RCP Community Liaison Officer chosen as a 2013 Disney Conservation Hero

Msago at local meeting. (c) Pat Erickson

Msago at local meeting. (c) Pat Erickson

We are thrilled to announce that RCP’s Community Liaison Officer, Ayubu Msago, has been selected as one of the Disney Conservation Heroes for 2013! Msago truly deserves this honour – he has dedicated his whole career to wildlife conservation and has made huge positive impacts on both people and wildlife.

In 2009, Msago was part of the small team that started RCP under very difficult conditions – there were only 3 people living in small tents in a very remote wilderness area, and the local tribe, the Barabaig, were extremely secretive and hostile. Msago worked tirelessly to build a field camp for the project and spent years patiently trying to build relationships with the Barabaig, who were killing an extremely high number of lions, usually in response to attacks upon livestock. One night, a young Barabaig girl went missing, and Msago helped organize a search party for her and searched for 3 days till she was found, very dehydrated but alive, in the bush. This helped him bond with the fearsome Barabaig warriors, and enabled him to become the first outsider that they accepted and were willing to work with.

Msago also hashelped villagers protect their livestock from carnivores by constructing more than 50 predator-proof corrals, and not a single head of livestock has been lost in one of these enclosures. Msago works tirelessly to help villagers prevent carnivore attacks, and even heroically saved the life of a villager who was being attacked by a lion, at extreme risk to his own life. With only one bullet left in his gun, he chose to protect the villager rather than save a bullet in case it was needed in self-defence, and chased the lion off by shooting over her head.

Long-term conservation depends upon local people seeing real benefits from conservation, so Msago has also worked endlessly to develop meaningful community benefit initiatives. He worked with the national government to equip a healthcare clinic, helped establish secondary school scholarships for pastoralist children and developed a program to link village schools with international schools. He is endlessly passionate about conservation – he conducts wildlife DVD nights in local villages, which have engaged over 10,000 people so far, and has taken hundreds of warriors, women and schoolchildren on educational visits to the nearby National Park. Living in a small, remote tent, hundreds of miles from his wife and children, Msago is making a huge difference to the conservation of over a tenth of the world’s remaining lions, while also helping local communities see real benefits from carnivore presence. His dedication, passion and patience have played a huge role in RCP’s success – lion killings have declined in the core study area by 70%, and that could never have been achieved without Msago – he truly is a conservation hero and we are thrilled that he has received this international recognition.

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