BP Conservation programme marks 15th anniversary

06/22/05

Programme to announce new five-year initiative

The BP Conservation Programme today marks 15 years of environmental achievement as it awards $600,000 to 28 teams of aspiring conservationists.

This year's 28 winning teams, selected from 400 applicants, will work on global biodiversity issues in 23 different countries. Projects range widely in scope from the conservation of the Trinidad piping-guan bird to protecting Darevsky's viper snake in Armenia, to reducing the threats to nesting leatherback turtles in Gabon.

Award winners will be recognized at a ceremony held tonight at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. The ceremony will feature renowned biologist and environmentalist Edward O. Wilson, Pellegrino University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, and will be hosted by Iain Conn, BP Group Executive Officer.

The highest grant level of $75,000, the Consolidation Award, is awarded to established projects previously supported by the Programme that have shown exceptional conservation progress and have developed strong, reciprocal relationships with the communities in which they work. Marsh deer that find refuge on floating islands in Argentina, the critically endangered Philippine crocodile, and a Kenyan community that depends on the sustainable harvesting of forest products will all benefit from the work being carried out by this year's three Consolidation Award winners.

The Programme has provided annual support to teams of conservationists in their early careers for 15 years. In the past 5 years alone, BP Conservation Programme's award winners have described approximately 25 species new to science, rediscovered 3 bird species thought extinct, and have influenced the environmental awareness of countless local communities. Teams have frequently collected the first essential baseline data in areas overlooked by professional scientists, or completed the first action towards significantly reducing a threat to a species or habitat. For 86% of past projects, work has continued in the areas where the BP Conservation Programme teams initially started their efforts.

When applying for an award, applicants must demonstrate initiative by designing their own projects from the proposal to implementation stages. Winning teams are required to invest in their project countries by including at least one national on their team and by engaging local stakeholders. They also carry out self-designed biodiversity projects, gather baseline data and contribute knowledge to conservation in some of the most ecologically important and environmentally threatened areas in the world.

"With the experience of setting up and carrying out their own projects, the teams develop a broad range of critical skills as conservationists, which gives them a competitive edge in the job market," said Marianne Dunn, BP Conservation Programme manager. "Through our support, these high-potential individuals progress in their careers with the ability to work with communities to collect good quality scientific data and to use knowledge on the ground for better decision making and governance. This is something the world needs now to help slow the rapid loss of our precious natural resources."

The 2005 ceremony will reflect upon the Programme's history of promoting biodiversity conservation, sustaining innovative partnerships and nurturing the careers of conservationists all over the world. Approximately 85% of the BP Conservation Programme's alumni have gone on to careers in conservation, including 42% who work at local, national or international NGOs and 43% who work in academia.

"The BP Conservation Programme gave me the opportunity to inform the world about conservation issues threatening one of the important global biodiversity sites located in Kenya, the Kikuyu Escarpment Forests. With the Programme's backing, funding for the project has multiplied as other donors have now financed more conservation efforts in the area. The training I received from the Programme gave me better skills for project implementation and management and made me more appreciative of other people's contributions. Now I am able to play a leading role in the conservation of the unique resources and the overall development of my community by linking a sound environment with improved livelihoods," said David Kuria, leader of the Vision 2005 Project.

Future plans for the Programme, which will be more closely integrated into BP's overall $500 million, five-year community investment commitment, will also be announced by Mr. Conn at the ceremony. Conservation projects will be funded as part of a more intense focus on educating and enhancing the capacity of young conservation leaders. Projects will be further streamlined with national conservation priorities and will link conservation activities more closely to BP's business practices. Overall, this new initiative, to be called the Energy and Environment Programme, will place a greater emphasis on support for people and projects in sensitive areas where BP has operational sites. The new version of this program is expected to launch in 2006.

The BP Conservation Programme is a partnership of BP, BirdLife International, Fauna & Flora International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Conservation International. Throughout the life of the project, advice, assistance with results dissemination and communications support services are available using the global network of conservation expertise embedded in this partnership. For more information about the BP Conservation Programme, please visit http://conservation.bp.com.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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