Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: An Indian wildlife biologist was presented with the prestigious Whitley Award on Thursday in recognition of her efforts to protect the endangered hornbill in India’s north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Dr Aparajita Datta was one of the eight conservationists from around the world to win the green Oscar. The ceremony was held in London at The Royal Geographical Society and the awards were presented by Whitley Fund for Nature patron, Princess Anne.
Hornbills hold a special place in many of the north-eastern tribes’ culture, making them vulnerable, as they are hunted for their beaks and feathers. The loss of habitat due to deforestation has also greatly threatened their existence.
According to WFN, “Focussing on hornbills as a conservation flagship species, Dr Datta is seeking to improve the status of the bird’s populations outside protected areas by establishing models of community-based conservation. She is spreading knowledge of the needs of hornbills and their importance, as seed dispersers, in the maintenance of healthy forest ecosystems.
“Key to Dr Datta’s approach is raising awareness of the threats to the bird’s survival, and creating a wider rural and urban constituency for conservation through a participatory community outreach programme that gets people involved”, said WFN.
Other winners include John Kahekwa-Democratic Republic of Congo, Zafer Kizilkaya-Turkey, Daniel Letoiye-Kenya, Zahirul Islam-Bangladesh, Ekwoge Abwe-Cameroon and Eugene Simonov-China, Mongolia, Russia.