African heroes crowned as conservation royals by the Prince of Wales

tusk awards prince william conservation birdwatching wildlife tusk awards travel to africa – Chris Jackson / Getty Images for Tusk

The Prince of Wales urged people to come together despite “turbulent times” and do everything in their power “to stop the appalling species decline our planet has witnessed over the past 50 years.”

Speaking at the 10th annual Tusk Awards For Conservation in Africa, held last night at Hampton Court Palace, Prince William highlighted the work of conservation experts who risk their lives to safeguard the “precious” ecosystems of Africa: “We are living in turbulent times and it is all too easy to lose sight of how vital it is to take care of our natural world. But we must remain focused on investing in nature and the environment, protecting it for future generations. We don’t have to pass the baton to our children and grandchildren, apologizing Our lack of collective action “.

The prince, who is the charity’s royal patron, also presented the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa to two extraordinary personalities: environmentalist Ian Craig, who works at the Lewa Conservancy where the prince did an internship, and Achilles Brunnel Byaruhanga, a bird expert working in Uganda.

bird watching wildlife tusk prince william conservation africa travel awards

bird watching wildlife tusk prince william conservation africa travel awards

“We will probably be able to save only a few, but it’s still worth it”

Ian Craig

At almost exactly the same time every night, a small herd of buffalo gathers under Ian Craig’s hilltop house on the Laikipia Plateau.

Under normal circumstances, it would be dangerous to approach these capricious animals on foot. But the situation in northern Kenya is far from regular. Tired and tired from months of drought, the herd barely reacts as Craig timidly puts a bale of hay to their hooves.

“We’ll probably only be able to save a few, but it’s still worth it,” says the conservationist, who is paying five times the price of the extra fodder to feed the animals on the Lewa reserve he helped found. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a small gesture. But some of Craig’s greatest hits started with simple ideas.

Tusk Wildlife rewards conservation

Tusk Wildlife rewards conservation

Considered a conservation king by many, including the Prince of Wales, who took an internship at Lewa, Craig helped reshape Kenya’s landscape for both people and wildlife. Crucial in transforming his family’s 62,000-acre ranch into a community guardian, he joined forces with conservationist Anna Merz to found one of Africa’s most successful rhino sanctuaries and lobbied governments to introduce ivory bans. which subsequently caused a collapse in market prices and a decline in elephant poaching.

None of these results, he insists, would have been possible without the help of “our neighbors”.

Shifting his focus away from specific species, he now takes a more holistic approach to conservation: “When you can turn a corner, you realize these animals need somewhere to go. You have to invest in space “.

The rarest antelope in the world and the translocation of Rothschild’s giraffes

Recognizing that the future of Africa’s wildlife largely exists outside of protected areas and national parks, it argues for the importance of empowering the local population. As the founder and head of conservation for the Northern Rangelands Trust, an umbrella organization that unites 43 conservation communities in northern Kenya, he has launched several innovative projects: the first community-owned black rhino sanctuary in Kenya in the Sera reserve; a program in Garissa County to increase declining populations of hirola, the rarest antelope in the world; the translocation of Rothschild’s giraffes to the Ruko reserve on the shores of Lake Baringo.

wildlife conservation trust

wildlife conservation trust

Operating in these remote areas, where tribal strife and livestock theft often threaten security, is challenging. En route to a community meeting along the Ewaso River, its flight path is diverted when news of unrest arrives. Yet he remains undeterred.

“Wealth and opportunity shouldn’t just be in these large protected areas. It has to be on the other side and that’s where NRT is going, “he says, landing his yellow biplane on a dry river bed, where – for the next few hours – he’ll sit in the shade of date palms listening intently to a guardianship council discuss future plans.

Describing his role as a facilitator, assisting with funding and expertise, the modest 70-year-old says that NRT has become an independent operation and would no doubt grow stronger even if it disappears tomorrow.

“It’s no longer about working with communities or bringing communities to conservation. It’s about keeping up with the communities, ”she says.

animal conservation africa wildlife

animal conservation africa wildlife

Plans to replicate NRT in Uganda’s Kidepo region, bordering South Sudan, show that the model could be a model for conservation across Africa.

“It’s about units, not animals,” he explains, revealing that the organization is inundated with requests from new reserves.

“It’s really about trying to put all of this together. What started out as a marathon is now a downhill race ”.


Exceptional travel (01608 638777; offers a five night full board safari at Lewa Safari Camp starting from £ 3,795 per person, including flights.

Curl some feathers to protect the natural world in Uganda

Achille Brunnel Byaruhanga

Flocks of terns skim the glittering surface of Lake Victoria, moving in formations like clouds dancing in the wind. Not long ago, ornithologist Achilles Brunnel Byaruhanga estimates that two million birds visited Uganda’s Lutembe Bay wetland. But the numbers have declined in recent years, a decline he attributes to the invasion of a nearby flower farm.

“We’ve been fighting each other for some time,” says the pioneering birdwatcher, as he paddles the farm with concerned members of the surrounding community.

Wildlife Conservation Awards in Africa

Wildlife Conservation Awards in Africa

Guardians of the protected area, which Byaruhanga helped establish in his role as Executive Director of the NGO NatureUganda, these people are already suffering the impacts of pollution: the water is no longer drinkable; the branches of fruit trees are empty; and the invasive cabbage of the Nile obstructs the waterways.

Confident that they will win if we “keep pushing for the right thing”, Byaruhanga believes that good will always triumph: “Businessmen and wealthy people may be connected on a higher level, but we are connected with people. This is where the general power resides ”.

Stop deforestation and stop mass poisoning

Resisting the authorities is nothing new for the outspoken 54-year-old, who has established 34 important bird protection areas and helped identify and designate 11 of Uganda’s 12 Ramsar sites. In 2008, it prevented the government from allowing sugar cane farmers to cultivate the Mabira forest outside Kampala; while at the beginning of his career, he managed to prevent a mass poisoning of “annoying” marabou storks.

Blaming mismanagement of waste for the number of scavengers, now estimated at around 10,000, he even told the president that a nesting couple in his garden were “gifted by nature,” sarcastically borrowing a marketing slogan used at the time. by Uganda Tourism.

Byaruhanga birder Wildlife Conservation Tusk Awards

Byaruhanga birder Wildlife Conservation Tusk Awards

Byaruhanga, such an avid birdwatcher who even did a research tally on his honeymoon, says Uganda’s 1,000-plus species are also a vital income factor for tourism and an indicator of more environmental health. broad: “We are protecting these birds because they are important to our ecosystem and income generation for the country.” But he insists that “community-driven” conservation is the only way to achieve results.

“Up to 80 percent of Uganda’s population depends on nature. So we have to make sure that nature can provide for the generations to come ”.

Each place has a different set of birds – it’s like you’re always going to a new country

In addition to securing the protection of 500,000 hectares of wetlands, Byaruhanga says he is very proud that “communities can benefit from these sites and species”.

In addition to helping fishermen organize shoebill safaris in the Mabamba swamps, now a popular wildlife tourism activity, he has strengthened Batwa groups in Echuya Forest and is an ongoing inspiration for emerging young birding guides.

Tusk Awards Prince William Wildlife Conservation Africa

Tusk Awards Prince William Wildlife Conservation Africa

Even though her children haven’t started contractions yet, she has successfully cultivated a love of national parks. And her bird list is always a work in progress: “Every place has a different set of birds, so every time you go out it’s like you’re visiting a new country; you will always find something beautiful and new.


Exceptional travel (01608 638777; offers an eight night full board birding safari in Uganda from £ 4,499 per person, including flights.

The Tusk Awards For Conservation in Africa are presented in collaboration with Ninety One. The Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa is sponsored by Ninety One.

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