AWF Celebrates 60 Years of Visionary Conservation Leadership with African Wildlife Photographic Exhibition and Announces Winners

African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) launched its 60th year anniversary at a colorful reception and awards ceremony celebrating AWF’s decades of conservation work on the continent as well as the winners of the inaugural Benjamin Mkapa African Wildlife Photography Awards, named in honor of the late former President of Tanzania.

Sixteen winning photographers from across the world attended the ceremony at the Nairobi National Museum. They received honorary certificates and awards for their photographs and videos in the global competition that received almost 9,000 entries from 50 countries worldwide, including 10 countries here in Africa.

The Grand Prize winner, Riccardo Marchegiani, from Italy received a cash prize of US$ 5,000 (KES 555,476) and a large Shona elephant sculpture for his photo “Gelada and Baby” shot in the Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia. In addition, Marchegiani will be featured with an interview and portfolio in Nature’s Best Photography magazine, as well as a feature in a special edition devoted to the Benjamin Mkapa African Wildlife Photography Awards.

Speaking as he received his award, Marchegiani said, “It gives me great pleasure to accept this award that is a true testament of the hard work and dedication put throughout the years.  I believe that the art form of photography expresses my vision and sensitivity to the beauty of nature.  My objective is to raise awareness and encourage conservation in a more sustainable lifestyle.” 

Other category winners each received prize money of US$ 1,000 (KES 111,095) and a Shona elephant sculpture. They will also be featured in the Nature’s Best Photography special edition. The categories and category winners include:

  • Coexistence and Conflict category winner: James Lewin from Kenya for “Elephant Orphans from Reteti Elephant Sanctuary” at Painted Rock in Samburu, Kenya
  • Conservation Heroes category winner: Jen Guyton from Germany for “Veterinarian with Rescued Pangolin,” Mozambique
  • Wildlife at Risk category winner: Ingrid Vekemans from Belgium for “White Rhinoceros Battle,” Solio Game Reserve, Kenya
  • Fragile Wilderness category winner: Anette Mossbacher from Switzerland for “Ruacana Falls, Namibia
    • African Wildlife Behavior category winner: Buddhilini de Soyza from Australia for “Cheetahs Swimming across Talek River,” Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
    • Africa in Motion category winner: Olli Teirilla from Finland for his video, “Magical Maasai Mara,” National Reserve
    • African Wildlife Backyards category winner: Javier Lobon-Rovira from Spain for “Farmer with Green Frog in His Hands,” Anja Community, Madagascar
    • African Wildlife Portraits category winner: Kevin Dooley from the USA for “African Savanna Elephant,” Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa
    • Art in Nature category winner: Paul McKenzie from Hong Kong for “Galaxy – Lesser Flamingoes,” Lake Natron, Tanzania
    • Youth International category winner: Zander Gallie from the USA for “Mountain Gorilla,” Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
    • Youth in Africa category winner: Cathan Moore from South Africa for “Wildebeest,” Timbavati Nature Reserve, South Africa.

Speaking at the celebration, AWF CEO Kaddu Sebunya said, “Within the context of a rapidly changing Africa, and armed with 60 years of experience, AWF has renewed its vision, and crafted strategic approaches to become a truly global African conservation organization. Through the Benjamin Mkapa African Wildlife Photography Awards, AWF is committed to finding, helping, and amplifying the authentic African voices advocating against the destruction of Africa’s natural wildlife heritage. We are dedicated to defining and refining Africa’s agendas for conservation and development, and to represent these voices — trumpet these voices loudly — around the world.”

The inaugural photography competition was launched earlier this year to honor the former Tanzanian President, H.E. the late Benjamin Mkapa as an iconic conservation leader and one of AWF’s longest-serving board members. In a bid to engage new audiences in documenting wildlife and wild lands conservation in modern Africa, the primary goal of the Benjamin Mkapa African Wildlife Photography Awards is to engage and involve photographers from Africa and around the world at all proficiency levels to share stories from the field that inspire and encourage new advocates for conservation.

The awards ceremony Guest of Honor, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary of Wildlife and Tourism, Hon. Najib Balala remarked: “With initiatives such as the Benjamin Mkapa African Wildlife Photography Awards, organizations such as AWF and Nature’s Best Photography are actively encouraging both international and domestic tourists to visit these unique landscapes and tell authentic stories that emphasize the magic behind Africa’s rich biodiversity hotspots and its people.

The growing need to hear more African voices from all disciplines speak on behalf of wildlife and wild lands at global stage has been identified, and I am encouraged to see multiple young champions for conservation emerge from within. These young voices are actively coming up with practical solutions that befit the technology advancements, and we must not sideline them at all.”

This collection of 79 winning images will be on display at the Nairobi National Museum through mid-January 2022 in a bid to capitalize and engage Kenyan audiences and visitors from around the world.The collection will also be published in a special edition of Nature’s Best Photography magazine and will be featured in a year-long traveling exhibition through Africa, North America, Asia, and Europe as AWF celebrates 60 years of visionary conservation leadership.

AWF Country Director, Kenya, Nancy Githaiga said, “Our 60 years in conservation have shown us just what success can look like. We have seen the continent weather the worst poaching crisis of our lifetime and come out on the other side bruised but still fighting. Conservation interventions have brought back key wildlife species from the brink of extinction, including the black rhino and the elephant, and helped to raise awareness for struggling species such as the giraffe which is often overlooked but has been disappearing before our eyes.

We look forward to achieving more prosperity through strategic partnerships with the government and other stakeholders to further support our new 10-year strategy.”

Through this annual competition, AWF is committed to building the participation of African photographers through targeted promotion and capacity building — an important component of our African Conservation Voices initiative.