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Fernando was selected from an international shortlist of ten conservationists and received both the Whitley Award sponsored by HSBC Holdings and the Whitley Gold Award, worth a total of £60,000 of funding over two years. The awards were presented by HRH The Princess Royal and Sir David Attenborough at London's Royal Geographical Society.

Edward Whitley, Founder and Chairman of the Whitley Fund for Nature said: "Fernando is combining a truly holistic approach ranging from working in the Amazon basin, in cities and even supermarkets as well as meeting with local fishermen and promoting economic alternatives for people."

Fernando Trujillo is the scientific director of Fundacion Omacha, WWF Colombia's partner in the Amazon and the Orinoco Basins.

Working with a team of South American scientists, Fernando leads a large programme of research and conservation in the Amazon and Orinoco basins, conducting systematic research along the Amazon River and its tributaries in Bolivia, Perú and Ecuador to estimate river dolphin numbers, as well as to train local scientists.

Currently there are no governmental initiatives to protect endangered species in these river basins and Dr Trujillo hopes that dolphin watching and other sustainable economic activities could strongly help to promote conservation of river dolphins as well as giant otters, manatees, turtles and caimans at the same time providing important economic alternatives for local people.

The dolphins have always figured prominently in the local mythology but in the past three decades the relationship between the people and dolphins has been fractured as a result of deforestation and habitat degradation and now these gentle creatures are being killed in the Amazonian and Orinoco basins for use as bait fish for the markets of Colombia.

Since 1994 the Whitley Awards have been awarded annually. They are worth £30,000 each and are one of the largest nature conservation awards available, recognizing outstanding efforts by leading local conservationists whose work is based on sound science and which fully involves local communities.
Amazon river dolphin © Foundation Omacha / Fernando TRUJILLO