WASHINGTON (Dec. 8, 2004)–Two courageous wildlife champions, Ali Kaka, executive director of Kenya’s East African Wild Life Society, and Michel Masozera, Rwanda country director for the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society, are this year’s winners of the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in African Conservation.
The $25,000 awards will be presented by Howard Buffett, agriculturalist, businessman and son of investor Warren Buffett, at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Dec. 8. Established through a gift from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the awards acknowledge outstanding work and lifetime contributions that further the understanding and practice of conservation in Africa.
Based in Nairobi, Kaka has been executive director of East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) since 2001. EAWLS protects endangered and threatened species and habitats in East Africa and is at the forefront of community-based conservation initiatives. In the late 1990s, EAWLS, impeded by management problems, was in danger of collapse. After just three years of Kaka’s leadership, the Society has increased membership by 80 percent, its credibility within the conservation fraternity is re-established and its finances are more robust.
Before joining EAWLS, Kaka was services head of tourism, marketing and facilities development of the Kenya Wildlife Service. He previously worked in the field as a warden and tested the first Conflict Resolution System to avert acute human-wildlife conflict from livestock and crop losses caused by wildlife. He also established Kenya’s Marine Parks Unit that now manages seven marine parks and reserves. Other achievements include helping found the first Rhino Capture and Translocation Unit in Kenya in 1987, which led to the establishment of Kenya’s Rhino Sanctuary Programme; pioneering the decentralization of wildlife management within the Kenya Wildlife Service; and being instrumental in creating a comprehensive database on wildlife research in Kenya.
Masozera, Rwanda country director for Wildlife Conservation Society since 2002, has worked tirelessly to document and preserve Rwanda’s rich biodiversity in the difficult years following civil war. For the past seven years he has led WCS’s Nyungwe Forest Conservation Project. Nyungwe Forest, home to 13 primate species, faces intense pressure as it is surrounded by some of the highest human population densities in Africa. To protect the reserve from threats such as agricultural encroachment, hunting, logging and gold mining, Masozera has implemented a multi-disciplined conservation program that has become a national model for protecting biodiversity in the face of daunting socioeconomic challenges.
Masozera led the first comprehensive biological survey of Nyungwe Forest, which resulted in the reserve being zoned into areas of highest conservation importance and multi-use zones allowing limited resource use by local people. He is establishing a low-impact ecotourism program at the reserve, involving habituated chimpanzees and local guides, which will generate much-needed revenue and demonstrate the value of conservation to local communities. Working with the Rwandan military, he also has trained and equipped guards to reduce poaching in the reserve. Thanks to Masozera’s efforts, the Rwandan government this year accorded Nyungwe national park status.
Recipients of the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award are selected by Howard Buffett and members of National Geographic’s Conservation Trust, which supports innovative conservation projects around the world.
In addition to serving as president of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Buffett is chairman of Lindsay Manufacturing and president of Buffett Farms, with properties in Illinois and Nebraska. His foundation has established a reserve in South Africa, where he has set up facilities for cheetah research. He is a widely published agricultural, humanitarian and wildlife photographer, who has traveled extensively throughout the Third World. Buffett is the author of several books, including “On the Edge: Balancing Life’s Resources,” “Tapestry of Life” and the soon-to-be-completed “Threatened Kingdom,” focusing on mountain gorilla conservation in Africa.