Photo: Cosmas Mumba with Myk, a newly rescued 2 weeks old vervet monkey. Photo- GRI Zambia Primate Project
Cosmas Mumba is tired but happy when I meet him at the airport. The Project Manager for GRI – Zambia Primate Project (ZPP) was one of three finalists in the prestigious Tusk Conservation Award, supported by HRH Prince William of the United Kingdom. Cosmas is the first Zambian conservationist ever to be short-listed for this award. Cosmas attended the glittering award ceremony on November 24th at Claridges in London. Before the ceremony, Cosmas and the two other finalists had the
great honour of meeting HRH Prince William, a well-known advocate for conservation and patron of the Tusk Conservation Award, in two private audiences to tell him about their projects.
“Meeting Prince William was incredible. The Prince was very nice, polite and very interested in my project. You can tell he is very passionate about wildlife and conservation”, says Cosmas.
GRI – Zambia Primate Project has grown to become one of Africa’s most established and successful primate release programmes. Managed by Game Rangers International and with the ongoing support of the Born Free Foundation, its mission is to rescue and rehabilitate injured, orphaned and illegally held vervet monkeys and yellow baboons for release back into the wild in Zambia. Primate survival rate 12 months post-release currently averages at a remarkable 95%. Under Cosmas’s careful stewardship, and in close collaboration with Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), over 500 yellow baboons and vervet monkeys have been successfully rescued from illegal captivity, rehabilitated and given a second chance at life back in the wild. Most of the rescued primates are victims of the growing illegal trade in bush meat. The mothers are slaughtered for their meat and their babies are sold into the illegal pet trade.
Cosmas grew up in a rural family with a strong passion for nature and wildlife. He was just a young boy the first time he saw a captured monkey being tormented in captivity, and that memory stayed with him. In 2002 he was asked to help release rescued primates back into the wild as part of the pioneering animal welfare project Zambia Primate Project. Starting as a casual labourer, Cosmas has been working his way up through the ranks to his current position of Project Manager.
President of the Born Free Foundation in the UK, Will Travers OBE said: “Cosmas is one of Africa’s unsung conservation heroes. His extraordinary work in remote parts of the Zambian bush rescuing and returning primates to the wild is not a job for the faint-hearted and speaks volumes about his dedication and commitment to the cause. I am delighted, on behalf of Born Free, which has supported him and GRI-Zambia Primate Project for thirteen years, that he has now received due recognition for all his effort and I hope he will inspire others around the world. We can all do something and Cosmas has shown us how.”
Being short-listed for this well-known and prestigious award is a great honour, and a reminder of the importance of Cosmas’s work with primates in Zambia. The nomination highlights the fact that committed and passionate individuals can make a difference and will hopefully inspire more young people in Zambia to get involved in the preservation of the country’s unique wildlife.
During the award ceremony, Cosmas reflected over what the nomination means to him: “Growing up in a rural Zambian village I never dreamed that one day I would be meeting the future King of England to talk about my work rescuing primates in Zambia. Things like this don’t happen to people like me I thought. Being a finalist in the Tusk Conservation Awards 2015 is really humbling and will raise awareness of the bushmeat and illegal pet trades in primates in Africa.”
You can support GRI – Zambia Primate Project and other conservation projects in Zambia through GRI’s Christmas campaign #SomethingWildforChristmas. More info here: http://www.gamerangersinternational.org/getinvolved/christmascampaign
Footnote: The world-renowned Tusk Conservation Awards, developed by Tusk Trust, celebrate excellence in conservation and highlight inspirational conservation work in Africa – ranging from the protection of endangered species and threatened habitats, to the promotion of environmental education and the development of community driven conservation. The awards are sponsored by Investec and Land Rover.