Paula Kahumbu

Paula Kahumbu is the CEO of WildlifeDirect, an organisation that works to protect Africa's biodiversity. In 2013, she launched a campaign called "Hands Off Our Elephants."

As Paula explains, elephants are particularly important to protect because each animal eats about 150kg of vegetation per day, spreading those nutrients between habitats. She calls them 'ecosystem engineers'. Species diversity begins to collapse when elephants disappear - they are a keystone species.

One of the ways in which Paula tackles the international ivory trade, one of the biggest threats to elephants, is with 'Hands Off Our Elephants'. As she explains, poachers have previously viewed Kenya as a safe haven for their illegal supply chains. As recently as 2012, fewer than 4% of convicted offenders were sent to jail.

To ensure the success of her campaign, Paula recruited a staff that is 50% lawyers. They analyzed every single wildlife trial in the country and found that more than 70% of case files for poachers were lost or missing. This revealed an enormous amount of corruption in the court system.

The next step was to directly engage in legal proceedings. The lawyers then stood in court with government prosecutors to help with trial. They now have a 95% conviction rate of poachers and have seen an 80% decline in elephant poaching and a 90% decline in rhino poaching since the campaign started.

The success of 'Hands Off Our Elephants' made Paula a trusted voice on conservation in Kenya. She used that success to launch a TV series called 'Wildlife Warriors' which tells the stories of various Kenyan conservationists. Paula believes that the popularity of the series is testament to a growing naturalist movement in Kenya.

As she says, the general population of Kenya is now thoroughly concerned about their country's biodiversity rather than just economic growth.

Check out more of Paula's impressive work here: or learn more about WildlifeDirect here:

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