Kenyan conservationist, Abdullahi Hussein Ali, has been honoured with the prestigious Whitley Award for his dedication to protecting the Critically Endangered hirola antelope.
In a statement to newsrooms on April 29, 2020, the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) announced Ali as one of the 6 winners of the Ksh5.4 million cash prize.
The Whitley Awards or ‘Green Oscars’, are awarded annually to individuals from the Global South by the UK-based conservation charity each worth £40,000 (Ksh5.4 million) in project funding.
The fund states that hirola antelope numbers have declined by more than 95% in the last four decades leaving behind fewer than 500 and putting the antelopes among the top 10 species at risk of imminent extinction.The critically endangered Hirola antelope being watched over by a warden at the Hirola Conservancy.File
Ali, who founded the Hirola Conservation Programme near the border of Kenya and Somalia was awarded for fighting to prevent the species from becoming the first extinct mammal since the Tasmanian tigers in 1936.
“I think of the hirola antelope as a relative. We have shared a home our whole lives and I have a strong obligation to get them back into Noah’s Ark. As the story goes, a combination of all species is needed to retain the careful balance of the ecosystem.
"Our aim is to provide locals with the knowledge and skills to restore the grasslands and save this species whilst building a sustainable future for the community," Ali was quoted.
Edward Whitley, Founder of WFN praised Ali for his commitment to his country and its wildlife, an attribute that he stated had provided a powerful formula to deliver lasting change in the society.
“He shows us a wonderful example of the benefits of a grassroots approach in conservation, and we are thrilled to highlight his achievements and support the scale-up of the Hirola Conservation Programme," he stated.
According to the fund, Ali will use the Whitely Award to work with communities to restore grasslands for the benefit of the Hirola and at the same time teach herders to use the land more sustainably to prevent overgrazing and support their livelihoods.
In addition, Ali and his team would be expected to provide training to a network of Somali pastoralists to track sightings of Hirola and work with schools teaching young students the importance of wildlife.
The WFN also announced that the funding would allow Ali to strengthen institutional frameworks needed to better govern protected areas.Abdi Hussein Ali pictured while on his day to day activities at the Hirola Conservancy.File
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