In March 2012 the UNEP/CMS Secretariat announced the call for proposals for the 2012 Small Grants Programme (SGP). The CMS SGP had been established in 1994 by the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties. However, despite its success, before 2012 the Small Grants Programme (SGP) had been inactive for several years due to a lack of funding. In 2012 the Programme was revived, thanks to the generous contribution made by UNEP amounting US$100,000 per year for the period 2012-2014. This contribution was a great success for the Convention and as the then Acting Executive Secretary of CMS, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema declared “These projects help to demonstrate that CMS can have a positive conservation impact on the ground in addition to the action at policy level”.
The relaunch of the SGP in 2012 was warmly received by governmental institutions, non-governmental organizations, communities, conservationists and researchers engaged in work related to migratory species. By the deadline for submission in May 2012, 74 project applications had been received from 44 countries, 12 of which were Least Developed Countries.
After a careful screening by Borja Heredia, the Scientific and Technical Officer at CMS and several experts from the CMS Secretariat and Scientific Council, all those projects that did not fully meet the established criteria were discarded and the best projects were shortlisted for further revision.
The final selection was made in consultation with the Chair and Vice-Chair of the CMS Scientific Council and resulted in 12 projects being chosen for funding.
The selected projects covered marine and terrestrial mammals (including bats), birds, turtles and fish, while also maintaining a geographical balance with projects in four continents.
The 12 projects reported to the Secretariat through 2013 on their progress and achievements. With a view to making the results of the projects visible to a wider audience the Secretariat launched the series “Project of the Month” which details progress in articles on the CMS website and on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter.
A summary of the aim, goals and development of 2012 SGP Projects can be found below:
- Marking and monitoring system for Danube sturgeons: This project includes activities for the reduction of negative human impacts, improvement of protection and direct conservation measures such as captive breeding and restocking with at least 50,000 individuals of autochthonous sturgeon species.
- Empowering local fishing communities to conserve coastal dolphins in Congo: Some activities initiated include the establishment of inshore fisheries exclusion zones, developing a compensation scheme for fishermen that release dolphins alive and establishing a fisher-led reporting and ‘reaction network’ that will also ensure the fishermen’s safety during rescue attempts.
- Community-based monitoring of the Humpback Whale in Costa Rica: Local communities are being engaged in activities such as identification of critical areas, behaviour, distribution, photo-identification and interactions with whale watching boats.
- Enhancing stakeholder engagement with CMS MOUs: the Saiga Resource Centre: This project provides direct support to the implementation of the CMS MOU on the Saiga Antelope, including the publication of Saiga News.
- Conservation program "Dalmatian Pelicans and Wetlands in the Mediterranean Basin”: An Action Plan will be elaborated for the conservation of the species in Skadar Lake National Park in Montenegro, an important ecotourism destination. This site is the single breeding place of the species in that country.
- South meets North – A partnership linking sooty falcon conservationists: Lack of information on sooty falcons, particularly on the wintering grounds is being addressed by data exchange and training of Madagascan experts on monitoring and management of the species.
- Acoustic surveys of Humpback Whales in Southern Mozambique: The objective of this project is to acquire acoustic data on Humpback Whale vocalizations and ambient noise in an area where an industrial port is being developed (unfortunately this project had to be cancelled due to security problems in the area).
- Distribution and abundance of Andean flamingos in Peru: Surveys are being undertaken to gather information on the flamingos’ colonies in order to find potential new sites.
- Conservation of two bat species Miniopterus schreibersii and Rhinolophus euryalein the old mines of Slovakia: An inventory of mines that are important for bats is being undertaken and 150 entrances to mines which host bat populations are being restored in order to prevent danger to human beings while allowing free access to the bats.
- Supporting Tajikistan to lead on transboundary cooperation on Snow Leopards: The project aims at promoting cooperation between Afghanistan and Tajikistan for the protection and action planning of the transboundary population that is shared by both countries.
- Addressing data gaps to improve Sea Turtle monitoring in Tanzania: The project includes daily monitoring activities during the two peak nesting periods (April and May) and locating active nests.
- Conservation of the Blue Swallow in the Eastern Highlands, Zimbabwe: Surveys to locate breeding populations of Blue Swallow are undertaken, as well as a species awareness programme with local schools and training of rangers.