Ian Redmond, OBE, our Chief Environmental Officer, is a renowned tropical field biologist and conservationist, known for his work with great apes and elephants. With over 40 years of experience, he has been associated with mountain gorillas through research, filming, tourism, and conservation work. As Ambassador for the UN Year of the Gorilla in 2009 and for the UN Convention on Migratory Species from 2010 to the present, he has been a strong advocate for the conservation of endangered species. In his role as Chief Environmental Officer of HHERF, Ian is responsible for ensuring that planetary health is incorporated into all actions and activities, highlighting the link between planetary and human health not only in words but also in actions. His expertise and commitment to conservation make him a valuable member of our team, and we are proud to have him leading our efforts to promote environmental sustainability and protect the health of our planet.
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.
As a result, Ian became a conservation consultant and advisor for organizations such as the Born Free Foundation, the Gorilla Organization (for which he became Chairman of the Board of Trustees in 2012), the Orangutan Foundation, International Fund for Animal Welfare, etc. To encourage such groups to work together, he established and chairs the Ape Alliance (95 organizations linked via www.4apes.com), and previously the African Ele-Fund and the UK Rhino Group. He was Chief Consultant and Envoy for GRASP – the UNEP/UNESCO Great Apes Survival Partnership www.UN-GRASP.org that 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 a member of the team developing this exciting concept for immersive, interactive conservation education, which can be experienced at www.vEcotourism.org and in VR apps such as Ape App VR, Gorilla Safari VR, and VEco labs. He is a co-founder of two innovative initiatives to transform conservation: www.Ecoflix.com and www. Rebalance. Earth.
Born in Malaysia, Ian’s passion for animals developed during his boyhood in Beverley, a market town in Yorkshire, and after University, took him in 1976 to Africa. There he joined Dian Fossey, studying and protecting the mountain gorillas of Rwanda and Zaire (now DRC). This work also led him into documentary film-making. Ian is the man who introduced Sir David Attenborough to the gorillas in 1978, for the famous BBC ‘Life on Earth’ sequences, and who 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 characterized as ‘The Worm Boy’). He has advised in the making of, and/or appeared in, more than 100 documentary films for the BBC, National Geographic (most recently ‘Secrets in the Mist’ a mini-series about Dian Fossey), Discovery Channel, TF1, etc. and the 3D movie ‘The Last of the Great Apes’. His books have been translated into many languages and he is in demand as an entertaining and thought-provoking public speaker and interviewee.
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 recognized 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 has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from Oxford Brookes University in 2011, the University of Roehampton in 2014, and Keele University in 2018. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the New York Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in 2013, the 2013 Animal Action Award for Conservation from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and an RSPCA/Mirror Animal Heroes Award in 2017.
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. Asked about his work, he says, “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 ecosystems; on a smaller scale, we must also recognize 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.”