By Yvonne Zipp
When Iain Douglas-Hamilton first started studying elephants in Africa, he had to invent ways of tracking the giant mammals. Over the course of 40-some years in the field, the zoologist learned how to fly airplanes and use radio collars and other high-tech means to follow their movements.
He also learned how to get out of the way – fast. "I learned how to climb trees very quickly," says Dr. Douglas-Hamilton, winner of the 2010 Indianapolis Prize, the largest prize ($100,000) given for animal conservation in the world.
As cofounder of the nonprofit group Save the Elephants, he also has learned to be an activist, author, and politician.
When Douglas-Hamilton left Tanzania, in East Africa, in 1970 to study at Oxford University in Britain, he left behind "an elephants' paradise," he recalls.
But when he returned in 1972, the country's national parks looked more like a war zone. Douglas-Hamilton often found more dead elephants than live ones.
"Never in all our wildest dreams did the small group of scientists who worked in Tanzania's national parks [in the 1960s\ imagine that men armed with automatic weapons would one day stride through the national parks. It was just not in our thinking," he says of the heavily armed poachers who had moved in.
The soft-spoken conservationist now lives in Kenya with his wife, Oria, who co-founded Save the Elephants. Together they have written two books, "Battle for the Elephants" and "Among the Elephants." More....