A great biodiversity project around the Kuyucuk lake in northern Turkey has won a prestigious award. The project's leader, Dr. Çağan Şekercioğlu, who I have mentioned before here, here and here, received the Whitley Gold award and the funding for the project that comes with it. The 161 species of birds which live on the lake now have a good chance to be seen by our kids and their kids and their kids. Congratulations Çağan!
Here is the press release.
Princess gives top nature award to Turkish birdlife conservationist
LONDON, UK: 21 MAY 2008 - HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) tonight presented one of the world’s top prizes for grassroots nature conservation – the Whitley Gold Award - to Dr Çağan Şekercioğlu of Turkey for his efforts to safeguard a bird-rich wetland in an area made famous by Orhan Pamuk’s novel, Snow.
The 32-year-old Kars-based anthropologist and biologist - who turned down a job on Wall Street to work in conservation - became Turkey’s first ever Whitley Gold Award winner during a ceremony held at the Royal Geographical Society, London, by The Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) – the UK-based charity which administers the annual international awards programme and which this year celebrates its15th anniversary.
His prizes included a Whitley Award of £30,000 (US$60,000 approx), donated by the William Brake Charitable Trust, another £30,000 (US$60,000 approx) as a Whitley Gold Award winner, long-term support and the opportunity to seek further WFN funding, currently worth more than £0.4m a year (US$0.8m).
A similar prize went to Rodrigo Hucke-Gaete of Chile after, for the first time in WFN’s history, the judges decided that both projects merited Whitley Gold Award status.
The award to Dr Şekercioğlu recognised his work around Kuyucuk Lake, in the harsh, mile-high, Kars province of north-eastern Turkey, that provides the setting for Snow, the best-selling novel by Nobel Laureate, Orhun Pamuk. The lake is a haven for birds, supporting up to 30,000 from over 160 species. It is also a vital for local people who rely on it to raise the livestock, crops and fuel that help them to survive minus 50 degrees C winters. It was with the needs of all lake users in mind that Dr Şekercioğlu began the Kars-Igdir Biodiversity Project. Using an approach new in Turkey, he and a local NGO are helping local people to see how good stewardship will raise their incomes, safeguard the lake and its species, and make the area attractive to bird-watchers and eco-tourists. Progress is already evident and the community is also backing efforts to win greater protection for the region.
For more details about this project and/or those of the other finalists, please see the Notes to Editors, overleaf.
Speaking before the results were announced, the fund’s founder, Edward Whitley, said: “The aim of the Whitley Awards is to find and support the environmental leaders who are helping to build a future where nature and people co-exist in a way that benefits both. Once again, this year’s finalists have risen to the challenge. They have impressed and heartened us by telling us their conservation success stories, and by demonstrating what can be achieved when vision, passion, intelligence and determination are brought to bear. In Çağan Şekercioğlu, Turkey has a real asset – a Harvard and Stanford graduate who turned down a Wall Street career to be an inspired conservation leader and someone we are privileged to be able to fund.”
The awards ceremony was co-hosted by BBC broadcaster Martha Kearney and held in front of a 350-strong audience that included Sir David Attenborough, a Turkish embassy representative, leading scientists, and celebrity conservation supporters.
In all, HRH The Princess Royal gave out prizes worth £350,000 (US$700,000). Others award winners came from Bangladesh, Borneo, Brazil, China, Guatemala, Haiti, India, and Peru.
Edward Whitley added: “As well as providing our winners with a substantial financial prize, we also strive to support them in wider ways – for instance, by offering them opportunities to seek further funding in future years and by uniting them with other donors and conservation organisations. They also become part of the Whitley Fund for Nature’s network of past finalists which, after 15 years, now takes in over 100 dynamic environmentalists in more than 50 countries, making it an invaluable source of experience, ideas and best practice.”
The Whitley Awards are sponsored and supported by a range of corporations and individuals including WWF-UK, Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, and HSBC. To find out more about the Whitley Fund for Nature and past Whitley Award recipients, please see: www.whitleyaward.org