WildlifeDirect CEO Dr. Paula Kahumbu wins prestigious Whitley Gold Award

NAIROBI, May 13, 2021: WildlifeDirect is thrilled to announce that Dr. Paula Kahumbu is the winner of the prestigious Whitley Gold Award for 2021. The Whitley Gold Award comes with £100,000 in project funding and will be used to establish an environmental justice desk to address conservation matters such as human-wildlife conflict, securing wild spaces for wildlife and empowering citizens to advocate for environmental matters in Kenya.

In a statement, WildlifeDirect CEO, Dr. Paula Kahumbu said, “The Whitley Gold Award validates and elevates the important work that we are doing at WildlifeDirect to save Africa’s wildlife and wild places. We are currently campaigning to save the Amboseli wildlife dispersal area and migratory corridor which is becoming congested with developments such as mining and farming. Keeping the land open is essential for the survival of elephants and other wildlife that migrate between Amboseli and Tsavo West National Parks. Saving this vital corridor will set the precedent not just for Kenya but for Africa and the world on the importance of preserving our great migrations and the livelihoods of pastoralist communities. It is my hope that our campaign will encourage the Kenyan Government to secure this important landscape through enforceable legislation and incentives for land owners within the landscapes of key migrations including Amboseli and the Greater Maasai Mara-Serengeti wildebeest migration.”

In a press statement, Edward Whitley, Founder of the Whitley Fund for Nature, said: “Paula is, without doubt, one of the most influential and respected conservationists in Africa. She has made remarkable progress in tackling Africa’s elephant poaching crisis and continues to empower communities to become a catalyst for change.” He further added that Paula’s work is proof that grassroots conservation has the power to make an impact nationally and internationally.

Speaking at the viewing ceremony, British High Commissioner Jane Marriott said, “As the UK prepares to host the UN climate talks in November, working with Kenya to tackle climate change and protecting biodiversity remains a top priority. Delighted that the winner of this year’s Whitley Gold Award is Kenya’s Dr. Paula Kahumbu, for her tireless work to protect and conserve Kenya’s biodiversity. The will and determination of people like Paula will drive Kenya’s conservation efforts for a brighter greener future for all of us.”

Speaking at the Whitley Award Dinner hosted by the British High Commissioner Jane Marriott, WildlifeDirect Board Chair, Mr. Ali Daud Mohamed acknowledged the work that Paula and the team at WildlifeDirect have been doing and said, “Congratulations to Paula for winning the prestigious Whitley Gold Award. We are very excited and happy about this achievement as it affirms WildlifeDirect as a strong voice in conservation. As a board, we stand with Paula and the team for their courage and dedication despite the many challenges that they face when addressing pertinent conservation matters.”

The Whitley Gold Award is the top prize awarded to a Whitley Award alumni who has gone on to make an outstanding contribution to conservation. The Gold Award winners are international advocates for biodiversity with the passion and ambition to effect large-scale change. The Whitley Fund for Nature has supported Dr. Kahumbu since 1999 when she started building bridges for monkeys to cross roads safely in Diani at the Colobus Conservation Trust. In 2014, Paula won the Whitley Award donated by The LJC Fund in memory of Anthea and Lindsey Turner. Two years later in 2016, she further won the continuation funding for efforts to combat wildlife crime.

Gold winners also join the Whitley Awards Judging Panel and act as mentors to new winners. This year, Paula was in the judging panel that selected the winners for the 2021 Whitley Awards among them Sammy Safari, a Kenyan whose project focuses on transforming the future of sea turtles through coastal stewardship. Other Whitley Award winners are:

  • Lucy Kemp, South Africa: A community-based approach to conserve the Southern Ground-hornbill
  • Nuklu Phom, India: Establishing a Biodiversity Peace Corridor in Nagaland
  • Iroro Tanshi, Nigeria: Bats from the brink – participatory action to save the short-tailed roundleaf bat
  • Kini Roesler, Argentina: Hooded Grebe – guardian of the Patagonian steppe
  • Pedro Fruet, Brazil: Building bridges to encourage coexistence with the Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin

Notes for editors: 

For more information or interviews please contact Trish Sewe at WFN Press materials available:

 About WildlifeDirect:

WildlifeDirect is a Kenyan based conservation organization that has transformed anti-poaching results in Kenya through the award-winning conservation campaign “Hands Off Our Elephants”. WildlifeDirect is at the forefront of the war against wildlife crime and supports justice for wildlife and animals through advocacy and Eyes in the Courtroom. The organization’s mission is to connect people to their wildlife and nature and inspire them to treasure it and act to conserve it. WildlifeDirect also produces the Wildlife Warriors TV series and enlists young people across the nation in conservation through an educational programme called Wildlife Warriors Kids program.