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‘Their bravery gives me hope’: Prince William hails shortlist for Tusk Conservation Awards

Prince William has been a Royal Patron of Tusk since 2005 CREDIT: CHRIS JACKSON/GETTY IMAGES

24 MAY 2019 • 12:25PM

Magnificent in both abundance and variety, Africa’s wildlife draws millions of tourists to the continent each year.

But without the work of committed, grass-roots conservationists, many of those animals would cease to exist.

Recognising these talents, the shortlist for the 2019 Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa has been announced.

“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,” says Prince William, Tusk’s Royal Patron.

“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.”The Duke of Cambridge got stuck in in Kenya in 2016 CREDIT: CHRIS JACKSON/GETTY IMAGES

Meet this year’s three nominees.

Jeneria Lekilelei, Kenya

Having lions as neighbours is magical in a safari camp. But learning to coexist long term with predators is challenging – especially in a shrinking world.

“When I was young, everyone in my culture felt like lions were the enemy; lions killed our cows,” says Jeneria Lekilelei, who grew up as a livestock herder in Samburu, northern Kenya.

Only after joining NGO Ewaso Lions did he fully appreciate the value of a species rapidly disappearing around him. Most importantly, he realised people were the biggest threat.

In his role as Director of Community Conservation, Lekilelei is responsible for educating communities and diffusing conflicts. He also leads the Warrior Watch programme, transforming young men who once killed lions into ambassadors for the species.

“Winning this award would remind us that it is not only us who love these lions and watch them every day,” he says. “It is the world; we are not alone.”Jeneria Lekilelei, nominated for his work with lions in Kenya CREDIT: THE TUSK CONSERVATION AWARDS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH INVESTEC ASSET MANAGEMENT

Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Uganda

Sharing 98 per cent of our DNA, mountain gorillas seem almost human: they sense emotions, form relationships and, as Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka has observed first-hand, they contract our diseases too.

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 says.

Her work involves educating communities about hygiene, family planning and wildlife, and she recently launched Gorilla Conservation Coffee, providing a fair price for farmers cultivating beans on the edges of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

In 1981, the mountain gorilla population had dwindled to all-time low of 242 individuals; last year’s census revealed 1,000 – and Kalema-Zikusoka has undoubtedly played a role in that revival.Dr Kalema-Zikusoka has helped Uganda’s mountain gorilla population recover well CREDIT: THE TUSK CONSERVATION AWARDS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH INVESTEC ASSET MANAGEMENT

Tomas Diagne, Senegal

Although it serves as a life-long shield, a turtle’s shell is not enough to protect the prehistoric creatures from modern-day dangers. Relieving their plight has become a life-long dedication for biologist and conservationist Tomas Diagne.

“I have worked tirelessly for 25 years to study and protect as many turtle species as possible in West Africa,” he says.

In 2009, Diagne created the African Chelonian Institute, establishing two centres for turtle protection and captive breeding programmes. He is currently managing a project to collect data on several endangered turtle species, estimating numbers for the first time and identifying which populations might be at risk of extinction.Tomas has worked with turtles for 25 years

“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 says.

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.

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