Princess rewards Guatemalan wildlife biologist with top conservation award
LONDON, UK: 21 MAY 2008 - HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) tonight presented one of the world's top prizes for grassroots nature conservation - a Whitley Award - to Marleny Rosales-Meda, of Guatemala, for her work to weave traditional Maya-Q´eqchi skills and wisdom into wildlife protection.
Marleny Rosales-Meda, 29, was one of nine people honoured at the ceremony, held at the Royal Geographical Society, London, by The Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) - the UK-based charity which administers the international awards programme and which this year celebrates its15th anniversary.
As part of her prize, she receives a Whitley Award project grant of £30,000 (US$60,000 approx) - donated by The Weston Family - plus long-term support and the opportunity to seek further WFN funding, currently worth more than £0.4m a year (US$0.8m).
In all, HRH The Princess Royal gave out prizes worth £350,000 (US$700,000). For the first time in the charity's history, the judges picked two winners for the schemes top prize - the Whitley Gold Award - which went jointly to Rodrigo Hucke-Gaete (Chile) and Çağan Şekercioğlu (Turkey) along £60,000 ($US120,000) project funding each. Other Whitley Award and Associate Award winners came from Bangladesh, Borneo, Brazil, Chile, China, Haiti, India, Peru and Turkey.
The award to Marleny Rosales-Meda recognised her work in the tropical wetlands and forests that are now part of the Laguna Lachuá National Park in central Guatemala where subsistence hunting is an age-old tradition for the local Maya-Q´eqchi tribes. It's a practice that has been thrown out of balance, however, by new settlers and the erosion of tribal knowledge. Wildlife biologist Marleny Rosales-Meda is leading an initiative to revive local pride in the Maya-Q´eqchi's unique spiritual values, customs and knowledge and build them into landscape and biodiversity management plans which benefit the people, their traditions, wildlife and the park.
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. An added bonus is that they give us hope. The example given by people like Marleny Rosales-Meda is an inspiration for us all."
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, leading scientists and environmentalists and celebrity conservation supporters.
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 Private Bank. To find out more about the Whitley Fund for Nature and past Whitley Award recipients, please see: www.whitleyaward.org
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Notes to Editors (including short-list in full)
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
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 Floresta.
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, end 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.