Lion Guardians project led by Nelson alumna wins St Andrews Prize for the Environment

May 2, 2012

Lion Guardians, an innovative project led by Nelson Institute alumna Leela Hazzah and Ph.D. candidate Stephanie Dolrenry in Kenya, has won this year's St Andrews Prize for the Environment. Hazzah was presented with the winning prize of $100,000 at a ceremony at the University of St Andrews in Scotland on
April 25.

Leela Hazzah of Lion Guardians with St. Andrews prize
Leela Hazzah accepts the St
Andrews Prize for the Environment
on behalf of the Lion Guardians
community conservation project.
Credit Alan Richardson Photography.

Lion Guardians employs 32 non-literate Maasai warriors as community conservationists and field biologists.

Hazzah, the program's founder and director, earned a master's degree from the Nelson Institute in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development in 2007 and a Ph.D. in Environment and Resources in 2011. Stephanie Dolrenry, a Nelson Institute Ph.D. candidate in Environment and Resources, also serves as director of biology for the organization.

The Lion Guardians have created an entrepreneurial solution through employment and empowering communities to conserve lions as a long-term livelihood strategy. The program includes literacy training for the Maasai, mitigating lion-livestock conflict, monitoring lion populations by combining traditional and modern tracking with local participation, preventing lion killing, and naming of the lions by the Maasai.

"I am delighted with this win," Hazzah said at the ceremony. "This money will cover the core costs of the program, which are the backbone of our organization. We will continue to develop and improve the educational, technical and communications elements of each site, ensuring that they have a customized program to fit their specific needs."

"It will also enable us to scale up the program into new areas where both imperiled carnivores and indigenous communities would greatly benefit from its expansion," she continued.

Leela Hazzah of Lion Guardians with St. Andrews prize
Hazzah (front) with, from left to right, David Chenier,
Conoco Phillips; Louise Richardson, University of
St Andrews; Sir Crispin Tickell, St Andrews Prize
Trustees; and Paul Warwick, Conoco Phillips.
Credit Alan Richardson Photography.

The St Andrews Prize, now in its fourteenth year, is an environmental initiative from the University of St Andrews and the international energy company ConocoPhillips.

Since its launch in 1998, the St Andrews Prize has attracted entries from more than 50 countries on topics as diverse as sustainable development in the Amazon and Central American rainforests, urban re-generation, recycling, health and water issues and renewable energy.

"The Prize continues to go from strength to strength," said Sir Crispin Tickell, chairman of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment Trustees. "We are delighted that is has become so well established and continues to attract such a range of innovative projects from all over the world."

"We are looking for entrepreneurs on behalf of the environment " people able to come forward with original, innovative and realistic ideas which can be replicated elsewhere, and take full account of the social and economic implications," he continued.

Below, see a video interview with Hazzah at the April 25 ceremony.