Paula Kahumbu

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Considered a driving force behind Africa’s conservation movement, Paula Kahumbu, CEO of NGO WildlifeDirect, has demonstrated an enduring passion for preserving threatened wildlife and habitats in Kenya and beyond. Growing up in a rural part of Nairobi and mentored early on by legendary conservationist Richard Leakey, Kahumbu has helped bring Leakey’s vision and the work of hundreds of others to anyone with Internet access, by providing an online platform for sharing conservation experiences via blogs, videos, photos and podcasts. From her earliest days, she believed that saving the world’s endangered species is only possible by involving people from all sectors of society. The conservation crisis calls for “a completely new way of thinking”, she says. “African leadership must drive conservation.” In addition to running WildlifeDirect, since 2008 Kahumbu has been spearheading the successful Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign with Margaret Kenyatta, Kenya’s First Lady to mobilize the justice sector in combating elephant poaching and trafficking of ivory. During an annual field course in Kenya, she also lectures students from Princeton University where she earned her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and conducted field research on elephants in Kenya. Among her many roles, Kahumbu was Executive Director of the Kenya Land Conservation Trust and ran the CITES office of the Kenya Wildlife Service, as well as Lafarge Eco Systems, a company responsible for the restoration of mined-out lands in East Africa. A documentary film producer and an accomplished writer who has co-authored globally best-selling books that inspire children about conservation, Kahumbu is the winner of many awards that recognize her achievements in fostering conservation. These include the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) Continuation Funding Award (2015) and a Whitley Award (2014), the Presidential Award, Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya (2014), and the National Geographic/Buffet Award for Leadership in Conservation in Africa (2011). She was named Brand Kenya Ambassador (2013) and National Geographic Emerging Explorer (2011).