Kenyan Wildlife Advocate Paula Kahumbu Wins 2011 National Geographic Society/Buffett Award

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Kenyan conservationist and 2011 National Geographic Emerging Explorer Paula Kahumbu has been named winner of the prestigious National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in African Conservation. This $25,000 prize is awarded each year to one conservationist from Africa for his or her outstanding work and lifetime contributions that further the understanding and practice of conservation in their country. Paula has been recognized for her conservation efforts and for her leadership and dedication in managing and protecting Kenya's natural resources.

As executive director of WildlifeDirect (www.WildlifeDirect.org), Kenyan Paula Kahumbu, Ph.D., uses the power of the Internet to spotlight key conservation issues and raise awareness and donations for projects saving wildlife and wild places. Thanks to her efforts, about 120 conservation projects have an online platform to share challenges and victories via blogs, videos, photos and podcasts, saving species from ants to lions. By celebrating the work of conservation heroes, Kahumbu has turned WildlifeDirect into a tool to advocate for and share home-grown conservation solutions to such challenges as ivory and rhino horn poaching, roads through parks, climate change and wildlife conflict in areas that neighbor parks. You can read Kahumbu's complete profile at http://www.mwakilishi.com/sites/default/files/Paula-Kahumbu-profile-6-11.docx.

People concerned about wildlife and wild places can view problems in real time and track the impact of their own contributions. They can spend lunch breaks watching an endangered eagle whose eyesight they helped to restore, see conservationists saving orphan orangutans in Indonesia or follow Maasai warriors protecting lions in Africa.

The site can bring a unique big-picture perspective to otherwise fragmented efforts. When a disturbing trend of large predators dying from poison surfaced on blogs, WildlifeDirect connected the dots to reveal the same chemical pesticide was used to kill all of the animals. The WidlifeDirect team called a meeting with bloggers and government officials, alerted the online audience, galvanized organizations across Africa and attracted international media coverage. Public pressure ultimately forced the U.S. manufacturer to withdraw the pesticide from Kenya. It is already banned in the United States and n the EU, and Kahumbu is now working on getting it banned in East Africa.

Beyond wildlife, another endangered resource is land for conservation. As executive director of the Kenya Land Conservation Trust, Kahumbu works to significantly increase the area of protected land that provides critical corridors and buffer zones for wildlife, especially migratory species. She is currently working on saving the lifeline to Nairobi National Park, home to wild rhino, lion, cheetah, leopard, hippopotamus and many other species. She is persuading fellow Kenyans that Nairobi Park is “The World’s Greatest City Park” and is involving the public in finding solutions to keeping the park’s wildlife dispersal area open for key lion and cheetah populations.

National Geographic Society/Buffett Award recipients are chosen from nominations submitted to the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration, which screens the nominations through a peer-review process.

“This year’s awardees are recognized for their outstanding leadership and the vital role they play in managing and protecting the natural resources in their regions. They are inspirational conservation advocates who serve as role models and mentors in their communities,” said Peter Raven, chairman of the Committee for Research and Exploration.

Dedicated to inspiring people to care about the planet, the Committee for Research and Exploration, through its Conservation Trust grants, supports innovative solutions to issues of global concern and encourages model projects that engage and inform their areas’ local populations.

Howard Buffett is president of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which focuses on humanitarian and conservation issues. An agriculturalist, businessman and widely published photographer, Buffett is also a member of the Commission on Presidential Debates, serves as a U.N. Ambassador Against Hunger for the U.N. World Food Program and is a member of the National Geographic Society’s Council of Advisors.

The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 400 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; live events; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 9,600 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com.
 

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