Author: Trevor Charles
Africa is famous in the world for its spectacular wildlife. But there is trouble in paradise.
The black rhino is almost going extinct, only 1000 mountain gorillas remain, and 35,000 African elephants are killed each year. The king of the jungle is also not safe; 43% of the lion population has been lost in the last 21 years. Many other animal populations have been threatened and may be decimated in our lifetime.
And it isn’t only the animals that have been threatened. The continent’s Savanna and Rainforests are now more than ever facing their greatest trials. The tropical rainforests which have been referred to as the “lungs of the earth” are falling faster than anyone can imagine. The world economic forum reports that 90% of West Africa’s rainforest has been destroyed, and the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, which spans six African countries, has seen the rates of deforestation double since 1990.
Savannas, such as the Serengeti, hold the largest animal population on earth. Unfortunately, these ecosystems are facing destruction as farming communities have continued to clear vegetation to create farmland. As a result, both indigenous flora and fauna are under great threat.
At the forefront of conservation efforts are wildlife rangers who put their lives at risk for little reward. Most rangers work long hours and in tough conditions and are barely recognized for their efforts. For them, it is the passion to protect wildlife that drives them day in day out. Many have lost their lives, and others have to live with lifelong scars.
The Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award gives recognition to the selfless men and women who put their lives on the line to protect Africa’s wildlife and fragile ecosystems. The award was created in 2015, by Prince William to recognize the dedication of wildlife rangers to plant and animal conservation.
This year the prestigious award goes to Benson Kanyembo, a Zambian national. Kanyembo, who is a CSL law enforcement advisor, has been honored for his dedication and effort in protecting south Luangwa’s National park.
Zambia is one country that has faced a serious threat to her wildlife due to poaching. In 2016, the country’s elephant population had decreased by 90%. The black rhino population had been eliminated long before. However, thanks to the efforts of the rangers, the local community, and international stakeholders, there were no elephant poaching deaths in 2018 at the North Luangwa National Park, which holds more than two-thirds of the elephant population.
Kanyembo has continued to dedicate his time to helping the Department of National Parks and Wildlife bolster their efforts in wildlife conservation. He has worked tirelessly for more than twenty years and played a major role in transforming North Luangwa national park to a shelter for endangered wildlife.
The physically tough and resilient ranger grew up witnessing poaching and illegal hunting. Unlike many people in his locality, he was appalled by the sight of elephant carcasses and the sale of bushmeat that was commonplace where he grew up. This is what sparked his passion for wildlife protection.
He joined the Department of National Parks and Wildlife as a community scout and rose to become a senior wildlife policer. At the department, one of his proudest achievements was the training of wildlife police.
Having recognized that he could not bring change alone, he passionately began to carry out training, instilling discipline, and character to all his trainees. To date, he has trained more than 600 wildlife police officers across Zambia and Malawi and Zimbabwe.
He joined Conservation South Luangwa in 2009 as operations manager. After further training, he clinched the position of Law Enforcement Advisor in 2018.
At CSL, he found an inexperienced team of community scouts, which he converted into a formidable anti-poaching squad in the South Luangwa National Park, that became as competent as the better teams in the NBA odds. The ecosystem has been able to maintain an increasing wildlife population in the backdrop of an increase in poaching in most places across Africa.
Benson knew from the word go that any efforts that do not address the culture that does not see poaching as a threat to the economic and social wellbeing of the people would not bear much fruits. As a result, he insists on involving the local communities in conservation efforts.
Speaking after announcing the winner, TUSK CEO praised Benson for his inspirational leadership in fighting poaching and hailed him as an icon of hope for threatened wildlife in Zambia.
Speaking after receiving the good news, the elated Kanyembo said that the award would motivate him to work even harder and educate more people so that the future generation will continue to champion efforts to save mother nature.
Mr. Kanyembo will travel to the UK to receive his award at a red-carpet ceremony from the Duke of Cambridge, price William.
He will be receiving a medal and a £10,000 grant in an event that will be held on 21st November at the Empire Center in Leicester Square.