Marsh Awards recognise outstanding achievements of two young conservationists

Two exceptional young conservationists – Julie Hanta Razafimanahaka and Patricia Davis – were announced as recipients of the 2014 Marsh Awards at an event in London last night.

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) Deputy Chief Executive Ros Aveling commented: “The mission of the awards is to recognise those special people and organisations who are having a profound impact on conservation activities where they operate, and these two individuals are terrific examples of this.”


From strength to strength

As Director of FFI’s Malagasy partner Madagasikara Voakajy, Julie Hanta Razafimanahaka’s story is an inspirational one, showing how a passionate and determined young woman worked her way up the organisation’s ladder, from volunteer to director, in nine years.

Julie first joined Madagasikara Voakajy as a volunteer researcher on a bat conservation project funded by the Conservation Leadership Programme.

Julie experienced her first trip away from Madagascar in 2005 and gained valuable insights into global conservation issues. The trip taught her two things: that language shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving conservation goals,  and that sharing work challenges with people from different cultures helps form successful multinational working relationships.

Richard Jenkins from IUCN accepted the award on behalf of Julie. Credit: FFI.

Richard Jenkins from IUCN accepted Julie’s award on her behalf. Credit: FFI.

Julie was recognised by the UK Government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as one of Madagascar’s most promising conservation scientists, receiving funding to study an MSc in Applied Ecology and Conservation at the University of East Anglia.

After returning to Madagasikara Voakajy to work on bushmeat projects, she took it upon herself to mentor others on skills she honed during her MSc, particularly statistics.

A place on the prestigious Kinship Conservation Fellows programme allowed Julie to further explore the theme of sustainable trade of game species in western Madagascar and she was invited to join a conference in Spain as one of the key speakers – which was a major recognition at a relatively early stage in her career.

Now Director at Madagasikara Voakajy, Julie manages a team of 40 people and oversees the organisation’s fundraising, financial management, science, community engagement and operations, and the organisation continues to go from strength to strength under her dynamic leadership.

Taking the initiative

Patricia Davis grew up in London and has been passionate about the natural world since she was about four years old. She studied Zoology at the University of Oxford and after learning to scuba dive decided that she wanted to focus on exploring marine biodiversity further.

Upon graduating, she enrolled on a Masters degree in Protected Area Management at James Cook University in northern Queensland, Australia, and became fascinated and inspired by the Great Barrier Reef and its dugongs – animals that have become a focal point for her career.

FFI Deputy Chief Executive Ros Aveling announced the winners. Credit: FFI.

FFI Deputy Chief Executive Ros Aveling announced the winners. Credit: FFI.

After completing her Masters, she travelled to Palau in Micronesia, where her love and knowledge of dugongs grew.

There she encountered people with strong traditional knowledge of marine species as well as one of the smallest and most remote dugong populations in the entire world.

Patricia conducted aerial surveys and self-taught autopsies on salvaged dugong carcasses and worked closely with fishing communities and rangers to highlight the plight of these animals.

In the same year she co-founded ‘Community Centred Conservation’ (also known as C3), and turned her attention to the Comoros Archipelago off the east coast of Africa where she conducted research, community awareness and conservation activities on the island’s small but unstudied dugong population.

Patricia completed the first national survey of dugongs and their habitat and encouraged the Comoros to sign the new Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species, which deals with dugongs amongst other species.

Dugong. Credit: Laura Dinraths.

The dugong is the only living representative of a once-diverse family. Credit: Laura Dinraths.

Madagascan Government representatives invited her to extend her dugong work to their country, and she also built foundations in the Philippines to establish the first dedicated dugong research and conservation programme in the province of Palawan, the last frontier for biodiversity conservation in the country.

Patricia’s efforts have been recognised in recent years by the Conservation Leadership Programme’s Future Conservationist Award (2007) and Follow-up Award (2009), as well as the Future for Nature Award (2012) and the Environmental Laureate Award (2014).

C3’s ‘Dugongs for life’ project in Madagascar also received the top prize in this year’s CLP Awards. Worth $50,000, this Leadership Award builds upon work completed under the two previous CLP grants, and will empower Malagasy communities near Nosy Hara Marine Park to become stewards of their marine resources.