Paula Kahumbu is a wildlife conservationist and Chief Executive Officer of WildlifeDirect. She is best known as a campaigner for elephants and wildlife, spearheading the Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign, which was launched in 2014 with Kenyan First Lady Margaret Kenyatta.
Growing up just outside of Nairobi, Kenya, it did not take long for Dr. Paula Kahumbu to fall in love with wildlife. The renowned conservationist spent her high school years interacting with animals in her neighborhood and going on expeditions.
A chance encounter offered Kahumbu a focal point for her career: As her team prepared to measure the area’s biodiversity, a group of elephants quietly surrounded them. Instead of confronting the team, the elephants simply laid down to sleep. Kahumbu was immediately struck by the grace of the elephants and their comfort around her.
As a result, Kahumbu decided to focus her Ph.D. research on elephants. A few years later, she is now a champion for elephant rights worldwide. She is the CEO of WildlifeDirect, an organization that helps conservationists directly report and publish their findings online. She also leads the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign with Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, the first lady of the Republic of Kenya.
Kahumbu’s efforts to protect elephants against environmental changes and poaching have gained the support of conservationists in Kenya and around the world. She is recognized as a Kenyan conservation ambassador by Brand Kenya and in 2015, she was granted the title of Order of the Grand Warrior by the Kenyan President for outstanding service.
As talented as Kahumbu is in the field, she is also a visionary on the page. She is the author of critically acclaimed books, including Owen and Mzee, a children’s book that was adapted into a documentary. She is also a regular contributor at National Geographic magazine and is The Guardian‘s ‘Environment Blogger for Africa.’
After completing her secondary education at Loreto Convent Msongari School in Kenya, Kahumbu was awarded a national scholarship to study ecology and biology at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. She received a master’s degree at the University of Florida and a Ph.D. at Princeton University.
In June 2021, Kahumbu was awarded the Rolex National Geographic Explorer Of The Year for her commitment to preserving wildlife and habitats in Kenya and beyond.
Paula Kahumbu’s Series
Wildlife Warriors is a new wildlife documentary series produced by WildlifeDirect Studios. This series provides perspective on conservation from Africa in her own eyes. The development of this series was funded by the U.S. Government, through USAID, in partnership with U.S. Department of the Interior, Wild Lives Foundation, and National Geographic.
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WildlifeDirect (previously the Africa Conservation Fund) was founded in 2004 by the prominent Kenyan conservationist and paleoanthropologist, Dr. Richard Leakey, and former World Bank Representative to Kenya, Harold Wackman. WildlifeDirect was initially conceived as an online platform to provide a voice to African conservationists to protect wildlife as an important global heritage. By publishing their blogs, the aim was to raise awareness and funds for individuals and organizations on the frontlines in otherwise ignored conservation areas.
In the early years, WildlifeDirect highlighted the plight of gorillas in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, successfully campaigned to ban the pesticide Furudan that was being used to poison lions in Kenya, and supported the Mara Conservancy following the collapse in tourism revenues as a result of the post-election violence in 2007.
In 2012, in response to the poaching crisis affecting the elephant population, WildlifeDirect redirected its focus to elephant protection. The following year, WildlifeDirect launched its flagship campaign, Hands Off Our Elephants, under the patronage of the First Lady of Kenya, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta. For the first time in history, a First Lady of Africa adopted a conservation campaign. Over the past few years, the campaign has been widely recognized for its singular successes in advocacy and generating unprecedented local support for wildlife conservation never before witnessed in Kenya.
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