Conservation Leadership Programme announces 2015 winners

The Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) has announced the winners of its 2015 Team Conservation Awards, with a total of US$300,480 awarded to 22 exceptional conservation projects that will address some of today’s most pressing challenges.

The CLP Team Awards provide support for early-career conservationists looking to develop their leadership skills and knowledge while implementing high-priority conservation projects. Alongside financial support, the awards also provide training and networking opportunities.

Marine wonders such as whale and sandbar sharks, manta rays, cetaceans, corals and seabirds are all set to benefit from this year’s awards, alongside a range of terrestrial species.

First step on a long journey

For many award winners, the support provided by the CLP Team Awards offers them the chance to take the first big strides in their careers and make real progress in conserving the species and ecosystems they care so passionately about.

Summing this up nicely is award winner Betty Laglbauer, who is co-leading a project with Anindita Rustandi to improve the sustainability of mobula ray fisheries in Indonesia. Mobulas, which are closely related to mantas, are often referred to as ‘flying rays’ due to their habit of launching themselves out of the water.

Increasing demand for their gill rakers for use in the Asian medicine market has put these species at grave risk of overfishing in Indonesia; however conservation efforts are hampered by a lack of information about population demographics and habitat use.

Mobula tarapacana. Credit: J. Fontes.

Mobula tarapacana - also known as the devil ray among many other monikers. © J. Fontes.

Using a combination of fish market surveys, citizen science and interviews with local stakeholders, the team will be working to estimate the extinction risk of four mobula ray species found in Indonesia’s waters, improving our understanding of their habitat use, and raising awareness about the need to conserve these animals.

At the same time, they will explore potential solutions to the overfishing problem, and make recommendations to government institutions.

Speaking on behalf of the team, Betty said, “We are extremely happy to be part of the 2015 award winners. Our first reaction while reading the [selection] email was pure joy, and a feeling that this moment defines a breakthrough – the first step in emerging careers as conservationists for each of us, and proof that our vision is slowly but surely materialising.”

This sentiment was echoed by winner Mahardika Rizqi Himawan (also from Indonesia, whose team is working on whale shark conservation) who said, “Our whale shark conservation journey begins here.”

About the awards

The CLP Team Awards are divided into three categories:

To learn more about the other 2015 winners, take a look at the CLP’s recently revamped website, which is home to a wealth of information and all the latest news from the programme.

You can also follow CLP on Facebook and Twitter.

Main image courtesy of the Whale Shark Indonesia Project.