Prize for dentist’s orangutan care project
A dentist has scooped one of the world’s most prestigious wildlife conservation prizes for her work saving the rainforests.
Drt Hotlin Ompusunggu, a Sumatran dentist working in West Kalimantan, Borneo, in south east Asia, aims to sever links between poverty, ill-health and ecological damage by letting poor communities ‘pay’ for healthcare by becoming guardians of the forests which are home to gibbons and orangutans.
She is the programme manager of Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), a healthcare and conservation charity located next to the Gunung Palang National Park and received her prize during a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society, London.
The event was hosted by The Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) – the UK-based charity behind the international awards scheme – and the Princess Royal Princess Anne presented the prizes.
The award includes a project grant of £30,000 – donated by Goldman Sachs – an engraved trophy, membership of the influential network of past Whitley Award winners, international recognition and professional development training.
Dr Ompusunggu’s award recognises her efforts to reduce illegal logging by offering better and cheaper dental and medical care to the 60,000 villagers who live in the region by enabling to earn discounts on treatments by looking after the rainforest, participating in reforestation activities and learning about conservation.
The evening’s top honour – the £60,000 Whitley Gold Award – went to marine biologist Dr Rachel Graham, of Belize, for her work to put in place a national action plan for sharks and get more local people actively involved in protecting ocean.