The future of the African elephant is very much in jeopardy, with ivory in high demand in parts of Asia and poaching on the rise. Paula Kahumbu *02 works on the front lines of the battle to save elephants — and rhinoceroses, lions, and other endangered animals — serving as CEO of WildlifeDirect, an organization founded by the anthropologist and conservationist Richard Leakey. The ongoing efforts of Kahumbu and Leakey were featured on the cover of Newsweek in early September.
Kahumbu also made headlines last month for leading the charge to assist Kenyan authorities in finding and arresting businessman Feisal Ali Mohamed, a suspected ivory trafficker — an effort that did not find a receptive audience from the national government. She wrote a NationalGeographic.com column about her disappointing encounter with Kenya’s Inspector General David Kimaiyo, who heads wildlife security. Saving elephants, she said, goes beyond wildlife conservation. “Ivory trafficking is a serious international crime, and it involves organized criminal cartels,” she wrote. “It threatens Kenya’s economy, security, and future aspirations. It’s every Kenyan’s business.” In the Newsweek story, Kahumbu added, “There are probably another 10 Feisals operating in Kenya right now.”
Kahumbu, who earned her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB), has conducted field work in Kenya and taught Princeton undergraduates in the EEB department’s Kenya semester. She joined WildlifeDirect in 2007. The group’s board includes fellow Princetonians John Heminway ’66 and Katie Carpenter ’79, documentary filmmakers whose collaborations include A Year on Earth (2006) andBattle for the Elephants (2013).