GRASP Scientific Advisor Earns Whitley Award

20th May 2012 Press Releases

Primate expert Inza Koné, who has served as a member of the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) Scientific Commission since 2007, has won a Whitley Fund for Nature award in support of community conservation projects in his native Cote d’Ivoire.

Koné was honored for his work to protect the 12,000-hectare Tanoé Forest, which is home to critically endangered monkey species, including Miss Waldron’s red colobus, which is so rare that scientists had considered it extinct as recently as 2000.

Koné received his Whitley Fund for Nature award at a ceremony the Royal Geographical Society in London, where he was lauded for “acting to secure a better future for people and wildlife in a last stronghold of West Africa’s three most endangered primates. “ Princess Anne presented the award, which included a USD $50,000 cash prize.

Koné is the Head of Biodiversity and Food Security at the Swiss Centre for Scientific Research in Cote d’Ivoire and the leader of the Country’s Research and Actions for the Conservation of Primates programme (RASAP-CI).

“GRASP is extremely proud of Inza and his work to protect primates and their habitat in West Africa,” said GRASP coordinator Doug Cress. “Although based upon science, his work also required the mobilization of communities to play an active role in conserving the forests. That sort of broad-based effort – while difficult – gives us hope that Africa’s primates can have a secure future.”

The Tanoé Forest forms a natural border between Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, but the region traditionally received little conservation attention. It wasn’t until surveys revealed the existence of roloway guenons, white-naped mangabey monkeys, and Miss Waldron’s red colobus – coupled with plans to convert much of the forest in palm oil plantations beginning in 2008 – that Koné could assemble the necessary community support to protect the area.

Said Koné: “Local chiefs were enthusiastic about initiating a conservation programme based on the empowerment of local communities. Discussions with them and other community members highlighted their willingness to be organized to protect ancestral heritage and biodiversity for future generations.”

To maintain local commitment, Koné and his team provided access to safe drinking water, medical supplies and education to demonstrate that conservation does not have to be a choice between protecting wildlife and human welfare, but instead that conservation and poverty reduction can go hand-in-hand. They are also working to return forest management and biodiversity monitoring responsibilities back to the communities.

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May 2012