Press release

£8.5 million to protect the world’s most threatened wildlife and poorest communities

The UK Government is giving £8.5 million to a total of 33 new projects under Defra's Darwin Initiative.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Some of the world’s rarest species are going to be better protected following a multi-million pound announcement by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman today.

The UK Government is giving £8.5 million to a total of 33 new projects under Defra’s Darwin Initiative, which has backed wildlife conservation projects in some of the world’s poorest countries for the last two decades.

The new projects will provide help to newly discovered species, such as the Burmese snub-nosed monkey, and support under-threat populations of rare animals like the pygmy hippopotamus.  At the same time local communities will get help to  improve their environment and their livelihoods.

Since its launch in 1992, the Darwin Initiative has committed £88 million to 762 projects in over 150 countries.

Speaking at London Zoo today during a celebration to mark the 20th anniversary of the Darwin Initiative, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“I am proud of the UK’s ongoing commitment to international conservation, and I’m delighted to announce that the Government is putting more funds into protecting vulnerable species. Over the last 20 years the Darwin Initiative has helped some of the world’s poorest countries protect some of the most important wildlife on the planet.                

“The money and expertise provided by the UK has funded projects across the globe, from Bolivia to Burma, from helping snow leopards, to aiding the discovery of new species such as the Darwininitium, a land snail found last year and named after the Initiative.

“We have seen the Darwin Initiative deliver many success stories, and I believe it will help us achieve our ambition of being the first generation to leave the environment in a better condition than we found it.”

Chair of Darwin Initiative Expert Committee Professor David Macdonald said:

“The Darwin Initiative is hugely important and lies at the cutting edge of conservation worldwide. Internationally it is respected and valued as Britain’s flagship for conservation.  We are thrilled that the Darwin Initiative goes from strength to strength, combining care for wildlife conservation with human development through the support of the UK Government.”

The list of successful projects to receive funding includes:

  • Conservation of the newly-discovered Burmese snub-nosed monkey - This new species was discovered in northern Myanmar in 2010. The project aims to help local people monitor the monkeys and develop strategies to reduce dependency on hunting.

  • Building capacity of the next generation of Liberian conservation professionals - Liberia is home to several globally endangered species, including one of the last significant populations of the pygmy hippopotamus. Civil war has destroyed the infrastructure for conservation research and education. This project aims to help them focus and improve the protection of their wildlife.

  • Protecting the critically endangered Bengal Florican - This species of bustard is currently threatened by habitat loss, and just two small populations remain in India and Cambodia.  This project aims to help local people understand the habitat requirements of this species and incorporate the needs of Bengal Florican in appropriate management plans.

  • Conservation of Ethiopia’s wild coffee - This project will enable communities to gain secure tenure over their coffee forests and take responsibility for sustainable management of their forests.

The Darwin Initiative was created 20 years ago at the Earth Summit in Rio, and it has been responsible for a wide range of successful conservation projects around the globe.    

The latest round of funding was announced in April 2011, with proposals for new projects invited.

The Darwin Expert Committee (Chaired by Professor David Macdonald of Oxford University) consists of experts from government, academia, science and the private sector, and advises Ministers on project proposals, making recommendations on which should receive funding.

Details of the 33 new Darwin Initiative projects and previous projects can be found at

Published 6 March 2012