Prince William has praised the “bravery and determination” of the three nominees shortlisted for this year’s Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa, one of the most prestigious recognitions of environmental work.
Jeneria Lekilelei has been included for his support of lions in Kenya, Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka for helping bolster the gorilla population in Uganda, and Tomas Diagne for his studies of African turtles in Senegal.
Prince William, Royal Patron of the Tusk charity since 2005, said it was key the world celebrates these “unsung heroes”.
“As so much of the natural world continues to face the alarming and real threat of extinction it is vital we recognise how much we owe to conservation’s unsung heroes whom the Tusk Awards shine a spotlight on,” he said.
“Living alongside Africa’s precious wildlife means they each face huge challenges, but their bravery and determination to preserve all life on the planet gives me hope for the future.”
Charlie Mayhew, CEO of the Tusk Trust, said the dedication of these “extraordinary men and women” means there is a brighter future for Africa’s wildlife. “To them extinction is not an option,” he said.
Nominee Jeneria Lekilelei has worked tirelessly for Kenya’s lion population. “When I was young, everyone in my culture felt like lions were the enemy; lions killed our cows,” he said.
In his role as director of community conservation at NGO Ewaso Lions, he has worked to educate locals and diffuse conflicts, transforming those young men who once sought to kill lions into ambassadors for the species.
In Uganda, Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka has helped the mountain gorilla population grow from 242 in 1981 to greater than a thousand today.
In 1996, investigations led her to conclude that dirty clothing used for scarecrows in fields raided by gorillas was responsible for an outbreak of scabies. Seven years later, she set up NGO Conservation Through Public Health.
“I realised we cannot protect gorillas without improving the health of people who share their fragile habitat,” she said.
Tomas Diagne created the African Chelonian Institute in 2009, establishing two centres for turtle protection and captive breeding in Senegal.
“I spend all my time studying African turtles, their habitat needs, evolution, art and legends throughout the continent in order to not only learn about them, but to inspire others to protect them for future generations,” he said.
Tusk has been recognising the work of conservationists in Africa since 1990. The awards are held annually in partnership with Investec Asset Management.
The winner of the Tusk Award for Conservation in African will be announced in November and is sponsored by Land Rover.