Online Exclusive: The Ones to Watch

Limor Evenhaim

A few of our top conservationists tell us who they’ve got their eyes on.

Colin Bell, Africa’s Finest

Andrea Turkalo. She is an amazing American who has been living for 20 years with the Baka [ethnic group] in the Central African Republic. Her Elephant Listening Project has made a tremendous contribution to expanding our knowledge of forest.”

Greg Carr, Gorongosa National Park (Mozambique)

Tonga Torcida. He is a 20-year-old young man from a village on Mount Gorongosa who I’m putting through college. Torcida wanted to be tour guide for the park but was turned on to biology by a visit from [biologist] E. O. Wilson, and now has bigger ambitions for wanting to help the park survive. Whoever is running the park in 20 years, they need to have their own 20-year plan. I hope it’s a Mozambican. I think it will be. I have some outstanding young people right now working for me. I see them as the future. Twenty years from now Tonga is 40 and maybe he’s the park leader. Or he could run the science center.”

Tara Getty, Africa Foundation (South Africa)

Isaac Tembe. He has been with the Africa Foundation for almost 20 years and has been instrumental in every success that the foundation has had in southern Africa. Tembe has forged relationships with communities and government bodies and he is responsible for the amazing field officers who work with him.”

Dereck and Beverly Joubert: Great Plains Conservation, Big Cats Initiative (Botswana, Kenya)

“There is a young woman who works with us at the Great Plains Foundation, Koki, who with her team dedicate their time to targeting kids in the poorest areas of Botswana near wildlife and teach them two major things: Wildlife is beneficial alive not dead, and if you extend that caring attitude throughout your life you also have to extend it to yourself and say no to violation—H.I.V. and AIDS in countries like Botswana are epidemic. It starts with girls and women saying no. It starts with kids going home to parents and saying they should stop poaching. The power of kids is hugely underrated in the conservation discussion.”

Paula Kahumbu: WildlifeDirect (Kenya)

Julius Kimani. He is the deputy director of security at Kenya Wildlife Service and has flushed poachers out of the Tsavo Conservation Area. He is courageous beyond imagination. And Robert O’Brien. He is the assistant director of the Tsavo Conservation Area. He is the man on the ground who is coordinating conservation efforts—the man is hobbling around on a broken leg and yet is in the field making sure that everyone else gets treated, community meetings are attended, poachers are apprehended and rangers are in the field! This kind of dedication and commitment is rare—he inspires me to keep up the pressure on government at my end. It really is worth it when we have such caliber of people in the field.”

Emmanuel De Mérode: Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Innocent Mburanumwe. He is the warden for the gorilla sector of the park and has been working there since he was a boy and his father was a park officer working with the gorillas. He knows all the gorillas individually and is certainly one of the world's greatest experts. His deep understanding of mountain-gorilla behavior and his concern for their welfare has meant that he has been able to develop tourism safely for both visitors and gorillas. He is also an exceptional leader and has played a critical role in training up and commanding his rangers to ensure that all visitors coming to Virunga were secure and well protected. Perhaps more than anyone else he is responsible for the fact that the mountain gorilla numbers have doubled over the past 20 years, making it one of the most successful critically-endangered species programs in the world.”

Ian Player: Wilderness Leadership School (South Africa)

Andrew Muir. He has taken over the leadership of the Wilderness Foundation and he has been a phenomenal fundraiser and is currently involved in about 40 projects, taking the foundation to new heights.”

Svein Wilhelmsen: Basecamp Explorer, Mara Naboisho Conservancy (Kenya)

Dickson Ole Kaelo. His father had four wives—he was one of the younger boys from a less-favored wife. He was sent to school. That’s what happened to less-favored boys from less-favored wives. The most-favored boys tended cattle. Dixon was a good student, now getting a Ph.D. in wildlife management. We’re sponsoring his Ph.D. He has courage, energy. Today he’s a redeemed academic. Brilliant talker. Invited all over the world to talk about the need for community-based conservancies, to save the little that’s left. Community conservancies are critical to preserving the huge number of wildlife. Dickson is one of the key figures who’s understood this and is part of making it possible. He’s a role model. And now his father has really recognized the value of education and so he’s also changed. For his grandkids he keeps saying, you have to get an education, you have to get an education.”