The Wildlife Conservation Society has won Swiss Re Foundation’s prestigious International ReSource Award for Sustainable Watershed Management for its efforts to protect and restore the headwaters of Brazil’s Pantanal, one of the world’s largest tropical wetlands.

The International ReSource Award for Sustainable Watershed Management is an internationally recognized prize acknowledging leadership in the implementation of the principles of sustainability in watershed management and addresses the need for access to clean water supplies in developing and emerging countries. The $150,000 award is presented by an international jury to one or several projects annually.

Dr. Julie Kunen, Executive Director for WCS’s Latin America and the Caribbean Program, accepted the award with Mr. Carlos Durigan, Director of WCS’s Brazil Program, and Dr. Don Eaton of WCS’s Pantanal Program in a ceremony held on March 22 (World Water Day) in Zurich Switzerland.

The WCS Brazil Pantanal Program—one of nearly 300 applicants for this year’s ReSource Award—works to increase protection and restoration efforts for key headwaters feeding the Pantanal through land-use planning, sustainable practices, and capacity building on the municipal level.

“The Pantanal is one of the world’s great natural wonders, one that supports both outstanding biodiversity as well as a large number of traditional ranching families and communities,” said Dr. Kunen. “Safeguarding the waterways that supply this massive wetland will rely on region-wide cooperation and sustainable strategies, but we believe that win-win outcomes that benefit both wildlife and people are possible here.”

WCS’s project focusing on the Pantanal headwaters is part of a larger effort to conserve the Pantanal biome, its wildlife, and communities as a bulwark to the effects of climate change. The Pantanal measures 58,000 square miles (an area larger than New York State) and supports a number of charismatic species such as white-lipped peccaries, capybaras, caimans, and one of the world’s largest populations of jaguars. Since 2006, WCS conservationists have worked with regional municipalities to promote sustainable land-use practices.

“WCS’s work in the Pantanal promotes land use planning that both protects the rich and diverse fauna of this seasonally flooded wetland, while also supporting  the ranching and agriculture that sustains human livelihoods, “said Dr. John Robinson, Executive Vice President for Conservation and Science.