A snow leopard conservationist from India who has been working across the world to protect the big cat with a pioneering community-led approach has won a prestigious nature award in London.
Dr Charudutt Mishra was presented the £100,000 Whitley Gold Award from UK wildlife conservation charity Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN), which supports leaders, at a ceremony this week. The award is geared towards enabling the “ground-breaking” snow leopard conservationist to replicate ethical on every continent.
“This project addresses one significant gap in conservation worldwide – our ability to work effectively with local communities, who represent one of the most important stakeholders in conservation efforts,” said Mishra, who is the first international Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT).
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“Underlying the project is my strong belief that what we do in conservation matters, but how we do it matters even more,” he said.
The conservationist’s pioneering approach has been named an “outstanding conservation practice” by the UN Biodiversity Conference, in recognition that collective, locally-led conservation is essential to realising government ambition of protecting 30 per cent of the planet by 2030.
“Charu epitomises the grassroots approach that WFN exists to support. His revolutionary, lifelong dedication to working with local people has reshaped the conservation landscape to the benefit of all, including those communities of the high Himalayas and their majestic snow leopards,” said Edward Whitley OBE, Founding Trustee of WFN.
“Having worked with Charu since he received his initial Whitley Award 17 years ago, I have also seen his efforts to support other conservation leaders internationally, not least across all 12 countries in the snow leopard’s range. I am delighted that the Whitley Gold – our top prize – will give him the opportunity to expand this work by helping hundreds more wildlife conservationists, on every continent, to prioritise an equitable future,” he said.
Mishra’s “PARTNERS Principles” – or Presence, Aptness, Respect, Transparency, Negotiation, Empathy, Responsiveness, and Strategic support – are distilled from 25 years of successful collaboration with communities to conserve snow leopards. With traditional “fortress conservation” having displaced an estimated 130 million people worldwide, inclusive nature conservation that champions the co-existence of people and wildlife is seen as crucial to a transformative solution to the biodiversity crisis.
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“With the Whitley Gold Award, Mishra and his team will train conservationists on every continent to apply the PARTNERS Principles in their local landscape. In addition to working with 250 frontline conservationists, they will empower 20 conservation leaders including WFN alumni as future advocates, establish a collaborative problem-solving hotline and enhance government buy-in for this equitable approach,” WFN said.
Mishra also becomes a mentor to six mid-career conservationists who received this year's Whitley Awards – the charity’s flagship prizes – worth £40,000 each in project funding. The winners come from West Africa, Nepal, Brazil, Indonesia, Argentina and Ghana and have been recognised for their pioneering solutions to the biodiversity crisis.
The awards were presented by the ’s royal patron – Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, alongside Trustee and world-renowned British conservationist Sir David Attenborough. Besides the funding, the award winners receive training and worldwide media profile including films narrated by Attenborough.