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Asia’s largest tortoise wins the race with Whitley Award

  • Published at 03:00 pm April 26th, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:18 pm May 23rd, 2018
Shahriar Caesar Rahman
Shahriar Caesar Rahman, co-founder of the Creative Conservation Alliance, is working to preserve Asia’s largest tortoise in a remote corner of Bangladesh Nature Stills

A Bangladeshi conservation biologist specializing in reptiles was presented the prestigious Whitley Award by HRH The Princess Royal, on Wednesday, a press release said. Shahriar Caesar Rahman, co-founder of the Creative Conservation Alliance, is working to preserve Asia’s largest tortoise in a remote corner of Bangladesh. In 2011, Shahriar began surveying the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) for rare reptiles and amphibians. Sitting on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, the CHT is one of the least explored, but one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. Shahriar’s team made a ground-breaking discovery of the wild Asian giant tortoise previously thought to be extinct, and uncovered a new species of forest turtle. Shahriar has since set up an initiative to protect tortoise populations and their surrounding habitats, and his team has invested time to build rapport and gain trust within local communities. Shahriar has trained former Mro hunters as biologists who are helping to deter poachers and document the region’s wildlife. Menni Mro, a 50-year-old village chief, is now protecting nearly 247 acres of forest, and is applying his skills to track rare animals, a move which has earned him the Nature Guardian Award. With his Whitley Award, Shahriar will work with the Mro people to establish community conservation areas to safeguard forest habitat from being lost and to curb hunting by training more ex-hunters as “parabiologists” employed to monitor and protect turtles. Shahriar’s team has created a market for the sale of indigenous crafts – reviving cultures on the verge of being lost – which will now be expanded to benefit women from 12 villages who receive training and income from the program. Dialogue with the national government has also been initiated to gain support for conserving the area, its importance yet unrecognized. The statement quoted Edward Whitley, founder of the Whitley Fund for Nature, saying: “In an area of Bangladesh that has faced decades of social and political conflict, Shahriar has become a figurehead and has made huge steps towards bringing these reptiles back from the brink.” “We are especially thrilled to be supporting Shahriar during our 25th anniversary year and look forward to following him on this journey.” Shariar said: “What began as a personal interest and exploration, has advanced into a fully-fledged conservation program.” “From helping to construct schools and educate future generations, to empowering local communities and reviving traditional cultures, I have been able to touch the hearts and lives of many people through species conservation.” “With the support of this Whitley Award, I can continue to make a difference to the future of wildlife, my fellow man, and entire cultures.” The Whitley Awards is an annual event, often referred to as the “Green Oscars.” The awards are part of the Whitley Fund for Nature’s 25th anniversary celebrations. The winners will each receive £40,000 in funding to support their work to conserve some of the planet’s most endangered species and spectacular places.