$10 Million Gift Expands Conservation in Africa

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CHICAGO -- Conservation of Africa's famed wild landscapes will expand with innovative strategies funded by a generous $10 million donation by Oak Brook, Illinois, resident Connie Keller, chair of the board of trustees for The Nature Conservancy in Illinois, and her husband, Dennis Keller, chair of the board of trustees for the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). The largest private gift to the partnership between the Conservancy and AWF, the donation will improve the resilience of key landscapes and local populations to growing environmental and societal challenges.

Revered for its vast landscapes and abundant wildlife, Africa has been tested by mounting pressures from its growing population, development, and invasive plant and animal species. These modern threats have outpaced the arrival of the scientific and financial resources that local people need to protect their environment.

The Kellers' gift will expedite that process by expanding the conservation partnership between The Nature Conservancy and AWF, which will progressively equip Africans to restore and protect their natural heritage. "We want to do everything we can to help Africa create a sustainable world and to ensure that healthy proportions of its wildlife and wild lands will endure forever," explained the Kellers, both long-time advocates for conservation.

"We are thrilled with the pledge that Connie and Dennis have made to the conservation of this extraordinary ecosystem," said Stephanie Meeks, the Conservancy's acting president and CEO. "Connie is a tremendous leader within The Nature Conservancy who inspires others with her vision of a sustainable future for the people and environment of Africa."

In the spring of 2006, the Nature Conservancy began work with AWF in Africa, using strategies and tools developed in similar environments across the globe over the last half-century.

"Strategic philanthropic investment at this time can have tremendous impact on conservation success in Africa," says Patrick Bergin, CEO of AWF. "Over 45 years, AWF has forged effective relationships with national governments and local communities and devised a strategic vision of conservation that can be brought to scale as a result of the Kellers' generous gift and through our partnership with The Nature Conservancy."

The interdependence of humanity, wildlife and the environment is perhaps nowhere as evident as in the biologically diverse lands of Africa. From the mighty Zambezi River, where people regularly compete with wildlife for access to land and life-sustaining natural resources, to the iconic grasslands that are increasingly threatened by invasive species, the Conservancy and AWF are engaging with local people to conserve natural resources and create a sustainable future. For example, the two organizations are pooling their staff, resources, and knowledge to analyze the Zambezi River's ecology and fishery resources and develop a comprehensive plan to help conserve the river while protecting the interests of the communities living along its banks. In addition to establishing community conservation areas, the project will form locally owned ecotourism businesses so that people benefit economically from conservation of the riverfront.

With new financial support, the partnership will facilitate international staff exchanges and move forward with ambitious plans, including the protection of movement corridors for elephants and other wildlife. For example, The Nature Conservancy and AWF are working to purchase strategic land parcels that connect protected areas in Kenya and Tanzania. These properties will be held by conservation land trusts in each country and establish a precedent for private land protection in Africa.

The Conservancy brings a unique blend of scientific expertise and financial resources that complement AWF's local knowledge and on-the-ground presence in Africa. Together, these leading conservation organizations are empowering Africans to preserve their ecological diversity and their livelihoods. The Kellers' donation will become part of The Nature Conservancy's Catalyst Fund, which will allow for gift matching to raise an additional $10 million for conservation in Africa. AWF will offer a similar matching gift program to help conclude the final year of its three-year $100 million campaign.


The African Wildlife Foundation is the leading international conservation organization focused solely on Africa. We believe that protecting Africa's wildlife and wild landscapes is the key to the future prosperity of Africa and its people -- and for over 45 years we have made it our work to help ensure that Africa's wild resources endure. Visit www.awf.org.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 102 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.