Conservation Heroes to Teach the Kids (and Grandkids) About

From the historical to the contemporary

Who is your conservation hero? Is it Attenborough? Dr. Jane Goodall? Or what about the late Anton Mzimba, recently featured in RHINO MAN?

Having dedicated their lives to protecting Africa’s wildlife and wild spaces, these conservation icons have ignited global awareness for our continent’s natural heritage. But it’s up to us to ensure their inspiring legacies ripple through generations to come. 

With our kids (and grandkids) being future custodians of our world, here are several conservation heroes worth teaching them about:

Rachel Ikemeh

Rachel Ashegbofe Ikemeh is an award-winning Nigerian conservationist whose efforts have brought the critically-endangered Niger Delta red colobus monkey back from the brink of extinction. In her current position as Founder and Director of the SW/Niger Delta Forest Project, she spearheads several community-based conservation projects to restore wildlife areas – a strategy she believes is the most effective method to date.

Following an eight-year genetic study, Ikemeh and her team made a remarkable discovery proving that populations of Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees are their own genetically distinct subgroup. This breakthrough helped bolster support for conserving their forest habitats and saving the species from extinction.

Rachel Ikemeh

David Attenborough

A life marked by a tenacious passion for the natural world, award-winning British naturalist, Sir David Attenborough needs little introduction. The face and voice of countless wildlife documentaries, he is attributed with bringing nature into our homes with his masterful storytelling.

Attenborough’s extensive filmography accounts for 148 television series spanning eight decades. But in these modern times, you’ll need the help of YouTube and streaming services to introduce this conservation legend to the kids. Some of our favorite Africa-centered Attenborough series include  Africa, Dynasties, and A Life on Our Planet. His book, Adventures of a Young Naturalist by David Attenborough, comes highly recommended for budding bookworms.

Conservation Heroes

“In our hands now lies not only our own future, but that of all other living creatures with whom we share the earth.” ― Sir David Attenborough

Amos Gwema

Amos Gwema continues to make headlines for his contribution to wildlife protection in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland region. He is renowned for his intelligence work: dismantling poacher networks at their root within the local communities. To date, he has convicted the highest number of illegal poachers of any officer in the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority. 

Led by the belief that conservation must focus on prevention, education, and the reformation of ex-wildlife convicts, Gwema advocates community-based conservation to mitigate Zimbabwe’s wildlife protection crises. A true conservation hero, Gwema has gone on to receive the 2020 Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award and was named Best Game Ranger during the 2023 African Conservation Awards.

Conservation Heroes

Dr. Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall is arguably one of the most iconic primatologists in the world. Despite scepticism within the scientific community, her meticulous observations of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park led to groundbreaking discoveries and fuelled global interest in these exceptional primates. Goodall’s assigning of names to individual chimps (instead of numbers) further revolutionized the field of research. It encouraged an element of personalisation and a deeper understanding of their social behaviors. 

Get the kids engaging in her legacy at the Jane Goodall Institute in Washington, DC or include a visit to the Jane Goodall South Africa Institute Chimpanzee Sanctuary on your next family safari. Dr. Jane’s Dream, a cultural complex in Arusha, Tanzania, is scheduled to debut on World Chimpanzee Day, July 14, 2025.

Conservation Heroes

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Dr. Jane Goodall

Martin Mthembu

The late Martin Mthembu achieved global notoriety following the 2024 documentary, RHINO MAN, which takes us onto the frontline of rhino anti-poaching efforts in South Africa. Referred to as the ‘original rhino man’, Mthembu’s unwavering dedication to protecting endangered wildlife spanned 23 years across Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and Eswatini (Swaziland). 

Mthembu is highly regarded in the conservation world as an exceptional ranger trainer. After completing his service in the South African military, he proceeded to instruct more than 15,000 field rangers before his untimely passing in 2014.

Conservation Heroes

Anton Mzimba

In addition to Martin Mthembu, RHINO MAN commemorates the legacy of the esteemed Anton Mzimba, who served as the Head of Ranger Services at the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. In the same vein as Mthembu, Mzimba spent his life working to establish a hopeful future for the country – one which could inspire South Africa’s youth to honor and protect their local wildlife. His death at the hands of poachers in 2022 continues to be mourned by conservationists and nature-lovers worldwide. 

Conservation Heroes

“Committed and brave rangers like Anton are central to the conservation of Africa’s fantastic wildlife. Those responsible must swiftly be brought to justice.” – The Duke of Cambridge (Prince William).

Petronella Chigumbura

Petronella Chigumbura currently serves as Deputy Ranger Supervisor for Zimbabwe’s Akashinga Rangers. Akashinga (meaning ‘the brave ones’) is a nonprofit, all-female anti-poaching unit based in Zimbabwe. 

Chigumbura is one of the program’s first recruits and holds a significant leadership role. She plays a key role in improving its effectiveness, both through anti-poaching initiatives and by offering a sanctuary for local women. A significant percentage of Akashinga rangers are survivors of domestic abuse or simply looking for a better life. Upon joining, Chigumbura has since built a home for her family, acquired her driver’s license, and has been able to send her children to school. 

As a LEAD Ranger certified instructor, Chigumbura takes every chance to act as an ambassador for her profession. This modern-day conservation hero and the Akashinga Rangers are featured in this short documentary on National Geographic produced by James Cameron.

Conservation Heroes
Image credit: Brent Stirton

“I love my elephants like my children. So, I must protect them as much as I protect my children.” – Petronella Chigumbura

Dian Fossey

The late Dian Fossey devoted her life to studying and protecting mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda. She established the Karisoke Research Center in the 1960s where she adopted a hands-on approach to understanding their behavior, and social structures. 

Despite criticism of her methods and political unrest in the country at the time, her resilience and unwavering commitment to her work greatly influenced modern conservation initiatives. This includes the establishment of the first armed anti-poaching patrols. 

Conservation Heroes

Looking Ahead...

In teaching our kids and future generations about these exceptional conservation heroes, we must also emphasize the transformative power and responsibility we all have in safeguarding our natural heritage. As ecosystems across Africa face unprecedented pressures, collaboration is key in ensuring its survival.  

If you’re considering a family safari with a high focus on wildlife education and conservation, our team would love to help put a special trip together. Get in touch and let’s start planning. 

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