Run by the Whitley Fund for Nature, the international prize honours exceptional conservationists working in grassroots conservation projects in developing countries. The applicants are currently being assessed by a panel of judges for the chance to win an award and a prize of £35,000 to support the project over one year. The Whitley Awards Ceremony will be presented by HRH The Princess Royal at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Thursday 18 May.

Andean bear caught on camera trap
Chester Zoo’s Andean Bear joint project, ran in partnership with WildCRU, is among the finalists

Previous winners include Chester Zoo project partners Arnaud Desbiez from the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project, Patricia Medici from the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative and Inza Koné from the Tanoé Forest project.

Arnaud Desbiez meeting David Attenborough at Whitley Awards 2015
Patricia Medici speaking at TED talk
Previous Chester Zoo supported Whitley Award winners

Chester Zoo’s recently launched Andean Bear joint project, run in partnership with WildCRU and Bolivian NGO Prometa, is among the finalists. Our conservation Fellow, Dr Ximena Velez-Liendo, is working towards understanding the level of human-bear conflicts while also monitoring the Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus) presence and distribution in the Inter-Andean dry forests in Bolivia.

With severe droughts affecting the country’s agriculture production, people are shifting from agriculture to livestock-raising, which has led to an increase in encounters between local communities and bears.

Applying a cross disciplinary approach between both natural and social sciences, the project aims at developing practical interventions for immediate reduction in bear conflict, developing alternate livelihoods to local communities, and bringing positive change and monitoring the Andean bear populations.

Dr Ximena Velez-Liendo has been shortlisted for the 2017 Whitley Awards

Indira Lacerna-Widmann, chief operating officer of the Katala Foundation, a Philippines-based organisation which successfully implemented the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme (PCCP), is also among the prestigious finalists. Chester Zoo has been supporting the PCCP since 2003.

Restricted to lowland forest areas and mangroves, the Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia) suffered a rapid decline in the last decade bringing the species to the brink of extinction. Employing former poachers as wardens, the foundation is playing a key role in conserving and restoring the most viable subpopulations of the endangered species and its habitat.

Working in five locations in Palawan, the Katala Foundation’s sites include a project in Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF). The IPPF is surrounded by forest with high levels of biodiversity and the project is working with the staff and prisoners to monitor and protect the cockatoos and other wildlife.

Watch the below video from the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme to find out more about the project and the work that’s going on to help protect this bird species:

Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme