A Yorkshire conservationist is to receive a special award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at the House of Lords, in recognition of his work to protect gorillas, elephants and other wildlife.
Ian Redmond (59) who grew up in Beverley, where his mother still lives, has dedicated his life to observing and conserving endangered species and his research has taken him to remote corners of the world. In the mid 1970s, while studying biology and geology at university, he contacted Dian Fossey and was invited to her remote rainforest camp in the mountains of Rwanda where he worked for two and a half years as her assistant studying gorillas.
Ian’s focus shifted towards conservation in 1978 following the murder of young silverback Digit, whose death reinforced the need for anti-poaching patrols to combat the trade in animal parts as souvenirs. Days later, Ian introduced Sir David Attenborough and his BBC crew to gorillas for the famous Life on Earth programme which brought their plight to a huge audience. Many years later, Ian was involved in the award-winning film Gorillas in the Mist, helping lead actress Sigourney Weaver better understand the character of Dian Fossey and teaching her to grunt like a gorilla.
Working on projects in New Guinea, Ian discovered several new species of nematode worms and two new species of frog, before returning to Africa to conduct the first study into the cave elephants of Kenya’s Mount Elgon. Over several months, the team gained the trust of the elephants, in particular one individual, nicknamed Charles. Tragically, Charles was later killed for his tusks. This led Ian to set up the African Ele-fund which along with other NGOs formed the ELEFRIENDS campaign to achieve the international ban on ivory trading in 1989.
Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “Ian’s vital work over many years to conserve some of our most endangered species, and highlight their plight to the public, is truly inspiring. He is a very deserving winner of IFAW’s Conservation Award.”
Ian has stated that his fascination with the natural world goes back to his childhood in Malaysia and Yorkshire, when he would keep stick insects, praying mantids and tadpoles. Speaking of his award, he said: “Wildlife conservation sometimes feels like you are banging your head against a brick wall, with most of the world regarding it as largely irrelevant, so when someone taps you on the shoulder and says they think you are doing a good job, it is very encouraging! Saving wildlife and natural habitats is increasingly recognised as essential to maintaining a healthy planet for future generations.”
He continues to work tirelessly to protect animals and in 2001 helped launch the UN Great Apes Survival Partnership, which brings together governments and NGOs to halt the alarming decline in ape numbers worldwide, including gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orang-utans. Ian encourages conservation groups to work together and is the founder and chair of the Ape Alliance, a coalition of nearly 100 organisations working to improve the welfare and conservation of all apes. He also founded and for 10 years was chairman of the UK Rhino Group.
Ian will receive his award at IFAW’s prestigious Animal Action Awards event, hosted by Baroness Gale and presented by TV wildlife presenter Bill Oddie at the House of Lords on October 22.