Two GEF Small Grant Programme projects’ grantees win the “Green Oscar”

13 May 2013

The Turkish Mediterranean Conservation Society, the implementing NGO of the different projects under the support of the Strengthening the System of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas of Turkey Project and GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP), and the Kuzey Doğa Society, grantee partners of the GEF Small Grants Programme, received the Whitley Award at the beginning of May.

The Whitley Award, also known as “Green Oscar”, is a prestigious international nature conservation prize.

The Whitley Awards Ceremony was held at The Royal Geographical Society in London and hosted by Kate Humble.

The Royal Princess Anne Mountbatten-Windsor of Great Britain presented the Whitley Awards to the Chairman of the Turkish Mediterranean Conservation Society, Zafer Kızılkaya and to the President of the Kuzey Doğa Society, Dr. Çağan Şekercioğlu.

Zafer Kızılkaya won a Whitley Award donated by The William Brake Charitable Trust.

An engineer and underwater photographer as well as a marine researcher, Kızılkaya is the President of the Mediterranean Conservation Society (Akdeniz Koruma Derneği), an NGO which aims to conserve natural habitats and restore degraded coastal ecosystems in Turkey.

Mediterranean Conservation Society, which is the implementing NGO of the different projects under the support of the “Strengthening the System of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas of Turkey” project and GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP), is given the prize for its efforts on providing and increasing the Gökova Special Environmental Protection Area No-Fishing Zones’ effectiveness by participation of the local fishers.

Gökova Bay is one of the most spectacular marine-scapes in the Aegean Sea. Designated as a Special Environmental Protected Area (SEPA) in 1988, many important protected species are found here including critically endangered Mediterranean monk seals and sandbar sharks.

Kızılkaya leads a series of conservation projects in the bay, including working with local fishing communities to promote alternative sustainable livelihoods.

In his speech, Kızılkaya said: “Today over 200 fishermen and fisherwoman earn their livelihood in Gökova Bay. Thorough our many years of efforts, we developed a community based model to conserve Turkey’s first 6 “no take zones” and in a few years time, we can see the benefits in social and economic terms of “no take zones” together with the local communities which is a treasure for us.”

Dr. Çağan Şekercioğlu, Kuzey Doğa Society received their first Whitley Gold Award in 2008, and in this occasion, received the 20th Anniversary Whitley Gold Award, a recognition for outstanding past winners who have made a significant contribution to global conservation, in this case for the creation of Turkey’s First Wildlife Corridor.

Çağan Şekercioğlu was selected to be granted to this award among 167 outstanding past Whitley Award winners in the last 20 years. In other words, Çağan Şekercioğlu was selected as the most successful Whitley Award winner of the last 20 years for putting Turkey on the conversation map.

Dr. Çağan Şekercioğlu of the Kuzey Doğa Society (North Nature Society) has played a key role in gaining international Ramsar recognition for the Kuyucuk Lake in Turkey -home to 227 different bird species- and also initiated the country’s first-ever wildlife corridor for large carnivores with the support of GEF Small Grant Programme.

As stated by Dr. Şekercioğlu “The Whitley Gold Award is the culmination of years of ongoing conservation work in Turkey. This Whitley Gold Award is for Turkey’s first wildlife corridor, and emphasizes the importance of supporting local, grassroots conservationists because we are on the frontline and we can make a difference to people and wildlife that often come into conflict over limited space and resources.”

The Small Grants Programme in Turkey has been key supporter of Dr. Çağan Şekercioğlu through the following projects: “Developing the Basis for Turkey's First Wildlife Ecological Corridor Project” and “Research on Carnivore’s of Kars and Prevention of Human-Predator Conflicts via Wild Life Tourism”.

At the event, the HRH the Royal Princess said: “Every winner has a close connection with their community, as well as experience and an understanding of the issues, which often relate to human-wildlife conflict, but they also know how to make an impact through practical solutions, engaging people and initiating change at government level. That’s a rare skill. Let’s face it, there are ‘experts’ out there, who don’t always have that skill, but the Whitley Award winners do.”

What is Whitley Award?

The Whitley Award is the way the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) recognizes some of the world’s most dynamic conservation leaders and support projects founded on good science, community involvement and pragmatism.

They champion passionate individuals who are committed to precipitating long-lasting conservation benefits on the ground.

Through a process of reference, application and interview, WFN identifies effective national and regional conservation leaders and celebrates them through awards of up to £35,000.

Previous Whitley Award winners who have proved themselves and their work to be truly exceptional can receive additional funds up to £70,000 to continue their work.

For the online speeches of winners: