Charles Tumwesigye, chief of conservation area management in the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and Dr. Alberto Yanosky, leader of an environmental organization in Paraguay that works to safeguard habitats and species across the country, have been selected as the 2013 winners of the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation.
The award is given each year to two outstanding conservationists, one in Latin American and one in Africa. Yanosky, executive director of Guyra Paraguay, is the recipient of the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Latin American Conservation; Tumwesigye wins the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in African Conservation.
Established through a gift from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to recognize and celebrate unsung heroes working in the field, these awards acknowledge the winners’ outstanding work and lifetime contributions that further the understanding and practice of conservation in their countries.
“It is an honor to participate with National Geographic in recognizing the achievements of these two remarkable visionaries who are making such a positive difference to conservation in their countries,” said Howard Buffett.
Charles Tumwesigye, a Ugandan national, has worked for 18 years in wildlife conservation and management. As chief of conservation area management, he supervises all the field operations in all the national parks in Uganda and is responsible for deploying staff in the parks and spearheading the preparation of management plans for the national parks. During his career he has been instrumental in establishing health centers at the edge of two national parks to provide healthcare and education to more than 12,000 people and outreach to some 10,000 children, in an attempt to link the benefits of accessible healthcare with conservation. He is currently working on a project to establish a network of mobile clinics to serve communities that neighbor national parks.
Tumwesigye played a key role during a recent crisis on the boundaries of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo when M23 rebels engaged in fierce battles with DRC government forces. He led efforts to provide refuge to DRC rangers who were entangled in the war and unable to protect the DRC national parks that border the Ugandan protected areas. One of these parks hosts half the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas. Tumwesigye coordinated the provision of food and logistics to ensure the rangers were safe and could return to protect these areas. He sent emissaries to negotiate with the rebels, which resulted in the wildlife remaining protected and the rangers being unharmed.
At the international level, because of his strong history of elephant conservation and expertise in this area, Tumwesigye was last year chosen to represent Uganda at the CITES Standing Committee Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. He played a major role in advocating for the African elephant, which is facing a serious threat from poaching and the international ivory trade. As a result of his strong advocacy for elephant conservation, Uganda was chosen to chair one of the influential subcommittees of the CITES Standing Committee responsible for reviewing CITES decisions about elephant conservation and ivory trade. The decisions were adopted at the recent CITES Conference of Parties in Bangkok, Thailand.
Over the years Tumwesigye has also been involved in designing and reviewing policies for community involvement in wildlife management. As a result of policies like revenue sharing and collaborative management, Uganda is looked to as a model in Africa in the area of community conservation.
National Geographic Society/Buffett Award recipients are chosen from nominations submitted to the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration, which screens the nominations through a peer-review process.
“This year’s awardees are recognized for their outstanding leadership and the vital role they play in managing and protecting the natural resources in their regions. They are inspirational conservation advocates who serve as role models and mentors in their communities,” said Peter Raven, chairman of the Committee for Research and Exploration.
Source: National Geographic