Twelve months is a mere blink of an eye in the conservation world, where hard work can take a decade or more to bear fruit. As we prepare to usher in what will be another crucial year for biodiversity and the planet, we’re taking a moment to look back at some of the successes that gave Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and our partners around the world cause for celebration in 2021.

From Saint Lucia to Sumatra via South Sudan, here’s a whistle-stop tour through some of the uplifting news from our project teams and policy initiatives across the globe.

Saiga surge

Saiga numbers in the Kazakhstan stronghold of this critically endangered antelope are continuing to swell, and the latest aerial census conducted by FFI’s partner ACBK has recorded a population boom. An estimated 842,000 saiga are now present in Kazakhstan, over half a million higher than the previous survey numbers.

“The recent survey results indicate that the saiga populations are recovering with remarkable speed…The success of the initiative is promising and inspiring, yet we should remember that, as a species, the saiga is still in great need of protection measures.”

Dr Sergey Sklyarenko, ACBK Science Director & Head of the Centre for Conservation Biology

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Kon Plong cornucopia

Owston’s palm civet, Kon Plong, Vietnam. Credit: FFI

The first-ever systematic and intensive surveys of the montane forests of Kon Plong in Vietnam’s central highlands have recorded a veritable treasure trove of biodiversity comprising nearly plant and vertebrate 1,000 species, including rarities such as the Asiatic black bear, Owston’s civet and the endemic golden-winged laughingthrush.

“We had long suspected that Kon Plong’s forests were important for Vietnam’s biodiversity, but even we were surprised by the incredible number and diversity of species that were recorded during our surveys. It really puts Kon Plong up there on the international stage as a globally important hotspot.”

Oliver Wearn, Technical Advisor, Vietnam

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Caribbean fieldcraft

Brown Booby with newly hatched chick, Dog Island. Credit: Richard Brown/FFI/DIRP

Brown booby with newly hatched chick, Dog Island, Anguilla. Credit: Richard Brown/FFI/DIRP

The donation of a state-of-the-art new boat has dramatically improved the ability of FFI’s partners in Anguilla to monitor and protect the country’s natural heritage and, crucially, to safeguard the entire archipelago of small islands including remote offshore cays.

“The Anguilla National Trust has been working with landowners, the government, international partners and numerous other stakeholders for well over a decade to conserve the incredible biodiversity on Anguilla’s offshore islands and within our marine parks. This boat represents an important investment in that work.”

Avon Carty, President, Anguilla National Trust Council

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Made in Madagascar

Julia Razafimanahaka planting a baobab seedling. Credit: Madagasikara Voakajy

Julie Razafimanahaka, head of FFI’s long-time partner in Madagascar, and a former beneficiary of Conservation Leadership Programme support, was named as the winner of the Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa 2021, which was presented to her by HRH Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge.

“This year, the conservation community in Madagascar reported more bad news than good. We are in critical need of fresh air, some positive news to boost our energy and move forward. Winning the Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa couldn’t come at a better time. It enlightened my team and many Malagasy citizens.”

Julie Razafimanahaka, Executive Director, Madagasikara Voakajy

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Ocean motion

Octocoral in submarine trench. Credit: NOAA

Delicate octocoral in submarine trench. Credit: NOAA

The adoption of Motion 69 at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille – calling for a global moratorium on deep-sea mining – was music to the ears of FFI and the broad coalition of concerned conservationists who had been clamouring for the world’s governments to change their tune.

“The resounding support for the Motion sends a strong message to those who are trying to force this destructive industry into play: that there is no social licence to proceed and that the International Seabed Authority needs to take a long hard look at its mandate. They need to listen to the science and exercise restraint and common sense.”

Pippa Howard, Director, Extractives & Development Infrastructure

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Rare rabbit rescue

Sumatran striped rabbit

The rescued Sumatran striped rabbit prior to release. Credit: KSNP

After its photo was spotted on Facebook and FFI notified the park authorities, a Sumatran striped rabbit – widely regarded as the world’s rarest bunny – was rescued and safely released into the forest in Kerinci Seblat National Park.

“The successful rescue of the Sumatran striped rabbit was a true team effort and is testament to the broad network of support that operates around the park.”

Debbie Martyr, Technical Advisor, Indonesia

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Pellet-free puffins?

“…the pellets of poison are flooding our waters.” But hopefully not for much longer. Puffins, Inner Hebrides. Credit: Tim Knight

FFI provided technical support for the development of a groundbreaking, globally applicable standard to help prevent pollution from plastic pellet spillage, a serious threat to the health of our oceans and to a wide range of marine life, including fish and seabirds.

“Publication of the PAS510 marks a huge step forward in efforts to tackle supply chain pellet loss in global value chains by offering a robust, credible and risk-based approach to evidencing year-on-year improvements towards the goal of zero pellet loss.”

Tanya Cox, Senior Technical Specialist, Marine Plastics

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Drama in Ziama

Forest elephant in Guinea. Credit: Gaston Touaro

A previously undocumented family of eight African forest elephants – including three calves – was captured on camera in Guinea’s Ziama Massif, strongly suggesting that the efforts of FFI and our partner Centre Forestier N’Zérékoré to protect the forest habitat of this critically endangered species are helping to ensure its survival.

“You never know what you’re going to get when you put out camera traps and go through the images – but three forest elephant calves in one group was amazing to see…The African forest elephant is still in grave danger, but there is hope. We know what to do to protect them.”

Neus Estela Ribera, Landscape Manager, Guinea

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Marvellous Melvin

Meeting Melvin: the botanist of Saint Lucia 2

Melvin Smith with one of the many pencil cedars he has grown from seed. Credit: Adams Toussaint/FFI

Saint Lucia’s self-taught botanist and Disney Conservation Hero, Melvin Smith, has added more than 400 new species to his country’s plant list and helped save the critically endangered pencil cedar from extinction by successfully rearing over 700 new seedlings – seven times the original population in the wild.

“The Disney Conservation Hero Award is significant because it shows me, FFI, Disney and the rest of the world that an extremely rare plant can get the help it needs from dedicated organisations collaborating with dedicated people.”

Melvin Smith, Saint Lucia

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South Sudan sanctuary

A magnificent male bongo caught on camera. Credit: Bucknell University/FFI

The future of globally important wildlife including endangered chimpanzees and pangolins looks a little brighter after Bangangai Game Reserve, which covers more than 17,000 hectares of severely threatened forest habitat in an ecologically unique region of South Sudan, was granted formal protection.

“The regazettement of Bangangai is a significant milestone when considering South Sudan’s turbulent history and the little protection these incredible wildlife areas were previously afforded. It is encouraging to receive this formal recognition and increasing support from the government and local communities.”

Benoit Morkel, Landscape Manager, South Sudan

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Deer Santa

The critically endangered large-antlered muntjac triggers a camera trap in Virachey National Park. Credit: FFI

A comprehensive camera-trap survey conducted in a remote corner of Cambodia has revealed a rich array of rare and threatened species, including charismatic cats and the first-ever photos from the country of the critically endangered large-antlered muntjac.

“FFI’s expedition was the most wide-ranging biodiversity survey of Virachey ever conducted. We certainly are not having a Blue Christmas sorting through the camera trap images, and are very much looking forward to continuing our work in the park in the new year.”

Jeremy Parker, Country Director, Cambodia

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We all want to change the world

This year has seen us make real progress
towards a brighter future for the planet.
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