Paula Kahumbu

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Biographical Information

Paula Kahumbu [1]

She "was coached and mentored by paleoanthropologist and conservationist Richard Leakey, who remains one of her closest allies and supporters. Born and raised in Nairobi, Kahumbu entered into conservation at the height of the elephant poaching in the late 1980s. Her introduction to conservation was to measure Kenya’s entire stockpile of ivory. That work literally went up in smoke in the spectacular ivory bonfire of 1989 — a powerful international statement that the country would not tolerate the effects of the international trade in ivory on Kenya’s elephant herds. A decade later, Kahumbu joined the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and became one of the most vocal advocates against the increasing calls for renewed international trade in ivory. She is best known for her passionate and forceful speeches at two CITES conferences where she headed the Kenyan delegation.

"Kahumbu started the Colobus Trust and introduced colobus bridges or “colobridges” across the busy Diani highway — an innovation that has become a tourist attraction and has been expanded and been exported to other countries where primates and other arboreal animals need to cross roads. She ran the Colobus Trust while conducting her Ph.D. research on elephants in the Shimba Hills at the Kenya coast, all while singlehandedly raising her curious and adventurous 2-year-old son, Joshua. The Trust still saves monkeys, and Josh is all grown up and working for the U.S. Navy.

"After attaining her doctorate from Princeton University, Kahumbu returned to KWS briefly before joining Bamburi Cement. There she launched the environmental subsidiary Lafarge Eco Systems and published a world-best-selling children’s book about a baby hippopotamus that was adopted by a giant tortoise after he was orphaned by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The true story was so compelling that over 1 million copies of “Owen and Mzee” (Scholastic Press) have been sold and the book is now in 27 languages including Japanese, Spanish, French, German, Czech, Chinese and Kiswahili (translated and locally published by Jomo Kenyatta Foundation Press). The Kenya Postal Corporation produced a commemorative stamp in a series about unusual animal relationships." [2] (book was written by Craig M. Hatkoff)

  • 1994 – 2002 – PhD Princeton University (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology). Research on the ecology of elephants in rain forests of southern Kenya, and their impact on plant diversity.
  • 2010 (September – Present) Executive Director, Kenya Land Conservation Trust
  • 2010 (September – present) Chairman Friends of Nairobi National Park
  • 2008-present CEO and Conservation Director WildlifeDirect.
  • 2007 Conservation Director WildlifeDirect.
  • 2004 – 2007 General Manager, Lafarge Eco Systems, a subsidiary company of Lafarge East Africa (cement making company), responsible for restoration of mined out lands in East African countries. Responsible for 100 staff. (Lafarge)
  • 2007 Lecturer – Kenya Institute of Administration – to District administrators on corporate environmental management.
  • 2006 & 2007 Lecturer – Princeton University – Undergraduate Restoration Ecology field course in Kenya
  • 2000-2003 Assistant Director KWS in charge of Protected areas and CITES Coordinator
  • 1998-2000 Scientific Adviser and Acting Deputy Director of Scientific Services, Kenya Wildlife Service.
  • 1996 -2001. Founder and Director of the Wakuluzu Friends of the Colobus Trust, a primate conservation charity in Diani, Kenya.
  • 1993 Assistant Coordinator KWS Elephant Programme.
  • 1992 –2003 Coordinator of the Tana River Primate World Bank funded GEF Project
  • 2003 Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of Friends of Conservation
  • 2002-Present President Africa Section Society for Conservation Biology
  • 1996-00 Research support: Charlotte Fellow – AWF, Eden Trust, Born Free Foundation, KWS Elephant Trust Fund, Save the Elephants.

Selected Publications

  • Kahumbu, P. 2002. Elephant habitat interactions in the Shimba Hills. PhD Thesis. Princeton University.
  • Kahumbu, P. 2001. Book review of Richard Leakeys ‘Wildlife Wars’ in the Guardian Newspaper UK.

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. CV, Paula Kahumbu, accessed December 16, 2011.
  2. About, Paula Kahumbu, accessed December 16, 2011.