Hornbill conservator Aparajita Datta gets Whitley Award

New Delhi, May 3 (IANS) Conservator Aparajita Datta has won the Whitley Award, also called “Green Oscar”, for her work to save threatened hornbills in the forests of Arunachal Pradesh.

Datta is one of eight grassroots conservation leaders awarded a share of prize funding worth £295,000 by the Whitley Fund for Nature.

Datta leads a programme to conserve hornbills in the Eastern Himalaya at the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), an NGO set up in 1996 to promote science-based wildlife conservation in India.

“Focussing on hornbills as a conservation flagship species, she is seeking to improve the status of the bird’s populations outside protected areas by establishing models of community-based conservation,” the Whitley Fund said.

“Datta is spreading knowledge of the needs of hornbills and their importance, as seed dispersers, in the maintenance of healthy forest ecosystems. Key to her 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 the fund.

Datta has been monitoring 60 hornbill nests in Arunachal Pradesh.

Datta will use the prize money to conduct surveys in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland to figure out the status of hornbills. This will help to create an ideal model to conserve hornbills outside protected areas.

Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, presented the award at a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in London Thursday.

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