25 november 2011

Queen's Anniversary Prize for WildCRU

University | Science

Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) has been awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize. It is the eighth time that the University has been awarded the Prize, more than any other university.

The Prize, announced on the evening of 24 November 2011 at St James’s Palace, London, is given in acknowledgement of WildCRU’s outstanding work in wildlife and environmental conservation.

WildCRU was founded in 1986 by the University to apply original scientific research to achieve practical solutions to conservation problems. Based within Oxford’s Department of Zoology, and Lady Margaret Hall, it was the first university-based institute in Europe to focus on wildlife conservation research. It has its headquarters at the Recanati-Kaplan Centre at Tubney House, Oxfordshire.

WildCRU’s team of around 50 graduate and post-doctoral researchers travel the world studying endangered species: their work takes them from the Scottish Highlands to Africa, Patagonia to the forests of Borneo. In the UK its researchers are investigating the impact of invasive species such as crayfish and mink on the river Thames, declining hedgehogs and toad populations, the role of badgers in bovine tuberculosis on UK farms, and the rare Scottish wildcat. Elsewhere its efforts include anti-rabies measures to help protect the endangered Ethiopian wolf, conservation research on big cats such as puma in Chile and cheetah in Botswana, and expeditions into the forests of Borneo to discover more about elusive gibbons, orang-utans, and clouded leopards.

Queen's Anniversary Prize 2011 logo - WildCRU
It is the eighth time that the University has been awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize

Many of WildCRU’s projects involve local people, either as volunteers or employees, and promote community involvement and practical action, influencing governments in the conservation of endangered species and their fragile ecosystems. Meanwhile the Postgraduate Diploma in International Wildlife Conservation Practice, launched in 2009, offers opportunities for conservation practitioners in developing countries to access world-class training.

Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: ‘We are delighted with this recognition of Oxford’s world-leading role in wildlife and environmental conservation. Finding solutions to the problem of how human communities and wild animal populations can co-exist in a changing world, where growing populations and economies are putting intense pressure on land and resources, has never been more important.

‘WildCRU’s pioneering work, particularly in working with local people to find new ways of protecting biodiversity and its role in training the next generation of conservation leaders, will hopefully mean a brighter future for many of the world’s most endangered species.’

Professor David Macdonald CBE, founding director of WildCRU, said: ‘This marvellous prize is not only thrilling reward for the tireless work of our team, which has involved dedicated conservation scientists from over 30 countries, but also recognition of the national and international importance of wildlife conservation: species from otters in Oxfordshire to lions in Zimbabwe, from wildcats in the Highlands to jaguars in the Amazon, not only merit conservation for their intrinsic value, but are also part of the natural systems on which humanity depends. Many of our projects concern wild felids, projects which benefit greatly from our partnership with Panthera.’

Professor Macdonald added: ‘a special delight is that the Prize emphasises the WildCRU’s training of aspiring young conservationists from every corner of the globe – our recent trainees have come from Bhutan, Brazil, Myanmar, Sumatra, China, India and Tanzania, often from backgrounds that would not normally have access to world-class training – our Diploma programme revolutionises access to Oxford for talented young conservationists – called the WildCRU Panthers – from developing countries.’

Oxford University has now won eight Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher Education, more than any other university. The previous seven prizes were awarded to: the University's museums, libraries and archives (2009); the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography at Oxford University Press (2007), the Clinical Trial Service Unit (2005), the Refugee Studies Centre (2002), the Centre for Clinical Vaccinology & Tropical Medicine (2000), the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (1996), and Isis Innovation Ltd (1994).