Celebrating 30 years of CLP


Reflecting on turning the big 3-0.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Conservation Leadership Programme. It got me thinking about the year 1985 – the year CLP gave out its first award. What was happening back then?

I did a little research on the Internet and found out that it was a year in which several big ideas took hold that have transformed the world as we know it.

In March 1985 a company called Symbolics became the Internet’s first registered domain name. Now, 30 years later, there are approximately 275 million domain names. The Internet is connecting people from Brazil to Brazzaville and we now have at our fingertips access to an unbelievable amount of information. It truly is a “world wide web”.

Also in 1985, one of the first mobile phone calls in the UK was made from London announcing the Vodafone network was up and running. At that time, no one could have imagined the impact that phone call would have across the globe. Today, there are 6.8 billion mobile phones in service worldwide, revolutionizing the way we connect and communicate.

Another important event, which may have gone undetected back in 1985, was an idea launched in Cambridge, UK – the “Conservation Expedition Award” – aimed at supporting young scientists collecting data on globally threatened species.

The inaugural award sent a team of British students on an expedition to study birds in Madagascar. This award has grown into what is known today as the Conservation Leadership Programme.

While our numbers are not in the billions, or even millions, what started as a lone award in 1985 has grown into a global programme and an international partnership that has funded nearly 700 projects and 2,500 individuals in 100 countries. You only need to look at our interactive map to get a feel for the breadth and diversity of CLP.

CLP’s offerings of awards, training, internships, mentoring and networking opportunities have had a great impact on the development of young, up-and-coming conservationists.

These enthusiastic individuals are integrated into a dynamic “world wide web” of conservation practitioners working across a range of environments. With more than 90% of grantees continuing to work in conservation after completing their projects, they infuse the conservation sector with renewed hope for a more sustainable future.

CLP projects have had significant impact and recognition by local and national governments. Here are just a few examples:

  • In 1988, Gola Forest Project was implemented to survey the forest’s avifauna. The Gola Forest is the largest area of lowland rain forest remaining in Sierra Leone, and is one of the most important sites for the conservation of threatened wildlife in the country. The CLP project led to further research and conservation by BirdLife International, and as a result in 2010 The Gola Rainforest National Park was established as a protected area by the government of Sierra Leone.
  • In 1996, Project Swallow Reef later resulted in the establishment of a permanent marine research and monitoring station on Layang Layang, a previously little known archipelago that is now recognized as one of the richest coral reefs for marine biodiversity in Malaysia.
  • In 2009, a 3,000 hectare nature reserve was established in Guangxi province, China to conserve the world’s rarest primate, the Critically Endangered cao-vit gibbon, and its habitat as a result of a CLP-funded project.
  • In 2015, a CLP team formally described a new species of Titi monkey in Brazil.

This year, we expect to support 30 high-priority conservation projects and internships, as well as support peer-to-peer mentoring exchanges and train nearly 100 individuals at our local and international training events. Keep an eye out for news of the 2015 CLP Team Award winners in April!

In celebration of the last 30 years of achievements, we will be posting a series of blogs this year from CLP alumni from each of the four decades of the programme.

It has been a joy and a privilege to reach out to and reconnect with alumni from across the history of the programme and to discover the range of accomplishments and influence these individuals are having. The positive responses we have had from so many are a testament to the strength of the network and ongoing support CLP offers.

We look forward to the next 30 years!