Guinean’s Bravery Earns Disney Conservation Hero Award for 2010
Kenda Diallo, who risked his life to battle a wildfire that threatened the Centre de Conservation pour Chimpanz???s (CCC) sanctuary in Guinea and later helped successfully reintroduce orphaned chimpanzees to the wild, has been named a Disney Conservation Hero for 2010.
Diallo has been a mainstay since 1994 at the CCC, which is a charter member of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA).
Diallo is the fourth consecutive PASA representative to win a Disney Conservation Hero award, following Jonathan Kang of the Limbe Wildlife Center in Cameroon (2007), Stany Nyandwi of the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Uganda (2008) and Willie Tucker of the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Sierra Leone (2009).
“PASA is extremely proud of Kenda and the role he’s played in the success of the CCC” said Doug Cress, executive director of PASA. “That sanctuary’s reintroduction program is further proof that chimpanzees and other primates can be returned to the wild, and Kenda played a pivotal part in that project. He is wonderful example of the dedication and passion on display every day at PASA member sanctuaries across Africa.”
In May, Diallo also received the PASA Siddle-Marsden Award, which honors the top African national sanctuary personnel each year.
Diallo had no primate experience when he joined a small chimpanzee rehabilitation program in central Guinea as a general laborer in 1994. But by the time that program evolved into the CCC and relocated to the Parc National du Haut Niger three years later, Diallo had become the head keeper and a regional expert on chimpanzee behavior.
Given the remoteness of the sanctuary, Diallo spends three weeks of each month on-site – and away from his wife and family – and spends long hours on bushwalks with the youngest chimpanzees. He also trains news keepers at the CCC and coordinates volunteer activities. Although Diallo can barely read or write, he is studying veterinary care in conjunction with the CCC veterinarians. His specialty is chimpanzee hygiene and infectious diseases, and works closely to monitor the chimpanzees’ daily health.
But it is Diallo’s commitment to the chimpanzees that stands out. He once ran three kilometers through the bush to follow an escaped male that had panicked after a fight and leaped out of the enclosure; Diallo was afraid the chimpanzee might be injured or become disoriented and lost, but in the end, Diallo managed his safe return.
In 2009, dry conditions sparked a brush fire in the Parc that quickly whipped towards the CCC, gathering strength as it spread. The blaze was able to jump fire breaks cut in the surrounding area, and by the time the fire reached the sanctuary, it had become a raging inferno. The flames leaped through the fence into the chimpanzees’ enclosure, devouring the vegetation and many fence posts. Soon, it reached the night-houses and handling facilities, and began to burn the wooden beams that supported the roofs and the cloth hammocks that hung in the cages.
Diallo took command of the situation and quickly organized a team of keepers to beat back the fire with branches and brush and douse the cages with water. He also worked to calm the terrified chimpanzees, who were literally trapped. Ultimately, Diallo and his co-workers managed to halt the fire less than five meters from the main CCC compound, and no chimpanzee or staff member was injured.
PASA was formed in 2000 to unite the rescue centers that care for chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and literally thousands of other endangered primates across Africa. For more information, please visit PASA or contact email@example.com.