Two National Geographic Explorers win 2018 Whitley Awards

Olivier Nsengimana and Munir Virani both won Whitley Awards for their conservation work with the Rwanda’s emblematic grey crowned crane and Kenya’s threatened vultures respectively.

By Kieren Puffett
Published 30 Apr 2018, 15:50 BST
Whitley Award Wiiners 2018
Whitley Award Winners 2018 (l to r): Shahriar Caesar Rahman, Anjali Chandraraj Watson, Kerstin Forsberg, Pablo Borboroglu, Munir Virani, Dominique Bikaba and Olivier Nsengimana. The awards were presented by HRH The Princess Royal.
Photograph by Whitley Awards 2018

The Whitley Awards 2018 recognised outstanding conservation work including projects to protect the grey crowned crane in Rwanda and vultures in Kenya run by two National Geographic grantees, Dr Olivier Nsengimana and Munir Virani respectively.

Munir Virani is leading a project to counter the dramatic decline in vulture numbers in Kenya due to poisoning of animal carcasses and Olivier Nsengimana is working with local communities to help conserve Rwanda’s grey crowned crane.

In 2018 Whitley Awards went to a total of six winners who secured a grant of £40,000 towards their project work.

Munir Virani has been working to deliver a strategy to protect vultures from being poisoned in Kenya. Virani said: "Vultures are often associated as the 'ugly betty' of the world, yet there are a vital part of our ecosystem and prevent the spread of deadly disease."
Photograph by Whitley Awards 2018

Besides Nsengimana and Virani, the four other winners were Kerstin Forsberg for her work on creating safe passage for manta rays, Dominique Bikaba for protecting the eastern lowland gorillas in Democratic Republic of Congo, Shariar Casear Rahman for his work in conserving Asia’s large tortoises and Anjali Chandraraj Watson for her project to create wildlife corridors for leopards.

Winners were presented with their awards at the Royal Geographic Society in London by HRH Princess Royal with Kate Humble, TV presenter, acting as the evening's master of ceremonies.

The Whitely Awards are celebrating 25 years since first launching in 1993 and have support a vast range of environmental work and animal conservation. Almost £15 million has been awarded to over 190 project leaders in 80 countries since the Whitley Awards began.

Olivier Nsengimana said: "Rwandese are working together to rebuild our country. As a conservationist, this is what I have to contribute to my country and I am passionate to do it as best I can."
Photograph by Whitley Awards 2018

There was a final award, a special hounour that is presented to a previous Whitley Award winner. This year the Gold Award, which includes a £60,000 project prize, went to Pablo Borboroglu for his outstanding work on safeguarding endangered penguins and recognises his remarkable contribution to global conservation.

HRH The Princess Royal, said: “Whitley Award winners hail from all over the world and come from a range of backgrounds, but they all have in common a fierce commitment and determination to make a real difference to local people and wildlife in their home countries.”

The Gold Award is the top Whitley Award and went to Pablo Borboroglu, who is spearheading a campaign to protect endangered penguins across the globe. Over the past 2 years, Pablo's work has brought together over 125 organisations and benefitted 1.2 million penguins.
Photograph by Whitley Awards 2018

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