Fauna & Flora International in-country partner selected as Whitley Award Finalist

Elena Bykova from the Institute of Zoology in Tashkent has been nominated as a finalist in the prestigious Whitley Awards for her work in saiga conservation in Uzbekistan.

Elena Bykova has been an in-country partner of Fauna &Flora International (FFI) since 2004 and has provided invaluable experience and on-the-ground support to FFI’s saiga antelope conservation programme on the Uzbek Ustyurt Plateau.

Winning the Whitley Award would assist Elena’s work, building on her past experience of participatory monitoring of the saiga in Uzbekistan. “The highest priorities of my work over the next five years are to stop saiga poaching in Uzbekistan and stabilise saiga status,” Elena says.

There is much uncertainty around the Ustyurt saiga population. Elena continues, “There seems to be a rapid decline but unless we get a monitoring programme in place to see how many there are and where, we can’t protect them properly. This is an urgent priority to save this unique population of the species”.

The Uzbek saiga population is one of only five in the world, and the only one still declining rapidly. Elena Bykova and her husband Alexander Esipov have been working with FFI in the field of awareness raising and community engagement, policy development, research and incorporation of the extractive business sector in conservation planning.

Each year The Whitley Awards attract applications from conservation leaders of great dedication, inspiration and drive. These people are focused on practical action and are making a difference, protecting habitat from destruction and species from extinction with the support of the local people who live closest to nature.

“We can have long-term coexistence of people and saigas if local people want to save the saiga. This work contributes to global priorities through the conservation of a Critically Endangered species,” Elena said.

The Whitley Awards will be announced on Thursday 12 May in London.