbird amid the nation’s rapid economic growth. By expanding conservation zones established by indigenous communities, Ignacio is safeguarding vital habitats and biodiversity in the face of unprecedented development.

Lastly, in Nepal, Raju Acharya is championing the protection of owls through a comprehensive government plan that engages local communities across central Nepal.

Whitley Award

As the country’s leading owl specialist, Acharya’s efforts are instrumental in bolstering conservation efforts in regions rich in biodiversity and cultural heritage.

The 2024 Whitley Awards cast a spotlight on the extraordinary achievements of conservationists worldwide, underscoring the critical importance of grassroots initiatives in preserving our planet’s natural heritage. As these trailblazers continue their tireless efforts, supported by the recognition and funding provided by the Whitley Fund for Nature, they inspire hope and drive positive change for generations to come.

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