William hails Tusk conservation award finalists


The Duke of Cambridge has commended the winners and finalists of the Tusk conservation awards as part of his crusade against the illegal wildlife trade in Africa.

The charity, which has a 25-year history building sustainable conservation throughout the continent, established the awards three years ago to shine a spotlight on key projects and individuals.

Ahead of a presentation, William met five winners and finalists, including Garth Owen Smith, who has won the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa for his successful community-driven conservation initiatives in Namibia.

The Prince welcomed the conservationists to a private reception at Kensington Palace, telling Mr Owen Smith: "You've had an incredible time in conservation."

Mr Owen Smith replied: "A very enjoyable one."

He told William community engagement is the key to success because many poachers operate locally.

The Duke also spoke with Cosmas Mumba, a finalist for a separate award for his work rescuing primates in Zambia.

William spoke to Mr Mumba about the support he receives from the government, the challenges he faces and why primates are so sought after by poachers. He works in a team of just five staff.

"We are a very small team," Mr Mumba said.

The Duke replied: "Small, but hard hitting."

William discussed the importance of encouraging young people to undertake conservation research with another finalist, Mary Molokwu, who works in Liberia.

She spoke passionately of her work, which involves academic forestry and conservation programmes.

The Duke said: "It sounds like you recited a mission statement from Tusk there, I'm very impressed."

William was told of the danger faced by wildlife rangers by award finalist Emmanuel de Merode, who works in the Democratic Republic of Congo, specifically with the mountain gorilla.

Eleven of Dr de Merode's colleagues were killed by militia in August.

Edward Ndiritu, of Kenya, has been awarded the inaugural Wildlife Ranger Award for facing down similar danger.

After the brief reception, William set off to prepare to present the awards.

He said: "Very nice to see you all, best of luck for this evening."

The Duke was given a book by Mr Owen Smith, joking: "How'd you find time to write this Garth?"

Tusk founder Charlie Mayhew said the group was "at the coal face" of conservation.

He said: "Rarely do conservationists get recognition for what they do. Some of the work they are carrying out across Africa is truly exceptional and remarkable. They are completely unsung heroes."