Chester Zoo’s Andean Bear Project, developed and run in partnership with The University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and Bolivian NGO Prometa, has won a prestigious Whitley Award.

Work supported by Chester Zoo to protect critically endangered Philippine cockatoos by employing former poachers as wardens is also being recognised at the ceremony taking place in London today (Thursday 18 May).

Run by the Whitley Fund for Nature, the international prize honours exceptional conservationists working in grassroots conservation projects in developing countries. The six winners were chosen from a total of 166 contenders from 66 countries.

Andean bear at Chester Zoo

Dr Ximena Velez-Liendo, a Chester Zoo and WildCRU Conservation Fellow, is among this year’s winners with her project ‘An uphill climb: enabling coexistence of Andean bears and farmers in the Bolivian mountains’. Dr Ximena Velez-Liendo, Chester Zoo Conservation Fellow and Research Associate of WildCRU, said:

“Thanks to the Whitley Award, the funding will help us to get the research equipment we need to improve our understanding of the bears’ distribution and we will be able to work with more communities and expand our project.

I never imagined I would receive such an honour. The Whitley Awards are very prestigious and only the best of the best of conservation scientists receive them. It’s a dream come true!

Dr Ximena Velez-Liendo
Landscape, Bolivia

Earlier this year, we joined forces with WildCRU to deliver high-impact conservation research. This collaboration aims to provide new research to assist conservationists in developing innovative approaches to tackle global challenges such as human-wildlife conflict, livelihoods and sustainable development, and monitoring of populations of endangered species in the wild.

This project is key to our understanding of the human wildlife conflict facing Andean bears in their habitats in South America. This Whitley Award will provide the essential support we need to work with local communities, developing sustainable options for people to live alongside the species.

Dr Alexandra Zimmermann, Head of Conservation Science at Chester Zoo

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 winners with her project ‘Partnering with prisoners to safeguard the Critically Endangered Philippine cockatoo’. Indira said:

“I am so grateful first to the cockatoos who remained resilient to fight against all odds over the years. This prestigious recognition I dedicate to all Filipinos but most esp to all Palaweños who take pride in conserving this beautiful bird. The Whitley Award will push our efforts to reach and engage more people in all walks of life – be it a prisoner in penal farm, a businessman, military personnel or anyone.”

Pair of Philippine cockatoos

The participation of everyone is not an option; it is a must for things to happen!

Indira Lacerna-Widmann
Philippine cockatoo
Award winners!
Learn more about the two award winners and the conservation projects we're working on and why they are worthy winners.