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San Diego Zoo Global Honours Lewa's Founder Ian Craig with Lifetime Achievement Award

August 15, 2017

San Diego Zoo Global is honoring the work of one of the most prominent conservationists in Africa, Ian Craig, for his lifelong dedication to the fight against extinction. During a ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017 with San Diego Zoo Global staff and close to 600 members and donors, Ian Craig was presented with the San Diego Zoo Global 2017 Lifetime Achievement Medal, shining a light on his long-standing and far-reaching efforts to safeguard the iconic wildlife of Africa.  

During the event, organizers shared Ian’s impressive legacy of conservation advocacy. Most of Ian’s life has been spent in northern Kenya, where he and his father, David Craig, along with conservationist Anna Merz, converted thousands of acres of their family’s 62,000-acre cattle ranch into Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary in 1983 to protect endangered black rhinos. This was at the height of the rhino and elephant poaching crisis, and the sanctuary flourished when few others did. By 1988, the sanctuary was doubled in size, and in 1995 it was renamed the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy with Ian serving as Executive Director until 2009. It has continued to actively promote conservation on its land, and with communities that set aside land for wildlife conservation and in partnership with the people who live in the surrounding communities, ensuring that they share in the benefits of protecting endangered species.

In 2004, Ian headed the effort to form the Northern Rangelands Trust, which today supports more than 30 community-run wildlife conservancies in northern Kenya. Together, they encompass an area a larger area than all of the national parks and preserves in Kenya combined. 

I love the impact that we, as partners with San Diego Zoo Global, are having on the ground,” said Ian Craig. “We’re opening up new ground for wildlife, and wildlife is safe in spaces where it was previously exterminated. We’re really changing the future for wildlife on a scale that excites me.”

Global recognition also came for Ian in 2013 when UNESCO extended the boundaries of the Mount Kenya World Heritage Site to include Lewa and the Ngare Ndare Forest, calling it “a true testament of the hard work and dedication to all who have helped build Lewa into the Conservancy that it is today—a global model for protected area management and a catalyst for conservation.” More recognition came in 2016, when Ian was awarded the Order of the British Empire “for services to conservation and security to communities in Kenya.”

Since 1966, the Conservation Medal awards program has recognized world leaders and organizations who share San Diego Zoo Global’s vision to end extinction. The recipients exhibit active and important contributions to the conservation and recovery of endangered species, habitats or ecosystems through applied research, breeding and reintroduction programs, community education or the establishment of protected areas.