McKenna-Travers Award People’s Choice: Voting open!

29 September 2022


Born Free is delighted to announce that voting is now open for the People’s Choice category of our prestigious McKenna-Travers Award for Compassionate Conservation 2022.

Meet our finalists for YOUR People’s Choice winner below…

Getachew Assefa Takele

Living with Wolves in Simien Project

Getachew was born near the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia, home to Ethiopian wolves and has dedicated much of his life to working to conserve the species. Ethiopian wolves are the worlds most threatened canid, with only around 500 individuals remaining. With a team of Wolf Monitors and Ambassadors, Getaschew carefully watches over the wolves that roam Simien Mountains National Park.

The Simien Mountains National Park is one of the most important protected areas of Ethiopia, set aside to conserve its exceptional scenery and unique flora and fauna. The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP), supported by Born Free since 1995, has implemented conservation activities including vaccination programmes, grassland conservation and wolf monitoring across Ethiopian wolf ranges for over 25 years. While these activities created high levels of awareness across communities, awareness did not necessary result in meaningful changes in specific behaviours leading to human-wildlife conflict. For this reason, EWCP is shifting to fostering coexistence through promoting behavioural change. The Living with Wolves in Simien project aims to minimise impact of threats that affect the wolves’ welfare, directly though mortality or indirectly through disturbance and stress. These threats are emerging or increasing as the lives of people and wolves become more closely linked, including the chasing of wolves by people or dogs, interference with breeding dens, killing of wolves and other forms of disturbance from new roads and tourism.

With MTA funding the local EWCP team can identify these threats, learn and integrate new approaches, and engage our partners in Simien to affect behavioural change on the local communities and visitors. This is important because the wolf population in Simien is one of the most disturbed: these wolves tend to avoid people and livestock, affecting their foraging patterns, are difficult to observe and are not breeding as well as in other populations. If we can reduce these sources of disturbances, the wolves of Simien will live longer and better lives.

“I am well known in Simien by the nickname ‘’the wolf man of Simien’’. Whenever there is a problem in the mountains, local people or park scouts contact me. I am always pondering how even looking after a single wounded wolf in its natural habitat could bring a big change on the attitude of the local people to protect the wild animals in the park. I have always felt a special interest for the Ethiopian wolves and I am dedicated for the conservation of wildlife.”

Suzanne Asha Stone

Wood River Wolf Project

Suzanne has worked for decades to help reintroduce wolves in Yellowstone National Park, United States of America. In 2007, Suzanne worked with local ranchers to help them implement non-lethal coexistence tools to manage one of the regions largest sheep grazing operations on national forest lands. Tools such as “turbofladry” night corrals, increasing the number of livestock guardian dogs per band, and new lights and sound devices were used to keep the wolves away from the sheep bands.

This effort grew into the Wood River Wolf Project (WRWP) and has been in operation consistently for 15 years. WRWP promotes the coexistence of livestock and wolves by proactively using nonlethal measures to prevent livestock losses due to wolf predation. While the project has evolved into one of the world’s most successful livestock coexistence initiatives it has been 8 years since the project has published the findings of their data documenting the use and effectiveness of nonlethal deterrents as a long-term strategy for predator/livestock management. With funds from the McKenna-Travers Award for Compassionate Conservation, Suzanne would cover the cost of a Research Associate at the graduate level to document the past eight years of coexistence data and scientific findings from the WRWP project and combine those with earlier findings. These funds would also support a new academic paper that would enhance understanding of the best practices and importance of community engagement in wildlife coexistence projects.

Through Suzanne’s work helping others around the world develop their own coexistence methods, she established a non-profit the International Wildlife Coexistence Network, (IWCN). The IWCN provides a collection of global experts to assist communities in identifying solutions for coexisting with native wildlife. IWCN has created a coexistence library of peer reviewed data, articles, publications, videos, informative webinars, and more. This is a unique library for students, managers, communities, and scientists who are dealing with wildlife challenges and looking for solutions.

“Wolves are an essential species that protect the land, the rivers, and the other animals simply by the vital role they fill.  Wolves are also considered teachers by many indigenous cultures. Learning from wolves how we best coexist with them helps us become far better stewards of nature.  Working with Nature is key to protecting the future of all wildlife on our planet, which is why we have created the International Wildlife Coexistence Network. Like wolves, we are stronger as a pack – a community dedicated toward securing this future for all wild and human generations to come.” 

Kevin Newell

The Scottish Gull Project

Kevin Newell set up his business, Humane Wildlife Solutions, which is a non-lethal, ethical, vegan, environmentally friendly alternative to pest control.

Kevin has set out to protect the Herring Gull, a red listed species that is in steep decline. The Scottish Gull Project aims to stop the steep decline of Red and Amber listed gull species across Scotland. With the red listed Herring Gull population dropping by around 60% in the last 30 years, work is needed to try and stop the decline. Northeast Scotland and the Highlands are important areas for the Red listed Herring Gulls as they only nest and breed on the East coast of Scotland.

Through The Scottish Gull Project, Kevin has managed to change the law in Scotland to make taking eggs and chicks to rescue centres legal under a new licence. Before, pest controllers would destroy gull chicks and eggs, but now they can be brought into wildlife rehabilitation centres. Last year alone, 474 eggs and chicks were taken in by four rescue centres across Scotland.

However, funding is needed to care for all of them. It costs around £50 to rear an egg to chick and release them. The People’s Choice Award funding will help Kevin increase capacities at rescue centres to look after eggs and chicks for release.

“Being selected for the People’s Choice Award is a fantastic honour to compliment the amazing project that we have for these red and amber listed birds. In plain sight these birds are declining but this funding would go directly towards rearing gull chicks so that we have the means to ensure that many gull eggs and chicks do not need to be destroyed. This would add to the hundreds of birds we managed to rescue and release in 2021, helping not only the individuals who would have been killed due to lethal pest controllers, but the conservation of their species as a whole.”