The finalists in this year’s Tusk Trust Award for Conservation in Africa have been revealed.
hanks to the dedication of these extraordinary men and women working on the frontline of conservation, there is a brighter future for Africa’s wildlife,” says Tusk Trust CEO Charlie Mayhew.
Here’s a brief introduction to the three shortlisted finalists for the 2019 award, sponsored by Land Rover. The Tusk Conservation Awards, in partnership with Investec Asset Management, will be presented at a ceremony in London in November 2019.
Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka (above left)
Chief Executive Officer, Conservation Through Public Health, Uganda
When Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka was 25, she was appointed to be the veterinary officer for the Ugandan Wildlife Service, which later merged with Uganda’s national parks to become the Uganda Wildlife Authority. She was first woman to hold that position. She pioneered the first wildlife translocation to restock Uganda’s national parks following years of poaching during the country’s civil wars.
As part of her veterinary research, she identified parasite transmission from humans to mountain gorillas as a significant risk factor for gorillas.
Following her demonstration of pathways for human diseases to harm or kill gorillas, Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka founded Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) to improve both human and ecological health in Africa. CTPH is a non-profit organisation based in Uganda and the USA that conducts programmes that protect gorillas and other wildlife from human and livestock disease risk; that reduce human and livestock diseases in the vicinity of wildlife; that increase the local use of family planning; and that use technology to help local development and to educate people about the environment.
In 2015, CTPH established a programme called Gorilla Conservation Coffee. Under this arrangement, the non-profit improves the livelihood of the surrounding community by assisting in getting international market prices for the community’s Arabica coffee crop. With increased incomes, the community’s illnesses and disease burden is reduced. Hence less disease is transferred to the resident gorillas.
Also, a small fee is charged and retained by the farmers whenever tourists traverse their gardens on gorilla treks.
She has served on the Boards of Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, The Gorilla Organization and Wildlife Clubs of Uganda.
Mr Jeneria Lekilelei (above centre)
Director of Community Conservation, Ewaso Lions, Kenya
Jeneria Lekilelei is an exceptional conservationist – a remarkable tracker who can locate lions in almost any situation. He is an expert on lion behaviour who can identify every lion within his study area by sight, and a skilled communicator who is the go-to person for resolving conflict in communities.
He makes it his personal mission to ensure a future for lions in northern Kenya. But it wasn’t always that way. Jeneria grew up as a livestock herder, and in his own words, “didn’t care about wildlife.” Lions were killers of cows; a threat to his family’s livelihood. But working with Ewaso Lions, Jeneria saw that the animal he knew as a threat was actually itself threatened.
His role at Ewaso Lions is designed to create sustainability for lion conservation. As the Director of Community Conservation, he is working at changing opinions, attitudes, and behaviours towards lions. Because of Jeneria and his team, the younger generation in the area is growing up with a different perception of lions than those before them – one that sees the value in lions as part of the ecosystem and understands that their presence can bring jobs and prosperity to the region.
The aim is that the rising generation will have more people like Jeneria – more champions for lion conservation – than the one before it. His responsibilities include Warrior Watch (engaging warriors), Mama Simba (engaging women), Lion Kids Camps (engaging children), Lion Watch (engaging tour guides), liaising with the Kenya Wildlife Service, and resolving conflict within communities.
Jeneria himself conceived the idea for Ewaso Lions’ flagship programme, Warrior Watch. He recognised the need to engage his own age group in protecting lions – a group traditionally neglected in conservation but who play a central role in protecting their communities and livestock from threats, including predation.
Warrior Watch turns the warrior age group into ambassadors for lions within their communities while raising awareness about conservation and advocating for peaceful co-existence with wildlife. The programme builds on warriors’ traditional protection role by increasing their ability to mitigate human-carnivore conflict.
They serve as a network working across multiple communities, enabling Ewaso Lions to monitor threatened species and record conflict incidents over a wide-ranging area. The number of communities with participating warriors has grown from one original test community to eleven communities today – in the last three years alone, thanks to Jeneria, the area covered has nearly doubled, to 4,000 sq km, and the number of participating warriors has grown from 5 to 21.
The world is used to “guns and boots” on the ground when it comes to wildlife conservation. What Jeneria has created in northern Kenya is conservation by brotherhood, upholding culture and reinforcing that local people can be the heroes of their conservation story.
Mr Tomas Diagne (above right)
Director and Founder, African Chelonian Institute, Senegal
Tomas Diagne is an African turtle biologist and conservationist, focusing on tortoises and freshwater and sea turtles in Senegal and throughout West Africa.
Over the past 26 years he has established two centres in Senegal for turtle protection and captive breeding programmes for rare species (Village des Tortues and the Rhodin Center). He has worked with local communities to preserve turtles and their habitats, and he has released and monitored Senegalese endemic turtles and hatchlings to the wild in protected areas.
He also works with Senegalese authorities to repatriate turtles confiscated from illegal shipments. In the past three years Tomas has raised and released approximately 300 endemic, freshwater Adanson’s Mud Turtle (IUCN category Data Deficient) hatchlings to the wild in a protected area he helped create at Lake Guiers, Senegal, and an additional 80 hatchlings are currently being head-started at his African Chelonian Institute/The Rhodin Center breeding facility, to be released in 2019. Tomas also rehabilitated and released 89 confiscated Sahelian Helmeted Turtles at Popenguine Natural Reserve in central Senegal in 2017.
He has trained over 20 turtle biologists from six West African countries in nest and turtle monitoring and habitat protection, and he has written over 20 IUCN Red List assessments for African turtles. In 2015, Tomas and a small group of other biologists founded the Senegal Stranding Network to document sea turtle and marine mammal strandings and mortality throughout the country for the first time. Tomas is the lead for sea turtles in this programme and to date he has documented 192 sea turtle strandings of four species. He is now working with Senegal’s Department of Fisheries to introduce sea turtle protection measures in fisheries.
Tomas currently has three graduate students from Senegal and Cote D’Ivoire who are studying wild turtle populations and he works with governments and other NGOs to protect endangered turtle species throughout West Africa. He is collaborating with geneticists around the world on the first studies of population genetics for seven turtle species: the Adanson’s Mud Turtle, Serrated and Home’s Hingeback tortoises (both IUCN Critically Endangered), and four species of sea turtles found in Senegal.
These studies will not only delineate where distinct populations exist, but will provide estimates of population numbers for the first time and identify which populations are in the most danger of extinction.