Global Leopard Conference
We are pleased to share some further information on our not-to-be-missed Keynote Speaker sessions.
Prof David Macdonald CBE
Professor David Macdonald CBE, is a British Zoologist and Conservation Scientist holding DPhil and DSc research degrees from Oxford and is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE). He founded the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at the University of Oxford in 1986, internationally regarded as a global leader both in conservation research and as a hub for training graduate conservationists.
He was the Director of WildCRU for 35 years (1986-2021) during which time he created the Recanati-Kaplan Centre’s International Postgraduate Diploma in international Conservation Practice which trains aspiring conservationists from less developed countries and which in 2011 was awarded the Queen’s Award for Higher education by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
His scientific background is in behavioural ecology, with an emphasis on carnivores, especially big cats, including leopards, although his research has spanned published studies on organisms from moths to penguins and even, occasionally, plants. His work has become increasingly inter-disciplinary as the whole field of conservation has evolved. More recently his biological writings are enmeshed in issues of environmental policy, economics and research strategy.
Professor Macdonald has won numerous international awards and accolades for his research and engagement with public policy (including the highest awards of both the American and British societies for mammalogy, and appointment to an A.D. White Professorship at Large at Cornell University) and has been instrumental in popularising biology through his films and writing. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to Science in 2010.
David has a strong record of public service, having been on the Board of almost every major conservation body – WWF, FFI, ZSL, WWT, RSPB and Chairman of Earthwatch. In the UK, he was the founding Chairman of Natural England’s Science Advisory Committee and was the Chairman of the UK’s government Darwin Initiative for a decade.
Currently he is advisor to the School of Wildlife Conservation at the African Leadership University, a Trustee of Chester Zoo, and Chairman of Action for Conservation, an education charity taking conservation into schools.
Dr. Vidya Athreya
Wildlife Conservation Society
Vidya initially joined WCS-India in 2013. She obtained her MS in Ecology from Pondicherry in 1993 and a MSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Iowa, USA in 2000. Dr. Athreya obtained her doctorate from Manipal University in 2012 for her thesis, ‘Conflict resolution and leopard conservation in a human dominated landscape’. Based in Pune, Vidya has been studying human-leopard conflict in Maharashtra for the past decade. She also works closely with Protected Area managers and the public to mitigate conflicts involving big cats.
Vidya has been working in landscapes of Western Maharashtra where leopards share spaces with humans. A member of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, she has assisted in formulating state and national level policy guidelines on managing human-leopard conflict. Vidya’s research work has led to an increased awareness of large carnivores outside Protected Areas in India.
Vidya was awarded the Carl Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award in 2011, TN Koshoo Memorial Award in 2012 and the Maharana Udai Singh Award in 2013.
Dr. Guy Balme
Executive Director of Panthera’s Conservation Science Department
Dr. Guy Balme is the Executive Director of Panthera’s Conservation Science Department. He began his conservation career focused on leopards, completing his doctorate in 2009 on the biology of a nominally protected leopard population in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Dr. Balme worked closely with the conservation authorities in South Africa to draft new policies regulating trophy hunting of leopards, as well as protocols for managing damage-causing leopards. He has continued to work with African governments to implement best practices for leopard management across the continent. He has also overseen numerous community initiatives to alleviate human-leopard conflict and to address the illegal trade in leopard skins.
In addition to his work in on Africa, Dr. Balme has worked extensively in the Middle East on Persian and, more recently, Arabian leopards. He has also set up conservation programs on other cat species; most notably, on lions, cheetahs, jaguars and snow leopards. In his capacity as a field researcher, Dr. Balme developed an adept knowledge of the various capture and immobilization techniques used on large carnivores. He has also worked broadly with the different sampling methods used to estimate carnivore abundance.
Dr. Balme has contributed towards more than 50 scientific papers and numerous popular articles on carnivore ecology and conservation and supervised several graduate students working on cats.
Dr.Sanjay Gubbi works on leopard population ecology, human-leopard conflict, conservation policies and other aspects of leopard science and conservation. In addition to leopards he has contributed extensivel on tiger conservation in the Western Ghats.
Sanjay runs one of the longest leopard research and conservation project in India. He has grown up in leopard country and is perhaps the only researcher in India who has experienced first-hand the terrified fury of a leopard hemmed in by people. His book Leopard Diaries: The Rosette in India is widely reviewed and appreciated. Second Nature: Saving Tiger Landscapes in the Twenty-First Century is reviewed as a field guide to future conservationists.
Dr Gubbi has contributed to over 30 scientific papers and hundreds of popular articles on carnivores. He has supervised several graduate students on conservation and ecology.
Land of the Leopard National Park, Russian Federation
Taisiia Marchenkova is a researcher in the Land of the Leopard National Park, Russia. Her research focuses on population ecology and genetics of Far Eastern leopard, as well as statistical analysis and optimization of data processing from camera traps using AI. She received BS in Biology and MSc degree in Biodiversity conservation in Far Eastern Federal University, Russia.
Her interest in big cats was first sparked in 2016 through participating in the Amur tiger project of WCS Russia. The desire to develop the field of conservation biology in Russia, the lack of professionals in this field and the great opportunities for research made it an indisputable decision to dedicate her career to the study of one of the rarest Felidae – the Far Eastern leopard. Combining the results of camera trap monitoring and genetics research, she studies the current recovery processes of Far Eastern leopard population and associated problems linked with that. The results of her research were highly rated in several conferences and got included in the review of the new Strategy of Far Eastern Leopard Conservation and Reintroduction Program, Russia.
In addition to her own research, she takes part in the international projects on Amur tiger and Far Eastern leopard ecology and genetics, working alongside colleagues from South Korea, India, USA, and the Russian Academy of Science.
Dr. Hadi al Hikmani
Royal Commission for AlUla, Saudi Arabia
Dr Hadi Al Hikmani works as Arabian leopard Conservation Lead at the Royal Commission for AlUla, Saudi Arabia. Hadi is specialised in the ecology and conservation of the critically endangered Arabian leopard, a subspecies endemic to the Arabian Peninsula.
He has been working on the conservation of this subspecies for more than 20 years in Oman, including co-authoring the first book on its natural history “The Arabian Leopards of Oman” in 2014. Hadi’s conservation work has featured on several international and regional TV channels including BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, and Oman TV.
Hadi’s interests and passion to conserve the Arabian leopard have recently taken him to Saudi Arabia to join the conservation efforts to restore and reintroduce this symbolic leopard subspecies into its historical range in AlUla, northwest of the Kingdom.
Margot Raggett left a corporate career in PR in London in 2010, in order to concentrate on her love of wildlife photography. She was a regular ‘Photographer in Residence’ at Entim Camp in the Maasai Mara for a number of years and was also leading photographic safaris, before everything changed again for her when she saw a poached elephant in late 2014.
So moved by that incident, in 2015 she founded the Remembering Wildlife project, a ‘live-aid’ moment for wildlife photographers coming together for a fund-raising book entitled Remembering Elephants. Such was the success of this book that it was quickly followed up by Remembering Rhinos in 2017, Remembering Great Apes in 2018, Remembering Lions in 2019, Remembering Cheetahs in 2020 and Remembering African Wild Dogs in 2021. So far, nearly 200 photographers have contributed to those books under the banner of ‘Wildlife Photographers United’, selling more than 32,000 copies and raising more than £950,000 / USD $1.2m for conservation projects in Africa and Asia. You can read about many of these projects here https://rememberingwildlife.com/supported-projects
Whenever she can around the books, Margot still visits Africa regularly, more often than not nowadays visiting projects the series is supporting. She shoots on a Nikon D810 with a Nikkor 400 f/2.8 as her primary kit and her work is regularly published worldwide. In 2015 she won the ‘Animal Antics’ category of the prestigious Nature’s Best Photography Awards. She was also awarded a highly commended in the ‘African Wildlife’ category of the same contest. She is now much in demand on the speaker circuit and also as a judge of wildlife photography contests.
Remembering Bears is the seventh book in the highly acclaimed Remembering Wildlife series of charity books and features a foreword by Gordon Buchanan MBE and an afterword by Jill Robinson.