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WFN Conservation Lecture 2016: Speaker Paula Kahumbu

19 october 2017

WFN’s 2016 Conservation Lecture:

POACHING, PESTICIDES & POLITICS: Protecting the small and the mighty

Kenyan conservation leader and Whitley Award winner speaks at high profile event in London

The Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) is holding a special East Africa event where powerful talks will be given by two of Kenya’s conservation heroes, anti-poaching activist Dr Paula Kahumbu and prominent pollinator expert Dr Dino Martins. Taking place at the Royal Geographical Society in London, the evening will be hosted by the highly-acclaimed natural history filmmaker, Alastair Fothergill, Executive Producer of BBC’s The Hunt in 2015, and will discuss the challenges of conservation work in East Africa.

Success in tackling elephant poachers!

Paula Kahumbu is one of Kenya’s most influential conservationists and was recognised with a Whitley Award in 2014. She campaigns for elephants and most recently has developed ground-breaking work with the legal fraternity and the support of Kenya’s First Lady to highlight the lack of prosecution of wildlife crime. As part of her work, Paula is training investigators and prosecutors to tackle poaching and illegal trade, and develop new standard operating procedures for coordination across law enforcement agencies.

African elephants are the largest land animal on Earth and are totems for many African tribes. Paula believes that Kenya’s experience and historical knowledge of elephants places it in a leading role in the global effort to save the species from extinction. In 1989 the country lit a pyre of ivory representing thousands of elephants killed by poachers. This led to a global agreement to ban the ivory trade. However, since 2009 Africa has seen a massive resurgence in poaching, reaching a ten-year high in 2013 when more than 35,000 elephants were killed illegally for their tusks.

Why it matters:

Nearly 100 elephants were killed each day in Africa during the peak of the poaching crisis; they were disappearing faster than they could reproduce. Yet, elephant tourism contributes to 12% of Kenya’s GDP and over 300,000 jobs. Consequently, poaching threatens the economy, security and stability of Kenya.

Key achievements:

  • Paula’s campaign to tackle poaching reports a massive reduction of 80% in the killing of elephants in Kenya over the last three years.
  • Paula was involved with Kenya’s most recent burning of 10 tons of ivory on 31st April 2016. This action will again send a strong message to CITES delegates who will be discussing elephant conservation at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in September 2016.
  • Paula’s NGO, WildlifeDirect, addressed over 570 Judges, Magistrates and Kadhis to advise them on the emerging new laws concerning wildlife crimes and now maintains an active partnership with the Judiciary Training Institute. She is now exploring replication of this outreach work in Uganda, Zambia and Malawi.
  • Paula’s ‘Eyes In The Courtroom’ project, which focusses attention on wildlife prosecution, has resulted recently in Kenya’s first major sentencing for illegal possession of ivory. This case involved extraditing the culprit back to Kenya and delivered a punishment of 20 years in prison with a US$200,000 fine handed down in July this year.
  • Wildlife Direct also has a watching brief on a further case involving four ivory seizures in Singapore and Thailand – the first wildlife case in Kenya to seize assets under the proceeds of crime and money laundering act.
  • Paula is also changing her fellow citizens’ perceptions of wildlife through this year’s NTV Wild screenings on Kenyan TV developed in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service.
  • Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta recently launched a major women’s empowerment project in collaboration with WildlifeDirect to support 147 Maasai women of the Mbirikani community who live with elephants. They have registered a company and are making and selling beaded fashion clothing products for the local and international market.
  • Paula won the Order of the Grand Warrior, a Presidential medal for conservation achievement and has just been appointed as Chair of the Board of the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), the country’s foremost cultural and natural history institution. NMK’s role is to collect, preserve, study, document and present Kenya’s past and present cultural and natural heritage.


Watch Paula’s Whitley Award speech here and TEDx Talk here

On receipt of her Whitley Award, Edward Whitley (Founder of WFN) said: “The Whitley Awards are about celebrating success. Paula is truly deserving of her Whitley Award. She has worked tirelessly with colleagues from government and civil society to help transform Kenya’s response to the elephant poaching crisis.”

Paula is part of an elite group of conservation leaders who have won the coveted Whitley Award for grassroots conservationists working against tremendous odds in developing countries. Paula won a Whitley Award in 2014.

– ENDS –

Press materials available:

Copyright-cleared photographs of Paula Kahumbu, her project and the Awards Ceremony are available to download online via Google Photos

 Notes to Editors:

  • Tickets for the evening event will be released late September and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Talk tickets: £35(including drinks reception); Talk & Dinner: we will be suggesting a voluntary donation of £250 per person (places are limited). For more information see here.
  • The Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) is a UK registered charity that champions outstanding grassroots leaders in nature conservation across the developing world. It provides Whitley Awards, often referred to by others as “Green Oscars”, prestigious international prizes presented to individuals in recognition of their achievements in nature conservation. Each Award Winner receives £35,000 in project funding over one year. Since 2001, the charity’s patron, HRH The Princess Royal, has presented the Awards at a special ceremony in London.
  • The Whitley Gold Award recognises an outstanding past recipient of a Whitley Award who has gone on to make a significant contribution to conservation.
  • Whitley Award winners join an international network of Whitley Award alumni eligible to apply for the Whitley-Segré Conservation Fund. These follow-on grants are awarded competitively to winners seeking to scale up their effective conservation work over 1 to 3 years.
  • Over the last 23 years, WFN has given £12 million to conservation and recognised more than 170 conservation leaders in over 70 countries.
  • The Whitley Awards are open to individuals working on wildlife conservation issues in developing countries. Applications are now open for the 2017 Awards; further information on eligibility criteria is available from Firebird PR and our website.
  • WFN is generously supported by: Arcus Foundation; The William Brake Charitable Trust; The Byford Trust; Sarah Chenevix-Trench; The Constance Travis Charitable Trust; Garden House School Parents’ Association; Garfield Weston Foundation; The G D Charitable Trust; HDH Wills 1965 Charitable Trust; HSBC Holdings Plc; Icon Films; Interconnect IT; Lund Trust: a charitable fund of Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing; Montesogno; Notting Hill Preparatory School; The Rufford Foundation; The Schroder Foundation; Fondation Segré; The Shears Foundation; Steppes Travel; The Whitley Animal Protection Trust; WWF-UK; The Friends and Scottish Friends of the Whitley Fund for Nature; and many individual and anonymous donors.
  • Contact Firebird PR for further information: Jane Bevan or Susannah Penn at Firebird PR on +00 44 01235 835297 / +00 44 07977 459547 or via email to [email protected]
  • Whitley Fund for Nature and the Whitley Awards are not associated with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
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