Local conservationist nominated for international award

Offshore Islands Conservation Programme Coordinator at Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) Shanna Challenger. (Social media photo)
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By Makeida Antonio

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One of Antigua and Barbuda’s youngest conservationists, who has been previously recognised globally for her conservation and restoration efforts, has been nominated for a prestigious international award

Offshore Islands Conservation Programme Coordinator at Environmental Awareness Group (EAG), Shanna Challenger, gave Observer details about the significance of the award and how it will aid in her current work.

“The Future for Nature Award is an international award that celebrates the tangible achievements of young conservationists in protecting wildlife and endangered species. In the conservation field, a lot of times we have ideas, the people we already know we want to get involved, but we are limited by our financial means,” Challenger said in an interview.

Challenger played an integral role in the removal of invasive species from several offshore islands, including Redonda, where rats and goats prevented the growth of vegetation. Since Redonda’s restoration, several species of birds have returned to the offshore island along with grass to cover the once bare rock.

She said this opportunity would be critical in fundraising for the EAG so that major environmental projects can continue long after they are initially undertaken.

“For example at the EAG, we are a non-profit so all of our money is raised from writing projects and grants, so this Future for Nature Award, each winner receives a 50,000 euro prize to be able to do conservation work to protect species that are endangered, to sustain work. A lot of times we get money for projects, but can’t continue to do the projects after the projects are done; so it also helps you to be exposed to a network of conservationists who are trying to tackle the same problems, such as the climate crisis,” Challenger noted.

Additionally, the EAG Offshore Islands Conservation Programme Coordinator has been successful in helping the endangered Antiguan Racer Snake to increase in population following years of facing extinction due to the presence of invasive species as a result of human behaviour.

Challenger outlined the process of possibly winning the Future for Nature Award. She explained that the decision goes to a committee after answering a number of essay questions, and upon reaching the second level which cuts down to  nine nominees, a video answering more questions must be submitted.

“Three hundred or so people have applied, and I have made it into one of the top nine nominees. Three people are awarded each year. What I would do would be related to our focal species, the Antiguan Racer, our only snake which is endangered. These snakes are only found on our offshore islands, four of them to be specific, and they are used as a success story of species conservation and their ability to bounce back once invasive species such as rats and mongoose are removed,” Challenger said.

The public will be given the decision of the winners by April, while the ceremony to congratulate the three winners will be held in May in the Netherlands.

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