Juliette Velosoa wins the 2016 Whitley Award

HRH The Princess Royal will today present a Whitley Award, a prestigious international nature conservation prize worth £35,000 in project funding, to Juliette Velosoa at a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society, London, in honour of her commitment to conserve the Critically Endangered side-necked turtle in Madagascar.

Madagascar’s biodiversity is truly unique; around 90% of its reptiles, plants and mammals occur nowhere else on earth and the side-necked turtle or ‘rere’ is no different. These ancient turtles are threatened by over exploitation and severe loss of wetland habitats in a country where 75% of the population live below the international poverty line. Once found throughout western Madagascar, only 8 stable populations of the rere remain.

Juliette, our Rere Turtle Conservation Project Manager, has led the recovery for the rere since 1998. She is encouraging community-led resource management and restoration of wetlands using techniques that favour conservation and improve fish stocks for local people. Thanks to techniques such as nest protection and head-starting (where turtles are raised until big enough for release), rere populations are starting to show signs of recovery. Her Whitley Award will fund the development of locally-led management plans to enable sustainable use of wetlands in two key sites. The project is also helping to deliver vital ecosystem services for local people and developing guidance for further replication at a time when Madagascar has declared 83 new protected areas.

Edward Whitley, Founder of the Whitley Fund for Nature, said: “WFN focuses on conservation success stories and the progress that’s being made. The Awards Ceremony is about recognising and celebrating that – winning those small battles which cumulatively add up to significant change at the national level. In addition to the financial benefit of winning an Award, our winners receive professional communications training to turn scientists into ambassadors, so they’re able to communicate what they’re doing to the public and to policy makers.”

Juliette is one of seven individuals to have been awarded a share of prize money worth £245,000, winning the Whitley Award donated by the Garden House School Parents’ Association. Other winners in the 2016 Whitley Awards are:

Gilbert Baase Adum – Ghana

Saving Ghana’s frogs: a giant leap forward for biodiversity conservation -The Whitley Award donated by Sarah Chenevix-Trench

Farwiza Farhan – Indonesia

Citizen lawsuits: defending local livelihoods and Sumatra’s iconic species in the Leuser Ecosystem - The Whitley Award for Conservation in Ape Habitats donated by the Arcus Foundation

Makala Jasper – Tanzania

Forest stewardship: community conservation of coastal forests in the greater Selous Ecosystem, Tanzania - The Whitley Award donated by WWF-UK

Karau Kuna – Papa New Guinea

Tree kangaroos as a flagship to protect Papua New Guinea’s spectacular wildlife - The Whitley Award donated by The William Brake Charitable Trust in memory of William Brake

Muhammad Ali Nawaz – Pakistan

Snow leopard conservation: a landscape-level approach in the mountains of northern Pakistan - The Whitley Award donated by The Shears Foundation in memory of Trevor Shears

Alexander Rukhaia – Georgia

Magnificent migrants: safeguarding birds-of-prey negotiating the Batumi Flyway, Georgia - The Whitley Award donated by the Garfield Weston Foundation

Sir David Attenborough, a Trustee of the Whitley Fund for Nature, added:

“Empowering local people, who understand what the problems are, and who have the local knowledge, determination and vested interest to find the solutions is the very best way to ensure long term protection for the natural world.”

HRH The Princess Royal will also present the 2016 Whitley Gold Award - a prestigious profile and funding prize awarded to a previous Whitley Award winner in recognition of their outstanding contribution to conservation. The Whitley Gold Award is donated by The Friends and Scottish Friends of the Whitley Fund for Nature and is worth £50,000.

This year’s recipient is 2011 Whitley Award winner, Hotlin Ompusunggu for her project – ‘Dentistry and reforestation: scaling up models to protect orangutans and improve health, Borneo’. Unusually for a conservationist, Hotlin is a dental surgeon. Her NGO, Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) is providing healthcare incentives for local people to reduce the need to exploit rainforest habitat in Indonesia.

Click here to read more about Durrell and Juliette's work with the side neck turtle.