March Newsletter 2005, Issue 21
In this Issue:

Programme Manager's Message
Diary Dates
Latest News
News From the Field
Final Reports Received
Project Websites


Programme Manager's Message

Welcome to the March edition of our newsletter. A great deal has happened since our last issue, and none more literally earth shattering than the tsunami in Southeast Asia at the end of December. Our heartfelt wishes go out to all those affected by this terrible tragedy, especially those who lost loved ones. We feature an update from three of our affected projects – in Sri Lanka, Sisira Ediriweera lost his brother and his brother’s family, Kanchana Weerakoon Ranasinghe lets us in on her world, where broken communities are struggling to get a sense of normality back into their lives, and where the pelicans her team have been studying have found their habitats have taken a very different turn; the other is Bandana Aul, who is from India and working in the Nicobar Islands, which is where she found herself on the morning of December 26th. Read on to find out about this, and to find out what is going on with many of the other projects we are supporting around the world.

Marianne Dunn, BP Conservation Programme Manager

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Quarterly newsletter for the BP Conservation Programme—a partnership between BirdLife International, BP, Conservation International, Fauna and Flora International and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Please contact Robyn Dalzen,, with comments and queries or visit our website at

Diary Dates

16 – 18 March 2005 Student Conference on Conservation Science, Durham, North Carolina, USA

22 – 24 March 2005 Student Conference on Conservation Science, Cambridge, UK

30 June 2005 International Foundation for Science grant deadline.

15 – 19 July 2005 Society for Conservation Biology 19th Annual Meeting: Conservation Biology Capacity Building & Practice in a Globalized World, Brasilia, Brazil

8 May – 10 June 2005 Biodiversity Assessment and Monitoring Course, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA

31 July – 5 August 2005 IX International Mammalogical Congress, Sapporo, Japan

14 – 27 August 2005 Economic Tools for Ecosystem Conservation, Stanford University, CA, USA

21 – 26 August 2005 Xth European Bat Research Symposium, Galway, Ireland

11 – 23 September 2005 The Smithsonian Environmental Leadership Course, Washington, DC, USA

13 – 18 September 2005 American Zoological Association National Conference, Chicago, Illinois, USA

23 – 27 October 2005 The first International Marine Protected Areas Congress, Geelong, Australia

19 – 20 November 2005 Royal Geographical Society with RGB's Explorer Conference for budding expeditioners, London, UK

August 2006 International Ornithological Congress, Hamburg, Germany. Call for contributions.


Latest News

Dedicated Conservationists, Dedicated Citizens
When previous BPCP winners write back to update us on their post-project lives, they often include this advice for current teams: “be prepared for anything” and “always be ready to adapt.” On December 26, 2004, that advice became a matter of instinct for a few of our award winners. We were grateful to learn of their safety and eager to hear about their experiences in the tsunami-stricken areas.

Sri Lanka
Our heartfelt condolences go out to Sisira Ediriweera, leader of the Stemonoporus Project in Sri Lanka, who sadly lost his older brother and his brother’s family to the tsunami. Despite the enormous hardship and setbacks, Sisira has shown remarkable resolve and dedication by continuing to work on plant surveys, species distribution mapping and collecting voucher specimens for identification in the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary. They have stratified the research according to altitude and are currently working in upper montane areas. At the end of February the team also conducted a plant identification and conservation workshop for twenty-one undergraduates at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

On that Sunday morning Spot-Billed Pelican Project leader Kanchana Weerakoon Ranasinghe was at her home in Sri Lanka, about 500 meters away from the still-calm sea. After a special news report came on, she says, “We went to see the beach—stupid! foolish! mad!—but forgive us as we have never heard about such a tsunami and we never knew how dangerous it [would be].” When they arrived at the shore, they did not see anything out of the ordinary. But upon learning news of the approaching disaster from relatives, they immediately rushed home through thick traffic to collect clothes and valuables. “My husband asked me to take my certificates and laptop…our car boot is very small but I really wanted to take my conservation books as I love them just like my kids,” she said.

Following the tsunami, “we were terribly disturbed for weeks by the news we heard,” Kanchana said. But with so many people in need, they did what had to be done—adapt and take action. As the leaders of Eco-Friendly Volunteers, Kanchana and her husband immediately set to work providing relief in the Galle district by organizing a volunteer project for tsunami victims (PTV). In many instances they helped by simply providing the tools required for people to get on with their normal lives—a small boat for a crab farmer, or paint brushes for a painter. In the Kokilai village in northeast Sri Lanka, a remote village completely cut off from the mainland, Kanchana and her team of volunteers helped resettle 232 families by the first week of February. Other victims lost their parents, businesses, or school supplies, forcing them or their relatives to drop out of school. Thus longer-term PTV efforts include providing scholarships to school-age children and university students for six months, with the option of future support depending on need. So far they have provided 79 scholarships, helped restart 52 businesses, and have handed out 143 school packs.

And what about the pelicans? Kanchana reports that when she visited the lagoon after the tsunami she spotted five individuals feeding (she has seen fifteen there in the past). The wave created another opening into Kokili Lagoon, and the team is questioning the long-term effects of increased salinity in the habitat. The army patrolling the lagoon area reported that on December 26th the birds suddenly flew away shortly before anyone else registered danger. The team will continue to watch how the pelicans adapt to this great disaster, which has greatly altered the vegetation and estuaries that comprise their feeding grounds. Nevertheless, the team is going ahead with their plans to carry out a pelican awareness campaign over the next month in Colombo, where incidentally there is a good breeding population of pelicans that was introduced to the town in the 1960s.

Nicobar Islands, India
In the Nicobar Islands of India, another BPCP project was about to experience a wave of tragedy as they set up their first research site on Trinket Island on the night of December 25th-26th. After setting up equipment, the Nicobar Flying Fox team returned to Champin, a small village on Nancowrie Island, to spend the night. In the morning, they witnessed a surging disaster that would push them on a course quite unexpected—working on search and rescue missions for their neighbors on behalf of the Indian government.

Over November and December project leader Bandana Aul and her team worked to train research assistants and prepare equipment for surveys of the endemic Nicobar Fruit Bat. But after the tsunami’s destructive waves struck their study area, there was nothing to do but respond to the situation—even though it meant staying on the islands until the end of February.

As it turned out, Trinket Island, where they had spent the night before the tsunami, was one of the most devastated areas. The powerful wave divided the island into three parts, and water levels remain higher than normal. “It seems like we were sent here just to witness the tsunami, and I don’t know why, but we were all feeling quite uncomfortable the night prior. All the villages we used to know as prosperous are now either completely struck from the records or are now still submerged,” Bandana said.

The team reports that the only sources of income for the Nicobarese have been washed away. Bandana also worries about suspect NGOs interceding on behalf of the locals and trying to push their own agendas onto the rebuilding communities, so her team is trying to make sure that residents understand both the options and the motives. “The only thing I am thankful about is that we were here and stayed here when the people whom we all share a very special bond with needed us the most,” Bandana said.

Due to the relief efforts and lost equipment, the Nicobar Flying Fox project has been put on hold these past few months. Yet Bandana and her colleagues are determined to make the necessary adjustments to carry on. For starters, the team has readjusted the education portion of their project to accommodate the fact people are moving from destroyed costal areas into the forests and higher ground, causing deforestation. The team is planning to work with displaced residents to develop plans for resettlement.

The support and empowerment that these winning teams have passed on to tsunami victims falls very much in line with the spirit of the BPCP—providing the support and tools necessary to build capacity at a local level that will in turn benefit the greater good. Who knew that some of this year’s participants would be not only working to ensure the survival of a certain plant or animal species, but the survival of their very own neighbors? Once again our teams have gone beyond the call of duty and have proven to be dedicated conservationists as well as citizens.


News From the Field


Mpingo Conservation Project, Tanzania (Consolidation Award 2004)
The Mpingo Conservation Project is now registered as a Tanzanian NGO, giving them a firmer base and enabling them better access funds to carry out their work. They have completed all the fieldwork for a district-wide stocks assessment of mpingo and other high-value timber species, and have developed monitoring plots that they expect to introduce shortly to village areas. Read more...

Bat Conservation Madagascar (Consolidation Award 2004)
Bat Conservation Madagascar started two field conservation projects in February. The first project, led by Radosoa Andrianaivoarivelo, studied the diet and movements of Madagascar's smallest fruit bat species Rousettus madagascariensis. Amyot Kofoky captured a Madagascar Sucker-footed bat Myzopoda aurita in the first 20 minutes of his survey of the bats in Tampolo Forest.Read more...


Ecology and Conservation of the Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey, Vietnam (Gold Award 2004)
The team’s eight team members, four of which are students and four locals, have set up 64 botanical plots with 607 trees in total in the monkey’s known habitat, and spent at least five days every month collecting data on its phenology. Read more...

Monitoring and Conservation of Globally Threatened Species, Azerbaijan (Gold Award 2004)
During the winter months, the team worked very effectively not only within their project sites, but also in other wetlands that have been identified as important wintering places for Globally Threatened Species, such as the White-headed duck, Ferruginous duck and others. Read more...

Turtle and Tortoise Conservation, Cambodia (Silver Award 2004)
In order to assess species composition, occurrence, distribution and relative abundance, the team conducted interviews and carried out trapping and timed searches. The research identified six globally threatened and one near threatened species of turtle and tortoise, some of which had never been recorded in the Cardamom Mountains, and one never recorded in Cambodia. Read more...

Ecology and Conservation of Frogs of Mount Gede Pangrango National Park, Indonesia (Bronze Award 2004)
The team has just finished project activities at Mount Gede Pangrango. In February they made presentations on frog conservation at three primary schools in Cibodas and presented to audiences ranging from 50 to 100 students. Read more...

Project GAYNAWAAN, Indonesia (Bronze Award 2004)
Project GAYNAWAAN ended year 2004 with new and exciting information about the vertebrates of Mount Sinaka, a small and little studied Important Bird Area (IBA) in the heart of Mindanao island, Philippines, which is also a nesting territory for the globally threatened Philippine Eagle and the Philippine-hawk eagle. Read more...

Conservation of Gangetic Dolphin, India (Bronze Award 2004)
The Dolphin Conservation team has been concentrating on surveys in the main Brahmaputra River. In February, the team conducted surveys in the eastern stretch of the Brahmaputra River within Assam, particularly in the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. Read more...

CROC Project, Philippines (Follow-up Award 2003)
In November 2004, the CROC project organized a workshop at the Isabela State University in Cabagan and invited community representatives to design local solutions to address this global conservation priority. The following four stories will give you an impression of the workshop and the commitment of local people to protect their crocodiles. Read more...


Bat Census in Crimean Caves, Ukraine (Bronze Award 2004)
The team carried out fieldwork between June and August of 2004. They examined caves during the day, and at night used mist-nets or harp-traps to net bats at or near cave entrances. A total of 221 bats were captured, and for each of these the team recorded the species, sex, weight, forearm’s length, age and reproductive status. Read more...


Threatened Birds of Bolivia (Consolidation Award 2004)
The team has been able to expand their work on the Southern Horned Curassow and bring on three new Bolivian biologists to join the team. But unfortunately, recent surveys conducted so far have shown that the species is absent from much of the northern and central Bolivia Andes, where it was thought to be. Read more...

Green Corridor Project, Argentina (Follow-up Award 2004)
During the last few months the team has provided a high number of tree seedlings to various institutions and local farmers, including two municipalities, schools and the park ranger's station at Horacio Foerster Provincial Park. Read more...

Karumbé, Uruguay (Follow-up Award 2004)
The Marine Turtle Centre (MTC) in La Coronilla was launched on January 3, 2005 with the purpose of disseminating the work of the Karumbé Team and basic information about sea turtles through guided visits. Since opening, it has been visited by more than 3,000 people. Read more...

Saving the Blue-billed Curassow, Colombia (Silver Award 2004)
Based on research carried out by the Blue-billed Curassow team, they have generated a variety of conservation strategies, all in favor of protecting Crax alberti. Active involvement of communities that have settled in areas that the species inhabits has become a key element. Read more...

Project Chicamocha, Colombia (Bronze Award 2004)
During the fieldwork period, the team documented the first ever nesting site of the Critically Endangered Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird in the Municipality of Jordán. The nest was located at a height of 11.5 meters and constructed by one individual (presumably the female). Read more...

Conservation of the Araripe Manakin, Brazil (Silver Award 2004)
The Araripe Manakin team is excited to share that they have found several more Manakin nests (18 altogether). They recently experiences problems in the field too due to forest fires, and found themselves caught in one of these fires while monitoring nests. Read more...

Conservation of Melocactus actinacanthus, Cuba (Bronze Award 2004)
Melocactus actinacanthus is a critically endangered cactus that has been found only in the toxic and unfertile soils of the central hills of Cuba. Human activities in the area, such as cattle grazing, harvesting and fires have promoted the decline of cactus populations. Read more...

Project Hapalopsittaca, Colombia (Consolidation Award 2003)
Fundación ProAves has been responding to the threats that are facing populations of threatened parrots in Colombia. In doing so, they have implemented two major conservation initiatives focused on diminishing threats and assuring viable populations within their natural habitats. Read more...

Giant Otter Conservation, Bolivia (Follow-up Award 2003)
The Giant Otter team is currently preparing a brochure that will be distributed locally and the Londra-Watch program (a monitoring program of Giant Otter in Bolivian territory) is waiting for the dry season to begin monitoring activities. Read more...

Soul of the Andes, Argentina (Follow-up Award 2003)
The team is happy to announce that they have made a great step forward in one of the aims of their project ‘The Soul of the Andes’ and has succeeded in identifying major threats to the survival of the Andean cat and the actions to address them. The Andean Cat finally has its own Conservation Action Plan! Read more...


Final Reports Received

These recently concluded projects have had some exciting results. For a copy of the full report, send an email request to or telephone +44 (0) 1223.277.318.

  • A field survey for the Grey-Shanked Douc Langur, Vietnam 2003

  • Conservation and Monitoring of Tibetan Antelopes in Hoh Xil Nature Reserve, China 2004

  • Conservation of private lands for the protection of the Huemul, Central Chile 2004

  • Ecology and conservation of reef fish spawning aggregations in the Abrolhos Bank, Brazil 2004

  • Incidental capture of seabirds survey in coastal fisheries, Argentina 2003

  • Kikuyu Escarpment, Kenya 2002

  • Marsh Deer Project, Argentina 2003

  • Owls in Gansu Province, China 2002

  • Saving the Blue-billed Curassow, Colombia 2004

  • Tortoise and Turtle Conservation, Cambodia 2004


    Project Websites

    Check out project websites for updated news and images from award winning teams in the field:

  • Bat Census in Crimean Caves, Ukraine (Bronze Award 2004)
  • CROC, Philippines (Gold Award 2002)
  • Ecology and Conservation of the Chilean Dolphin ((Silver Award 2002)
  • Giant Otter Conservation, Bolivia (Follow-up Award 2003)
  • Huemul Deer, Chile (Bronze Award 2004)
  • Project Chicamocha, Colombia (Bronze Award 2004)
  • Project Hapalopsittaca, Colombia (Gold Award 2002)
  • Project Karumbé, Uruguay Gold Award 2001)
  • Sea Turtle Research and Conservation, Venezuela (Follow-up 1999)
  • Shiwiar Rainforest Initiative, Ecuador 2000
  • Tandroy Conservation Trust, Madagascar (Consolidation Award 2003)
  • URUGUA-Í, Argentina (Gold Award 2002)
  • Yungas 2001, Bolivia (Silver Award 2001)