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    Victor Zambrano

    Restorating natural forests in Peru's Madre de Dios region

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Awards for Leadership in Conservation

The annual National Geographic Society/Buffett Awards for Leadership in Conservation were established by the Society and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to recognize and celebrate unsung heroes working in the field. Awardees have demonstrated outstanding leadership in managing and protecting the natural resources in their countries and regions. They are each inspirational conservation advocates, who serve as role models and mentors. There are two awards presented each year: Africa (established in 2002) and Latin America (established in 2005).

The awardees are chosen from nominations submitted to the Committee for Research and Exploration, which screens them through a peer-review process. Each year’s recipients are honored at a ceremony in Washington D.C. and receive a one-time grant of $25,000 to support their ongoing work.

Howard Buffett is president of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which focuses on humanitarian and conservation issues. An agriculturalist, businessman, and widely published photographer, Buffett is also a member of the Commission on Presidential Debates, serves as a United Nations Ambassador Against Hunger for the United Nations World Food Program and is a member of National Geographic's Council of Advisors.

Howard G. Buffett

  • Photo: Howard Buffett

    Celebrating Unsung Heroes

    "The individuals that hold the front line for conservation often go unrecognized while making great personal sacrifices. This award was established to motivate and support these great conservationists." -Howard G. Buffett

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2016 Buffett Awardees

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    Makala Jasper

    Makala Jasper, a skilled forester and dedicated conservationist, is CEO of the Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative (MCDI), a Tanzanian nonprofit committed to improving the well-being of rural communities—as well as the forests upon which they rely.

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    Victor Zambrano

    Victor Zambrano has dedicated his life to the restoration of natural forests in the Madre de Dios region of Peru’s southeastern Amazon, fostering ecologically stable and socioeconomically productive landscapes.

2015 Buffett Grantees

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    Mónica González

    Dr. Mónica González, executive director of Fundación para la Conservación de los Andes Tropicales (FCAT), began working with communities living near the Mache Chindul Reserve in northeast Ecuador in the 1990s. She created FCAT to implement on-the-ground conservation measures in the biodiverse tropical rain forest region, with work that combines scientific research, environmental education, and capacity building.

  • Picture of wildlife conservationist Roger C. Fotso

    Roger C. Fotso

    Roger Fotso was born and raised in rural Cameroon and became passionate about nature at an early age. He obtained a Ph.D. in zoology in Belgium in 1994, one of the first central African conservationists to obtain such a qualification. Since 1998, Fotso has been the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Cameroon country program, building it into arguably the most effective conservation program in the country.

2014 Buffett Awardees

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    Enriqueta Velarde, Isla Rasa

    Enriqueta Velarde’s work focuses on seabird ecology. She has visited Isla Rasa every spring for the past 35 years to measure, weigh, census, band, and observe the seabirds. Year after year, she has followed the survival of the banded birds, estimated their breeding effort and success, quantified their diet, and recorded behavioral patterns.

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    Benezeth Mutayoba, Tanzania

    Benezeth Mutayoba has engaged in challenging conservation research, especially on elephants and the bushmeat trade, and has mentored students to take action to protect their unique natural heritage.

2013 Buffett Awardees

  • PERMITTED USE: This image may be downloaded or is otherwise provided at no charge for one-time use for coverage or promotion of the 2013 National Geographic Buffett Award. Copying, distribution, archiving, sublicensing, sale, or resale of the image is prohibited. REQUIRED CREDIT AND CAPTION: Any and all image uses must (1) bear the copyright notice, (2) be properly credited to the relevant photographer, as shown in this metadata, and (3) be accompanied by a caption which makes reference to the 2013 National Geographic Buffet Award. DEFAULT: Failure to comply with the prohibitions and requirements set forth above will obligate the individual or entity receiving this image to pay a fee determined by National GeographicEnvironmentalists from Uganda Wins 2013 National Geographic/Buffett Award for Leadership in ConservationCharles Tumwesigye, chief of conservation area management in the Uganda Wildlife Authority.Photo courtesy Charles Tumwesigye

    Alberto Yanosky and Charles Tumwesigye

    Dr. Alberto Yanosky, leader of an environmental organization in Paraguay that works to safeguard habitats and species across the country, and Charles Tumwesigye, chief of conservation area management in the Uganda Wildlife Authority, have been selected as the 2013 winners of the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation.

2012 Buffett Awardees

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    Martha "Pati" Ruiz Cordo and Dr. Zac Tchoundjeu

    The creator of a grassroots environmental movement in Mexico and a forestry/agroforestry conservationist in Cameroon won the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation in 2012.

2011 Buffett Awardees

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    Moi Enomenga, Ecuador

    Moi Vicente Enomenga Mantohue was born near Coca in the Ecuadorian Amazon just as his family and the Huaorani were first contacted by American missionaries. Some of the clans cultivated this contact, but Enomenga’s father decided to find a place that was isolated, where he could continue to hunt, fish, work on his land, and see his children learn about traditional life in the forest.

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    Paula Kahumbu, Kenya

    Paula Kahumbu brims with energy and passion for preserving threatened wildlife and habitats. She has also discovered another frequently endangered species: Conservationists themselves.

2010 Buffett Awardees

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    Vitor Osmar Becker & Clemira Ordoñez Souza, Brazil

    Vitor O. Becker was born to a family of small farmers in the town of Brusque in southern Brazil. He had an early love of nature and insects, and studied agronomy and forestry, receiving his Ph.D. in entomology. Becker focused on the study of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), becoming an expert on the subject. Clemira Souza, a schoolteacher, met Becker in 1968, when he was working at the Instituto Biológico in São Paulo. They married the following year.

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    John Makombo, Uganda

    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.

2008 Buffett Awardees

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    Fatima Jama Jibrell, Somalia

    Fatima Jibrell, one of Somalia’s preeminent environmental activists, is the founder of Horn Relief, an African-led nonprofit organization established in 1991 in response to Somalia’s devastating humanitarian crisis and civil war. The organization mobilizes local and international resources to protect the fragile pastoral environment in Somalia.

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    Denise Marçal Rambaldi, Brazil

    Brazilian conservationist Denise Rambaldi is executive director of the Golden Lion Tamarin Association. She has achieved remarkable success in pulling back from the brink of extinction this highly endangered primate species that lives in the Atlantic Forest, one of the world’s most critically endangered biodiversity hotspots.

2007 Buffett Awardees

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    Jorge Orejuela, Colombia

    Over the past 30 years, Dr. Jorge Orejuela has been an educator and conservationist in Colombia. He is currently the director of the Cali Botanical Garden and a professor in the environmental sciences department at the Universidad Autónoma de Occidente, but his work extends throughout the neo-tropics. Trained as an ornithologist, his research includes species as varied as orchids, spectacled bears, and bats.

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    Inogwabini Bila-Isia, Democratic Republic of Congo

    Inogwabini Bila-Isia is based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he works for World Wildlife Fund as the Lac Tumba project manager. He conducts field research, helps local groups with natural resource management, and is working on a long-term biodiversity conservation program.

2006 Buffett Awardees

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    Jaime Incer, Nicaragua

    Dr. Jaime Incer is regarded by many as the founder and leading figure of conservation efforts in Nicaragua. Over a distinguished career in academia and government and nongovernmental organizations, Incer has developed curricula and schools in the natural sciences, established national parks and other protected areas, and inspired a new generation of conservationists and life scientists in Nicaragua and throughout Central America

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    Zephaniah Phiri Maseko, Zimbabwe

    For over 40 years Zephaniah Phiri Maseko has lived, farmed, and raised a family in one of the most arid and resource-poor lands in southern Africa, Zimbabwe’s Zvishavane District. Through his own ingenuity and despite political challenges, he has devised and propagated irrigation practices that have enabled subsistence farmers on marginal lands to prosper as they conserve scarce resources and practice sustainable farming.

2005-2002 Awardees

Video: Exploration Without Limits