UK government awards nearly £40 million to more than 80 projects through the Darwin Initiative and Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund

  • Projects from Ghana to Ecuador will support global action to protect wildlife and reverse biodiversity loss
  • Next round of funding also opens to new projects, building on government’s target to halt biodiversity loss by 2030

Threatened plants and animals, including elephants and pangolins are set to be protected thanks to new UK government funding announced today, Saturday 29 April.

Over 80 conservation projects across the globe will benefit from nearly £40 million funding aimed at boosting international biodiversity, supporting the communities that live alongside nature and tackling illegal wildlife trade.

Some of the successful projects include:

  • Support for the International Snow Leopard Trust to provide specialised training to combat the poaching of snow leopards in countries like Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Pakistan;
  • Supporting the work of the Wildlife Conservation Society to reduce demand for collagen rich Pangolin scales in Traditional Chinese Medicine;
  • Supporting the Zoological Society of London’s effort to create sustainable ways for humans and elephants to coexist in areas such as Thailand, where they are often in conflict.

Environment minister Trudy Harrison said:

“The fantastic projects announced today will enhance efforts to protect threatened wildlife, support economic growth of developing countries and drive nature recovery.

“The UK is a global champion when it comes to biodiversity and driving action to halt and reverse the decline of nature. I am proud that – through our Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund and the Darwin Initiative – we will continue to play a leading role in conservation efforts around the world.”

Dr Charudutt Mishra, from the International Snow Leopard Trust said:

“The snow leopard, an iconic species of Asia’s high mountains, is threatened by retaliatory killing due to their predation on livestock, and illegal trade of its pelt and other body parts. With support from the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, we are empowering local and indigenous communities of High Asia with livelihood and conflict management initiatives to enable them to better coexist with snow leopards, and to support conservation efforts.

“We are also helping rangers improve their capacity and motivation in Illegal Wildlife Trade disruption with training, resources and enhanced social recognition in three countries.”

Chair of the Darwin Expert Committee Professor E.J. Milner-Gulland said:

“I’m thrilled that the Darwin Initiative is funding such a wide range of outstanding projects, which will improve both biodiversity and human wellbeing in such a diversity of ways and in so many places. These projects bring fresh thinking and new ideas to conservation practice, produce evidence to support better conservation, as well as building the capacity of the next generation of conservationists around the world.

“It was a pleasure and honour to support Defra in their selection of these projects and I look forward to a new set of exciting proposals in the upcoming 30th round of the Darwin Initiative.”

The Darwin Initiative, a grants scheme to conserve and restore biodiversity and the communities that live alongside in developing countries, supported 63 of these successful projects with over £31.5 million funding. Projects will conserve nature-rich areas in developing countries and support communities who live and work in biodiverse areas to build resilience to climate change.

The Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund has supported 21 projects through £7.8 million funding to enhance the protection of threatened species. The projects will protect species including elephants, pangolins and threatened timber – and cement our leading role in cracking down on the £17 billion a year illegal wildlife trade which fuels corruption, deprives communities of sustainable livelihoods and degrades ecosystems.
The UK is a global leader in supporting efforts to halt the decline in nature, protect wildlife and restore the natural world. Our efforts will help to deliver on the ambitious new global deal for nature agreed at the UN Nature Summit COP15 in December, which will protect 30% of our land and ocean by 2030.

Today’s announcement also confirms that the launch of Round 10 of the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund and Round 30 of the Darwin Initiative will be opening to applications in May 2023. Projects will soon be able to access up to a further £40 million funding building on the government’s commitment to combat biodiversity loss and improve animal welfare standards.

Notes to Editors

Further projects funded over the next five years include:

Darwin Initiative:

  • Beekeepers Restore the Forests of Afram Plains: this project will provide training for 1,000 beekeepers on topics including wildfire management and forest restoration, while mobilising communities to help curb illegal logging in Ghana.
  • Scaling rights-based approaches for conservation and poverty reduction in Indonesia: this locally led project is working to scale up an approach developed over the past seven years to advance the rights of indigenous communities, improve socio-economic conditions, and conserve biodiversity across Indonesia.
  • Building Capacity for Reciprocal Watershed Agreements in the Tropical Andes: this project will help roll out Reciprocal Watershed Agreements, where residents will be supported to develop projects that protect forests and wildlife while providing new livelihood opportunities for local communities. The funding will help to scale up the project, building capacity and capability across Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund:

  • Furs For Life – Preserving Culture, Protecting Nature: this project empowers women-led enterprises in Zambia and South Africa to produce synthetic fur garments, replacing authentic wild cat skin garments in local communities.
  • Conservation Litigation & Wildlife (CLAW): this project explores innovative ways to hold perpetrators of Illegal Wildlife Trade accountable by using liability laws to demand that they provide remedies for the damage they cause.
  • Unlocking DNA barcoding to identify illegal timber: this project will work to overcome the technical challenges proving a barrier to timber identification – a technique vital to improving the detection and prevention of the illegal timber trade.

Further information:

  • Round 10 of the IWTCF will open for new applications on Monday 1st May 2023. For more information on previous projects as well as how to apply please visit:
  • Round 30 of the Darwin Initiative will open for new applications on Monday 22nd May 2023. For more information on previous projects as well as how to apply please visit:
  • A full list of successful projects from Round 9 of the IWTCF and Round 29 of the Darwin Initiative will be made available on the fund’s respective websites shortly.
  • The government has also announced the launch of a new grant scheme, Darwin Plus Strategic, under the Darwin Plus Programme. This will enable large-scale projects to access up to £3 million funding to drive nature recovery and restore biodiversity in the UK Overseas Territories. For more information visit:
Published 29 April 2023