It was Deo Kukirawinja’s grandfather who taught him to appreciate wildlife as a child. Deo grew up in a village surrounded by wildlife like chimpanzees and baboons, with his grandfather reminding him that he must protect wildlife and learn to live with them, and not fight against their presence.
As an adult, Deo chose a career with wildlife, and his work has already made a significant impact; through his negotiation skills, he has brokered a transboundary cooperation between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the bordering Uganda in order to better protect wildlife in Virunga National Park and Queen Elizabeth conservation areas. He’s also worked in Virunga, also located in the DRC, to better facilitate conflicts that pop up between conservation and a wartorn populace.
Through a PhD at Rhodes University in South Africa, Deo will study community based natural resource management through an African perspective, building on the work he has already done in the DRC and using the diplomacy skills that so many others have noted in him. He wants to protect the endemic species of key conservation areas, including animals like gorillas and hippos, from areas that suffer from weak governance. With over ten years of experience in the conservation field under his belt, there is no doubt that Deo will accomplish what he sets out to do, and will continue to foster understanding between wildlife and humankind.
Deo received a 2015 Sidney Byers Scholarship through the WCN Scholarship Program. Learn more about WCN Scholars.
-Text by Elizabeth Rogers