Nigerian biologist and dedicated bat specialist Iroro Tanshi has won the Future for Nature Awards 2020. Iroro Tanshi (Nigeria), María Fernanda Puerto-Carrillo (Venezuela), and Tjalle Boorsma (the Netherlands / Bolivia) were adjudged winners of this year’s prize defeating 124 entries from other parts of the world. This also makes her the first African female to win this coveted prize.
The Future For Nature Foundation (FFN) supports young, talented, and ambitious nature conservationists committed to protecting species of wild animals and plants. From all over the world young nature conservations (up to 35 years old) apply for this prize.
Iroro Tanshi (35 years old) was recognized for her pioneering efforts in discovering bat species in Nigeria that were last seen 45 years ago and her ‘Zero Wildfire Campaign’, which engages local people to protect critical habitats for this bat species is yielding results to help bring back this species from the brink of extinction. In 2019 zero wildfires were reported in the dry season.
Amongst other achievements, Iroro Tanshi rediscovered a population of the Short-tailed Roundleaf bat in Nigeria. The last one was seen 45 years ago. Now, she is on a mission to protect the last known stable cave roost. That roost is under threat of fruit bat hunting and wildfires in Nigeria. Her methodology which involves local community engagement and capacity development ensures local buy-in, habitat protection, evidence collection, and local expertise to sustain conservation goals for the Roundleaf bat and other endangered species.
The prize event is typically held at the Burger’s Zoo in Arnhem, Netherlands, but went virtual this year due to the covid-19 pandemic. Regardless, the virtual event was a spectacular operatic performance, presented by the brilliant Saba Douglas-Hamilton who made it an enchanting event!. Iroro who along with the other two nature conservation heroes received their Future For Nature Award at a Virtual Ceremony this November, expressed her delight at winning the award and noted that it would serve as a morale booster for more groundbreaking work.
According to her “Personally, I feel grateful to have received the award, not the least because it will bring much needed attention and support for Nigeria’s only endangered bat the Short-tailed Roundleaf bat (according to the IUCN). The recognition is also a significant motivation boost and reminder that excellence pays. I hope it motivates other young Nigerians to pursue evidence-based research and conservation work with local communities to save our biodiversity and ecosystems.”
She also disclosed that the prize money from the award will be used to expand the Zero Wildfire Campaign to other villages, locate (and protect) other roosts in Nigeria and Cameroon by conducting field surveys using harp traps and fitting captured bats with GPS tags and she will train the next generation of bat conservationists in Nigeria and Cameroon on field research skills and bat conservation.
Simon Stuart of the International Selection Committee praised Iroro Tanshi for her innovative research and all-inclusive approach. According to him “Iroro’s conservation approach is rigorous, multidisciplinary and highly likely to be effective. She carries out cutting-edge scientific fieldwork (often working in extremely difficult conditions in the field), yet also engages with the communities to lead the bat conservation charge, including through a local anti-wildfire law. At a wider scale she has emerged as an Africa-wide bat conservation leader.”