John Makombo, Uganda

Photo: John Makombo

Photo courtesy John Makombo

John Makombo was born and raised in western Uganda. At an early age he developed a passion for conservation. He studied environmental science at university before joining the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. Starting as park warden, Makombo has steadily climbed the ranks and is now Chief Conservation Area Manager for all of the protected areas and wildlife reserves in Uganda.

Early in his career Makombo spearheaded the protection and restoration of the mountain ecosystem and biodiversity of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. He focused on community involvement, anti-poaching operations, and promoting sustainable resource harvest and watershed management—thus ensuring the local population was in support of conservation. Building on these experiences, Makombo implemented a landscape concept for Semliki Wildlife Reserve and the nearby Semliki National Park such that both sites were managed together. This concept is now being used throughout Uganda in seven conservation areas comprising 10 national parks and 12 wildlife reserves.

In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home to half the world’s endangered mountain gorillas, Makombo worked to change the perception of the local communities toward the conservation of mountain gorillas and their habitat. He led conservation education crusades to educate the community about the importance of gorilla protection, designed and implemented community conservation projects, and developed tourism activities. He also worked at Murchison Falls National Park to discourage elephants from entering community lands and to promote a change in the community’s attitude toward the conservation of elephants.

Within the Uganda Wildlife Authority Makombo has also proposed and designed projects on climate change and to monitor the environmental impacts of oil exploration. He has continued to achieve these goals in the face of danger and adversity. Makombo has also looked beyond the borders of Uganda, serving as president of a cross-border coordination committee, working to improve forest conservation and gorilla protection in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His efforts led to a comprehensive tripartite government agreement to protect this critically important landscape.

Today Makombo continues his untiring efforts to ensure that conservation goals are met and that the animals, landscapes, and communities he works with are protected—and prosper.

Related Features

  • ng-buffett-logo.jpg

    National Geographic/Buffett Awards

    Learn more to recognize and celebrate unsung heroes working in the field. Awardees have demonstrated outstanding leadership in managing and protecting the natural resources in his or her country and region. They are each inspirational conservation advocates, who serve as role models and mentors.

Video: Exploration Without Limits

Our Explorers in Action

See Photos »

Meet All Our Explorers

  • NationalGeographic_1289095-flag.jpg

    Explorers A-Z

    At the heart of our explorers program is the quest for knowledge through exploration and the people who make it possible.

  • Photo: Michael Lombardi diving

    Explorers by Category

    Browse our different areas of exploration and discover the fascinating people behind the projects.