The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) – Ian Redmond Conservation Award was created to encourage innovation, inspire leadership, and offer hope in the field of great ape conservation in Africa and Asia. The 2nd GRASP – Ian Redmond Conservation Awards winners were chosen by a five-member committee comprised of representatives from UN Environment, UNESCO, the GRASP Secretariat, and the GRASP Scientific Commission, as well as Ian Redmond himself. Four winners — three from Africa and one from Asia — each played an integral role helping ensure the survival of great apes worldwide.
“There are many unsung heroes working on the conservation frontline, trying to bring greater attention to the protection and conservation to Great Apes in Africa and Asia,” said Born Free president Will Travers. “The GRASP – Ian Redmond Conservation Awards are an important way of recognising the vital contribution made by these dedicated individuals and provides useful funding support for their efforts. Along with other partners, Born Free is delighted to be able to sponsor the awards and this year’s outstanding winners.”
EDI RAHMAN (INDONESIA)
There are several threats faced by Bornean orangutans in West Kalimantan: human conflict, logging, agriculture, fires, illegal pet trade, hunting and weak law enforcement. In the heart of the Gunung Palung National Park, the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Programme (GPOCP) is fighting against the decline of the orangutan population, which has dropped by 50% in the last 60 years. This project involves several steps to approach each of the issues. Purchasing a GPS unit and camera will increase surveillance for illegal activity. Public awareness will bring the villagers to understand the necessity of a protected forest and the intrinsic value of orangutans. Community meetings will inform the villages about the rules and regulations to preserve wildlife and valuable ecosystems for future generations. Anti-poaching efforts currently in place will benefit from increased surveillance and public awareness. Short-term success is measured by community members involved, informational materials distributed, and cases brought to court. Long-term success is measured by the increase of orangutan populations and a decrease in wildlife crime.
These steps will be implemented and monitored by Edi Rahman and his team at GPOCP. As the current Animal and Habitat Protection Manager, Edi has worked for over 12 years to protect orangutansand their habitat throughout the West Kalimantan. Having already facilitated workshops and fought for legal land rights for the villagers of the region, he is well equipped and experienced to take on this challenging role.
RACHEL ASHEGBOFE IKEMEH (NIGERIA)
The Idanre forest cluster, arguably the last refuge in southwestern Nigeria for the Nigerian-Cameroon chimpanzee, is under threats due to habitat degradation and hunting. This project initiates with the establishment of a 400km2 conservation area that will offer refuge for chimpanzees, elephants and other native species. A management plan will then outline urgent actions required to protect the area and its inhabitants from identified threats. In addition, a public awareness campaign based on radio, television, and online platforms will add pressure on government authorities and inform the public on conservation issues. In the meantime, the Copenhagen Zoo is running genetic analysis on hair samples to identify the subspecies status of the Nigerian-Cameroon chimpanzee.
Rachel Ashegbofe Ikemeh is the project coordinator for these research and conservation efforts. With approximately 10 years of experience in field research and conservation programme management in southwestern Nigerian forests, she is a welcomed candidate to lead the efforts to establish more conservation areas. Involved in the establishment of a wildlife sanctuary within Omo forest reserve in 2010, and co-founder of the SW/Niger Delta Forest Project, her work is based around conservation for chimpanzee populations in Nigeria.
ASRIL ABDULLAH (INDONESIA)
While fighting to halt the wave of deforestation in Sumatra, the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme has risen to a new challenge. Taking confiscated ex-captive orangutans from the illegal wildlife trade, members are reintroducing them into the wild to establish novel, genetically-viable, self-sustaining populations. Two forests, the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in the Jambi Province and the Jantho Pine Forest Nature Reserve in Aceh Province, currently hold over 260 reintroduced orangutans. The project is a large undertaking which will help establish 3 monitoring camps in the Jantho forest. These stations will help monitor the health and wellness of the released orangutans to assure their survival, and will provide valuable data to better understand wild orangutan behavior. Remote video surveillance will also shine light onto the illegal activities in Jantho, protecting the whole ecosystems.
This project is led by Asril Abdullah who has acquired nearly twenty years of experience in orangutan conservation. From university research to years in the field, and many more devoted to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, this conservation project is founded out of heart and hard work. As profoundly stated by Asril, “whatever efforts we can take to reverse this [downward] trend simply must be made”.
MADELEINE NYIRATUZA (RWANDA)
Gishwati-Mukura National Park is both biodiversity rich and a provider of ecosystems services for western Rwanda. Unfortunately, the Gishwati Forest has declined almost 98% in the past 30 years, due to increased harvest of minerals, wild meats, timber and grasses, leading to decline in eastern chimpanzees, golden monkeys, mountain monkeys, and many more species. The Forest of Hope Association, a Rwandan NGO, intends to increase local awareness on the value of the species in Gishwati Forest. Using 13 established eco-clubs in villages surrounding the forest, educational materials, such as posters, pamphlets, or blogs depicting human threats to chimpanzees, their role in the ecosystem and mitigation of communicable diseases, will be created and distributed, employing both the cultural power of elders’ reverence and an innovative tactic to empower the youth.
Madeleine Nyiratuza is the founder of the Forest of Hope Association and the the lead on this awareness project. Working in the field since her master’s thesis on linkages between local people and the Gishwati forest in 2008, this has become her claim: to protect and save the Gishwati forest. Increasing positive attitudes of local people towards forest conservation from 27% in 2008 to 75% in 2013, she is more than prepared to take on this vital role of education and forest protection.