Award winner 2020
Location: Nigeria

Iroro Tanshi

Iroro Tanshi is a dedicated Nigerian bat specialist. She protected the largest in-country colony of the straw-coloured fruit bat from a government proposed roost tree destruction. She developed a national database of Nigerian bat records, founded her own NGO Small Mammal Conservation Organisation and mentors students and peers in species conservation. Furthermore, she discovered the first population of the Short-tailed Roundleaf bat in Nigeria. This bat species was previously known to occur only in Cameroon and Bioko Island, and was last seen 45 years ago in the wild. She is on a mission to protect this last known stable roost in Nigeria that is under threat of fruit bat hunting and wildfires. Her ‘Zero Wildfire Campaign’ that engages local people to protect critical habitat for this bat species is yielding results to help bring back this species from the brink of extinction. In 2019 zero wildfires were reported in the dry season.

Vision and Approach

Iroro is deeply committed to evidence-based conservation through social-ecological approaches. She mobilises and inspires others to contribute to conservation through biodiversity policy advocacy, local community engagement and capacity development. This ensures local buy-in, habitat protection, evidence collection, and local expertise to sustain conservation goals for the Roundleaf bat and other endangered species.

The major conservation problems she is tackling are roost disturbance from fruit bat hunting, and habitat destruction caused by forest wildfires that start from unattended farm burning prior to planting season. Her overarching goal is to eliminate these problems by targeting drivers of human behaviour, prioritising roost/habitat protection, and offering alternative livelihoods and farming solutions.

Impact of the Future For Nature Award

With the FFN Award prize money Iroro will:

  • expand the Zero Wildfire Campaign to other villages.
  • locate (and protect) other roosts in Nigeria and Cameroon by conducting field surveys using harp traps and fitting captured bats with GPS tags. Plus, she will train the next generation of bat conservationists in Nigeria and Cameroon on field research skills and bat conservation.
  • develop a species action plan by working with local people, park managers, national environment ministries in both Nigeria and Cameroon, and the IUCN Bat Specialist Group.
  • assess the social context of cave disturbance from fruit bat hunting in order to specify a Theory of Change framework that will inform intervention plans for the protection of the species.

“Iroro’s conservation approach is rigorous, multidisciplinary and highly likely to be effective. She carries out cutting-edge scientific fieldwork (often working in extremely difficult conditions in the field), yet also engages with the communities to lead the bat conservation charge, including through a local anti-wildfire law. At a wider scale she has emerged as an Africa-wide bat conservation leader.”
Simon Stuart, International Selection Committee