A multi-level conservation project, which aims to protect the largest remaining population of wild CHIMPANZEES on the Foutah Djallon-Bafing River (FDBR) region in Guinea, West Africa has won this year’s St Andrews Prize for the Environment.
Great apes, especially Western African chimpanzees are severely threatened. The confirmation of a 4,700 strong population of chimpanzees in Guinea represents a unique opportunity to contribute to the survival of this largest-known and non-fragmented chimpanzee population in West Africa.
Threatened by agriculture, logging and poaching, an integrated landscape conservation project was initiated with the full support and collaboration of the Guinea Ministry of the Environment. The aim is to preserve the chimpanzees and their habitat through a participatory process including local populations and Guinean State services in an area of roughly 8,000 square kilometres of semi-mountainous, moderately anthropised and relatively well preserved landscapes.
At a ceremony at the University of St Andrews today, Christophe Boesch from the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF) was presented with the winning prize of $100,000 USD. He says: ‘Considering the fate of the chimpanzees throughout West Africa, this funding from the St Andrews Prize for the Environment will directly contribute to make a signal that chimpanzee conservation can work and at the same time profit the human population. I have spent many years working on a long-term field project in Taï National Park on the Ivory Coast and I have seen with my own eyes how the human population has increased around the park, how the forest cover has decreased and how the human pressures have increased on nature. The chimpanzees have brought so much into my life and this funding will go towards helping to secure them a future.’
The St Andrews Prize for the Environment is an environmental initiative by the University of St Andrews, which attracts scholars of international repute and carries out world-class teaching and research, and independent exploration and production company ConocoPhillips.
Lord Alec Broers, Chairman of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment Trustees says: ‘We are delighted to award this year’s prize to the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF). The prize money will make a significant difference to their work and I am confident that they will continue to grow with the support and expertise of the wider St Andrews Prize for the Environment community. The Prize seeks to reward those who propose novel ways to preserve the environment and biodiversity with projects having the potential for broader application. This year’s submissions were no exception – with over 400 entries from around the world to choose from, the Screening Committee and Trustees were once again spoilt for choice with a wide range of submissions from people who are ultimately leading the way in their field of environmental conservation.’
This year’s runners-ups, each presented with a cheque for $25,000 USD were:
NET-WORKS: From fishing nets to carpet tiles, the Philippines , NET-WORKS inclusive business model is designed to tackle the growing environmental problem of discarded fishing nets in some of the world’s poorest communities and fragile ecosystems, through a replicable community-based supply chain, which provides carpet tiles from the nets. The cross sector initiative combines the expertise of global conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the world’s leading carpet tile manufacturer, Interface Inc. Approximately 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear is discarded into the oceans each year where it continues to snare marine life. When nets are dumped on beaches, especially in developing countries where there is a lack of waste management infrastructure, they take centuries to degrade. NET-WORKS has been proactively encouraging community members to collect nets from the environment and direct from fishers at end of their life to sell them into the supply chain for manufacture into carpet tiles. The income being earned from the nets is used to cover the operating costs of the model, ensuring that it is sustainable and long-lasting.
THE RIPPLE EFFECT: An integrated approach to conservation in Malawi, This is an integrated approach to environmental issues, which are faced by approximately 250,000 people living in Northern Malawi. The project comprises conservation of forested areas, introduction of fuel-efficient cook-stoves supplemented by tree planting, and conservation of fish stocks in Lake Malawi. Most of the country’s deforestation is happening at household level due to the clearing of land for subsistence farming and the reliance on wood for cooking. This project is working with the forestry department to introduce new local by-laws protecting remaining forests. Over 90% of Malawians use large amounts of wood for cooking and the project has worked with the local community to develop a fuel-efficient cook-stove reducing the amount of firewood used and making cooking safer and healthier. In addition, Lake Malawi is suffering from over fishing therefore the project has introduced a closed season to allow fish time to breed and grow. Permits are also issued prohibiting migratory fishermen and controlling net length and mesh size. This project ethos empowers communities to achieve a sustainable future by providing a ‘hand UP’ not a ‘hand OUT’ and supporting them in finding their own innovative and sustainable solutions to the problems they identify.
Professor Louise Richardson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews says: ‘There are few issues of greater importance than the impact of climate change on our fragile environment and on some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Here at St Andrews we are committed to playing our part in addressing environmental challenges. Locally we are determined to be the first university in the UK to become carbon neutral for energy. Nationally our ground-breaking research in green energy and environmental protection is having a tangible impact on public policy. Internationally, the St Andrews Prize for the Environment is setting a new standard for environmental prizes. The 2015 Prize winner, the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation announced today, is an outstanding example of a transformative idea whose realisation we will follow with great interest. We are proud to be partners in such an inspirational programme, which supports creative and innovative projects that help to protect vulnerable communities from the ravages of environmental change.’
David Chenier, President, UK for ConocoPhillips says: ‘By sponsoring the St Andrews Prize for the Environment, ConocoPhillips is creating a path to a more secure and environmentally conscious energy supply for future generations. This forum lets us recognise groups and individuals with innovative environmental ideas and gives us the opportunity to focus on developing and sustaining their life changing projects.’