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Rwandan conservationist wins Rolex award

Olivier Nsengimana

Olivier Nsengimana

A son of Rwanda, Olivier Nsengimana, 30, has been named among the names of the winners of the Rolex Awards for Entrepreneurship 2014.

These five young visionaries from Africa, India, Europe and the Middle East, were selected from 1,800 entrants worldwide by an international jury of eight experts, five Young Laureates will each receive 50,000 Swiss Francs (Approximately Rwf38m) to realize their projects.

Other winners alongside Nsengimana include; Hosam Zowawi, 29, of Saudi Arabia, Arthur Zang, 26, of Cameroun, Francesco Sauro, 29, of Italy and Neeti Kailas, 29, of India

According to Rolex, the Young Laureates this year – all aged 30 or younger – impressed by their entrepreneurial spirit and their ability to use technology in innovative ways, two qualities that are at the service of humanity and knowledge.

In his nature conservation project, Nsengimana will spend the next two years dividing his time between fieldwork with conservation organization Gorilla Doctors and trying to save the grey crowned-crane. The project’s primary goal is to reintroduce captive cranes to their natural Rwandan habitat.


Nsengimana doing the job he loves


Nsengimana also has a long-term mission – to foster a younger generation of Rwandan conservationists. “I want to train young veterinarians to help with this project and take ownership of conservation projects, and, so far, the response has been extremely positive,” he says.


In Rwanda, the crane is a symbol of wealth and longevity. With a golden tufted crown and a flame-red spot on its neck, it is a desirable pet for Rwanda’s elite. Despite a ban by the Rwandan Government on killing, injuring, capturing or selling endangered species, locals poach the birds and sell them as cheaply as chickens.


The result has been devastating for Rwanda’s only species of crane. Its population has fallen by 80 per cent over the past 45 years, causing the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to raise the threat listing for the bird to “endangered” in 2012.


While there are grey crowned-cranes in other countries, only 300–500 are thought to exist in the wild in Rwanda, mainly at Rugezi Marsh, a protected area in the north of the country.


The Young Laureates of the Rolex Awards were created in 1976 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Oyster chronometer, the first waterproof watch in the world and a symbol of innovation.


Their purpose is to encourage those who, with their talent and dynamism, seek to change the world in an innovative way in five broad areas: science and health, applied technology, exploration and discovery, the environment and preservation of cultural heritage.



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