Marion Paviour Award 2022 winner announced!

We are very excited to introduce our latest recipient of the Marion Paviour Award for 2022, Sopani Sichinga. Sopani is a BSc Forestry graduate from Mzuzu University in Malawi, and has been working with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) mainly in the Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve in northern Malawi.

His research project for the award focuses on assessing the Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) in and around Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve. Currently, Martial Eagles here are reported as being resident although a comprehensive assessment of the population has not been carried out despite concerns about recent declines in population numbers.

The Marion Paviour Award is aimed at furthering research into the conservation of birds of prey and is intended to support early-career researchers. The award will help cover food, accommodation, field expenses and fuel costs for Sopani’s fieldwork.

“My current research study on assessing the Endangered Martial Eagle sparks from my enthusiasm to study raptors and other birds in Vwaza. The Martial Eagle is of particular interest because the species occurs there, but its conservation status remains unknown despite its reported continued declines which have contributed to the species being up-listed to Endangered by the IUCN in 2020.

“As a way to help in conserving this iconic species in Vwaza, I applied for the Marion Paviour Award with the Hawk Conservancy Trust. I feel very privileged and happy to have won the award which will significantly help to raise awareness regarding the status of the Martial Eagle in Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve, and lead to conservation action from the relevant organisations. My passion for conservation in general has continued to grow from when I was working in the field of conservation research and helping with a range of conservation projects in Malawi.

“The support of the Hawk Conservancy Trust is, therefore, highly appreciated as it will help with field resource mobilisation which remains a challenge when planning any research fieldwork.”

Sopani submitted a compelling application for the award, which highlighted the lack of detailed knowledge about Martial Eagles in his study area and how his project will fill an important gap by creating a vital baseline about a potentially important population of this Endangered species. Sopani began fieldwork in April and we look forward to sharing updates and pictures throughout the year on the project.

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