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Monday, March 03, 2003

The finalists for the Whitley Awards for international conservation have just been announced.

The prestigious Gold Award carries a prize of £50,000, while five others will receive Whitley Awards with a prize of £25,000 each and the other two finalists will receive Whitley Laing Grants.

Earth-Info.Net wishes all of the finalists the best of luck and hopes that you will find the following biographies of interest...

Dale Lewis, Zambia: – a 51 year old American-born environmentalist working in Zambia who has successfully managed to convert poachers to farming by teaching them new skills. Lewis now plans a regional trading centre to support local farmer groups – boosting their agricultural skills and encouraging their involvement in wildlife production.

John Waithaka, Kenya: who is developing a community-based ecotourism business in the Greater Amboseli region of Kenya. The development of such programmes linking economic activity to conservation means that agricultural development and land use changes pose less of a threat to the large mammals, their habitat and the Maasai culture.

Gustavo Kattan, Colombia: – whose Fundacion EcoAndina is helping to define a regional system of protected areas in the Andes of Colombia, an area of extraordinary biodiversity. The region – a major coffee-growing area – is heavily populated and severely deforested but under mandate from the Columbian government, Kattan’s Fundacion EcoAndina is determining which ecosystems are currently under-represented and where new protected areas can best be established.

Victor Vera, Paraguay: a 40 year-old Paraguayan who is fighting to save one of the most threatened and biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. Paraguay is losing forest faster than any other Latin American country but, with 97% of land in private hands, conservation is wholly dependent on private initiatives. Victor’s Natural Land Trust is working with land-owners and farmers in the San Raphael area of the Paraguayan Atlantic Forest to create private reserves and develop sustainable economic alternatives to deforestation.

Jon Paul Rodriguez, Venezuela: who has launched an ambitious programme of conservation and education initiatives on the Venezuelan island of Margarita. Margarita is the only island in the Caribbean with native carnivore populations, including the ocelot, but at least seven endemic birds and mammals here are under threat. Rodriguez’s projects range from monitoring the yellow-shouldered parrot to encouraging locals to protect sea turtle nests.

Ines Hinojosa, Bolivia: a 37 year old Bolivian who is helping the isolated Ayoreo community of Santa Cruz state protect the last fragment of the Chiquiano-Chaco transitional forest. The area is under pressure from large commercial soybean operations but local people are keen to develop sustainable economic activities, such as weaving, that are more in keeping with their way of life.

Gregor MacLennan, Peru: who is helping local Nahua people in the remote Purus River area of the Peruvian rainforest protect and secure their land and resources against increasing exploitation by oil, gas and timber companies. The remoteness of the region and the lack of state or NGO presence means violations of environmental and human rights frequently go unreported.

Raman Sukumar: India: who has devoted his life to saving elephants in the Nilgiri region of Southern India, a biodiversity hotspot which is home to the world’s largest population of Asian elephants Sukumar plans detailed mapping of land-use in the area as well as education and training to help promote elephant conservation amongst local people. By leveraging private enterprise and community involvement, Sukumar hopes to mitigate elephant-human conflict with initiatives such as electric fences or ditches.

The winners will be announced on March 13th...