Renowned conservationist returns to region to share knowledge with Hull University Business School students

Renowned biologist and conservationist, Ian Redmond OBE – best known for his work with great apes and elephants – is returning to the region to share his knowledge with students at the University of Hull.

For more than 45 years, Ian he has been associated with Mountain Gorillas, through research, filming, tourism and conservation work. He has served as Ambassador for the UN Year of the Gorilla in 2009 and for the UN’s Convention on Migratory Species since 2010.

As with his mentor, the late Dr Dian Fossey, the main focus of his work shifted in 1978 from research to conservation work, after poachers killed Digit – a young silverback in one of the Karisoke study groups – to sell his skull and hands. Finding the headless, handless body of a gorilla he regarded as a friend was a turning point in his life. Ten years later in Kenya, the shock was repeated when some of the cave-elephants he was studying were killed by ivory poachers.

More than 280 Hull University Business School students are set to attend Ian’s lecture at the University on Friday 19 March – which will focus on his expertise in the illegal wildlife trade, risks to biodiversity, conservation and the impact of climate change.

Born in Malaysia, Ian’s passion for animals developed during his boyhood in Beverley, East Yorkshire, and after Keele University, took him in 1976 to Africa. There he joined Dian Fossey, studying and protecting the mountain gorillas of Rwanda and Zaire. This work also led him into documentary film-making. Ian introduced Sir David Attenborough to the gorillas in 1978, for the famous BBC Life on Earth sequences, and taught Sigourney Weaver to grunt like a gorilla in 1987, for her award-winning role in the film Gorillas in the Mist (in which he is characterised as ‘The Worm Boy’).

Ian Redmond and sister Sue climb trees on Beverley Westwood
Ian grew up in Beverley and is pictured here with his sister, Sue, on Beverley Westwood

Ian said: “I am a naturalist by birth, a biologist by training, and a conservationist by necessity. But conservation for me isn’t just about saving species. On a larger scale, the planet needs us to save functioning eco-systems; on a smaller scale, we must also recognise that species are made up of individual animals.

“For me, it became personal when I had the privilege of getting to know individual wild animals in the wild... I can truthfully say that some of my best friends are gorillas, and I care passionately about them and the future of all life on Earth."

The students will learn from Ian’s experiences as part of their Authentic Business Learning (ABL), a unique opportunity in the Business School which offers an approach to learning and teaching that supports students to be more ‘business ready’. In ABL, students work on live projects in existing organisations and gain hands-on experience in tackling real problems and challenges. The ABL project is a critical component in engaging students in knowledge creation and developing competencies for employability and further study.

Dr Satomi Kimino, Lecturer in International Business, Undergraduate Education Lead for Marketing, Management, and Business Strategy subject group in Hull University Business School, said: “It is essential for students to get specialist knowledge from external guest speakers for their projects.

“External guest speakers are experts in their respective fields, and they bring in real-world experience and knowledge that may not be found in textbooks or scholarly materials. This exposure can help students develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and an understanding of how to apply theoretical knowledge in a real-world context.

“In addition, external guest speakers like Ian can also help students expand their professional networks. These events can lead to internships, job opportunities, and broaden collaborations with professionals in various organisations (NGOs, charitable organisations, and/or international multilateral organisations). This is particularly important for students who are about to enter the job market, as it can give them a competitive edge over their peers.”

Other opportunities provided for the students, who are studying business school degrees, include a similar authentic assessment ‘Going Global’ project in which they can research a particular organisation associated with emerging and/or developing countries.

Dr Kimino said: “This project allows students to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities that exist in emerging and developing economies and to develop the skills they need to be successful in these markets. Through this project, students have the opportunity to engage in research, analysis, and problem-solving related to real-world challenges faced by organisations in emerging and developing countries.”

Ian Redmond OBE’s career as a conservationist

Ian’s early research experiences resulted in him becoming a conservation consultant and advisor for organisations such as the Born Free Foundation, the Gorilla Organisation (for which he became Chairman of the Board of Trustees in 2012), the Orangutan Foundation, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

To encourage such groups to work together, he established and chairs the Ape Alliance (95 organisations linked via 4apes.com), the African Ele-Fund and the UK Rhino Group.

He was Chief Consultant and Envoy for GRASP – the UNEP/UNESCO Great Apes Survival Partnership he helped launch in 2001 – until 2012 and continues as a consultant for UNEP and the FAO on matters pertaining to apes, bushmeat, forests and related issues. He is now the Ambassador for Virtual Ecotourism, and is helping develop this concept for immersive, interactive conservation education.

He has advised in the making of, and/or appeared in about 100 documentary films for the BBC, National Geographic Society, Discovery Channel, TF1, etc. and the 3D movie The Last of the Great Apes. His books have been translated into many languages.

Putting conservation principles into practice, he has led anti-poacher patrols, guided film crews and/or special interest tours into close encounters with gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, elephants and erupting volcanoes, and worked to support local conservationists during the horrors of Rwanda’s and D.R. Congo’s civil wars. Under-cover investigations led him to play the role of a potential ape-buyer in order to infiltrate poaching rings in both DRC and Congo-Brazzaville and a potential Coltan dealer in DRC. His work on behalf of animals was recognised in 1996 with the presentation of the PAWS Humane Achievement Award, at a ceremony in Hollywood, California.

Ian was appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2006 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Oxford Brookes University in 2011, a Lifetime Achievement Award at the New York Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in 2013 and received the 2013 Animal Action Award for Conservation from the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Ian Redmond’s research interests also include underground elephants – he carried out the first study and photography of elephants in the caves of Mt Elgon in Kenya and helped Sir David Attenborough to film them for the acclaimed BBC series Life of Mammals; parasites – he studied gorilla parasites, and in Papua New Guinea, discovered several new species and a new Genus of nematode worms; reptiles and amphibians – he discovered two new species of frog, also in New Guinea; and re-introducing orphaned apes, elephants and polar bears to the wild.

Ian is now Head of Conservation for Ecoflix, a new non-profit TV channel and streaming platform dedicated to saving animals and the planet, a co-founder of Rebalance.Earth, which aims to bring payment for ecosystem services into the global economy, focusing on keystone species such as elephants and apes.

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