From Discovery to Dedication: The Inspiring Journey of Badru Mugerwa in African Conservation

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Badru Mwezi Mugerwa is a Ugandan Born conservation biologist and the current president of the Society for Conservation Biology in Africa (SCBA). He started his career at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park after completing his Bachelor of Science in Forestry (Forest Ecology and Conservation) at Makerere University, Uganda.

At the National Park, he worked on monitoring and recording biodiversity using camera traps, and it was while carrying out this work, he came across the less well-known African golden cat. This discovery of the African golden cat, locally known as Embaka, elicited great curiosity and concerns over the less well-known and threatened cat and significantly shaped the course and future of Badru’s conservation career.

The African golden cat is Africa’s most enigmatic wild cat species that is mainly found in Central and West Africa. Unfortunately, the cat is facing extinction due to widespread unauthorized hunting.  

The discovery of the African golden cat led Badru to pursue his Master of Science in Biology (Ecology and Evolution) and Global Health Systems in Africa from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, in order to understand more about the African golden cat and other mammals. With this discovery, Badru also developed a deep desire to protect the animal, and in 2014, Badru began working towards establishing a community-based conservation program in Uganda to protect the African golden cat while at the same time improving the livelihoods of the community.

In his unwavering commitment to protecting the African golden cat, in 2019, Badru formed Embaka, a community-based conservation initiative in Uganda working with local communities through; Poachers Who Protect Us, Piggery Seed Bank, Smile for Conservation, and Conservation Pesa (Swahili name for money). These programs aim to improve the livelihood of the community and create a platform for community policing at the local level while mitigating poaching of the African golden cat and other wildlife.

Vision to extend the Network and SCB

Badru’s vision was to extend the work he started in Uganda to other regions in Africa. A year later in 2020, he founded the African Golden Cat Conservation Alliance and Working Group (AGCCA). AGCCA is a network for conserving the African golden cat across the species range. The initiative currently boasts 36 nationalists in 20 countries where the golden cat is present in Africa.

Involvement with SCB

Besides, being the founder and chair of Embaka and the AGCCA, Badru is also the president of the Society of Conservation Biology (SCB) Africa section, a position he’s held since October 2022. SCB is the world’s largest community of conservation Biologists with close to 4000 members of conservation practitioners around the world. His involvement in the society stemmed from a deep desire to continue expanding the work of Embaka in the whole of Africa and he saw the society as a good forum that could to support him in the realization of this vision.

The Society of Conservation Biology (SCB) recently held its 31st International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB) on July 23-27, 2023 in Kigali, Rwanda, where he served as the chair of the congress. Having the conference in Africa, was a great opportunity that allowed participants to share their conservation stories from an African lens. The conference was very impactful and Badru believes it will change how conservation biology is perceived and delivered. Over 1200 delegates from close to 100 countries attended the conference.

Africa showcased a wealth of conservation expertise across diverse domains. A firm believer of diversity and inclusion, the congress through the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) committee organized a successful STEM events, extending invitations to Rwandan school children aged 8-11 to actively participate in the conference and youth engagement sessions. This platform proved to be a significant opportunity for addressing crucial concerns like capacity building and incorporating the perspectives of children and youth in conservation work.

The Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) has been a critical partner to SCBA in the past few years. In 2022, ABCG in collaboration with SCBA supported to convene the inaugural Africa Diaspora Biodiversity Symposium. The second edition of the symposium was held at the just concluded ICCB 2023 in Kigali. ABCG sponsored several African delegates to attend the ICCB 2023. ABCG has also supported an SCB initiative to develop a database for all conservation practitioners in Africa, and the platform will connect conservation biologists and researchers to get to know each other and collaborate.

Road ahead

Badru’s path in conservation research has been clear to him ever since his first conservation job at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. According to Badru, “It’s the excitement of finding cool things each time you go out to do conservation research, or to talk to local people about conservation challenges such as human-wildlife conflict or poaching” that has inspired him over the years and continues to inspire him.

His aspiration is to continue improving local communities’ livelihoods and protecting biodiversity. He sees a bright future for young Africans and encourages them to venture into conservation and influence the change they hope to see in the future.