Press Releases

Reading student honoured for crucial conservation work – University of Reading

Release Date : 18 August 2004

white-winged flufftailA University of Reading student has won a prestigious Biodiversity Leadership Award for his tireless efforts over the past nine years to protect endangered bird species, especially in his native Ethiopia.

Ian Lewington/ African Bird Club
Mengistu Wondafrash, who is studying for a MSc in Environment and Development in the International and Rural Development Department, will receive US$180,000 from The Bay Foundation and the Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul Foundations, which are pioneers in promoting efforts to save biological diversity. The award is testimony to Mengistu's outstanding contribution to environmental conservation in eastern Africa, where he has worked under unfavourable economic and other conditions. Possibly his most significant accomplishment is his work to safeguard the future of the globally precarious White-winged Flufftail (Sarothrura ayresi). He has helped create and protect the wetland breeding habitats of the Flufftail, which is believed to number only 750 globally. Mengistu also co-ordinates the Important Bird Areas programme in Ethiopia and runs the Ethiopian component of the African Waterfowl Census, which not only monitors numbers of waterbirds but also lobbies against "unfavourable development plans" in the country's fragile wetlands. "Conservation is my lifestyle," said Mengistu. "It is my inherent belief that the only and highest service I can ever render to my country is to be involved in activities related to the conservation of biodiversity and the environment." Mengistu plans to use the money from the award to continue developing his conservation projects, and in particular to build the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS), which he has helped expand over the last eight years. The EWNHS is a part of BirdLife International, which is the global alliance of conservation organisations working together for the world's birds and people, and the EWNHS works in close collaboration with the BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat, based in Nairobi, Kenya. In all, eight scientists and environmental advocates from around the world were named winners of a total of US$900,000 in Biodiversity Leadership Awards. End For media enquiries or images of Mengistu Wondafrash, please contact Craig Hillsley, the University of Reading's press officer. Tel: 0118 378 7388 Email:


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