The Whitley Award (WA) is one of the most prestigious conservation awards in the world today, established in 1993, and the award was to recognize and celebrate the leaders who were effectively preserving nature on a regional and global level. Edward John Whitley, the founder, was a financial advisor who founded Whitley Asset management, a private financial consulting firm. His philanthropic call turned him into an environmentalist when he founded the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN). The Fund was established to financially support local environmentalists working around the world. In 1994 he was awarded the first Whitley Award, worth GBP 15,000, for an environmentalist’s efforts to protect the endangered Seahorse, in what was known as the Seahorse Project in the Philippines.
History of the awards
Since 1993, when WNF was founded, the Fund has attracted many donors, both individual and charitable foundations, to support the efforts. Starting in 2017, the Fund was able to distribute over 1 GBP per year in various conservation projects. As an exceptional fund, Whitley Fund for Nature has Sir David Attenborough as one of its trustees. Attenborough is one of the most famous British broadcasters and producers of conservation documentaries whose conservation contribution has been honored by naming 15 species and genera after him. WFN has His Highness the Princess of Royal as patron.
The Whitley Awards
The Whitley Awards ceremonies are hosted by WFN patron, Her Highness the Princess Royal each year at the Royal Geographical Society. With 2017 the Whitley awards, also known as “Green Oscars”, started with only GBP 15,000, back in 1994, had reached GBP 35,000, making it one of the most important conservation prizes. The awards particularly recognize the work done outside the developed world, and the goal is to bring international attention to individual field works committed to long-term conservation benefits mainly in developing countries. The first Whitley Award was awarded to Dr. Amanda Vincent, a marine biologist of Canadian origin based at the University of Oxford for her extensive study of biology and conservation of seahorses. According to data published on the Whitley Award website, the award has allowed Dr. Amanda to create a new marine reserve and to examine the state of seahorses in Southeast Asia, giving a new lifeline to this magnificent and threatened marine species. The aim of the Award was to achieve a lasting impact on supporters of exceptional conservation for diversity with a passion to spread the message to a wider audience. The Whitley Gold Award was awarded to the previous year’s Whitely Award winner and funding is provided up to a maximum of GBP 50,000 in project funding over a year. Ecosystems are subject to environmental changes, to mitigate these dynamics, the Whitley-Segre Conservation Fund (WSCF), which is a one-year funding program. The Fund was another of the key funds to offer further support to the previous year’s prize winners to promote their projects in addressing environmental dynamics and ensuring lasting change for endangered species in the world’s development.
Whitley Fund for Nature has had a direct impact on the ground, as the funds are allocated to projects already underway and have shown tangible results. For the last 23 years, the Whitley Awards program has supported conservation leaders 190 in more than 80 countries. These conservation leaders have had a positive impact on the earth’s environment, coastal and marine areas, as well as on wetlands and ecosystems of fresh water. The endangered species have been saved, the human-animal conflict has been mitigated in some points and, more importantly, conservation leaders are optimistic that their efforts will be successful.