OSCAP Rhino Conference 2014
Dr Paula Kahumbu, Wildlife Direct
Dr Paula Kahumbu, executive director of the Kenya Land Conservation Trust and WildlifeDirect, and chairman of the Friends of Nairobi National Park, was coached and mentored by paleoanthropologist and conservationist Richard Leakey, who remains one of her closest allies and supporters. Born and raised in Nairobi, Kahumbu entered into conservation at the height of the elephant poaching in the late 1980s. Her introduction to conservation was to measure Kenya’s entire stockpile of ivory. That work literally went up in smoke in the spectacular ivory bonfire of 1989 — a powerful international statement that the country would not tolerate the effects of the international trade in ivory on Kenya’s elephant herds. A decade later, Kahumbu joined the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and became one of the most vocal advocates against the increasing calls for renewed international trade in ivory. She is best known for her passionate and forceful speeches at two CITES conferences where she headed the Kenyan delegation.
Kahumbu started the Colobus Trust and introduced colobus bridges or “colobridges” across the busy Diani highway — an innovation that has become a tourist attraction and has been expanded and been exported to other countries where primates and other arboreal animals need to cross roads. She ran the Colobus Trust while conducting her Ph.D. research on elephants in the Shimba Hills at the Kenya coast, all while singlehandedly raising her curious and adventurous 2-year-old son, Joshua. The Trust still saves monkeys, and Josh is all grown up and working for the U.S. Navy.