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Wildlife Wednesdays: Disney Conservation Heroes Dedicated to Nature and Their Communities

Kim Sams

by , Director, Disney Corporate Social Responsibility at The Walt Disney Company

They live in many different parts of the world. They vary in age, language, and level of education. Sadly, one of them even lost his life doing the work he loved. They are heroes in different ways, but what they all have in common is their passion for protecting nature, and sharing their love of wildlife with others. That’s why we are recognizing these inspiring people as Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) Conservation Heroes.

Here are just a few of their stories:

  • Nomusa Zikhali (nominated by the Africa Foundation) started what is now a model school with a gathering of children, many of them orphans, under a tree in rural South Africa. The Nkomo Full-Service School has grown to include 17 classrooms, including facilities for disabled children. Principal Zikhali has maintained a focus on connecting her students with nature at a nearby wildlife reserve and by integrating conservation education into the school’s curriculum.


  • Felix Medina (nominated by the Wildlife Conservation Network), a farmer and hunter, has worked for 25 years for Proyecto Titi, a conservation organization in Colombia, South America, whose mission is to save the cotton-top tamarin. Mr. Medina was instrumental in conducting a census of the total population of cotton-tops, resulting in these small monkeys being declared one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates.


  • Silver James Birungi (nominated by the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance) is a wildlife conservation educator for a chimpanzee sanctuary in Uganda. He educates kids in an area where it has been cuturally accepted to keep, sell and kill chimpanzees. Mr. Birungi has traveled across Uganda to raise awareness and help change minds, attitudes, behaviors and actions, reaching more than 11,673 students in nearly 200 schools, as well as 8,000 community members.


  • Peter Lalampaa (nominated by the Saint Louis Zoo Association), now a senior manager for the Grevy’s Zebra Trust in Nairobi, Kenya, has grown the trust’s scout, ambassador and warrior programs. His work is enabling Grevy’s zebra to be monitored and protected over a wide area of Kenya, including remote areas where no wildlife conservation programs had existed.


  • Jairo Mora Sandoval (nominated posthumously by the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network) monitored Moin Beach in Costa Rica, where he was responsible for protecting sea turtle nests and thousands of baby sea turtles. This 26-year-old conservationist had a passion for the wild creatures of his country and a dedication to their survival that was unshakable. This past spring, while patroling Moin Beach, Mr. Sandoval lost his life while protecting sea turtle nests. His award will be presented to his family.

Since 2004, Disney has honored 85 people around the world for their extraordinary conservation efforts. To read more about all 14 of the 2013 Disney Conservation Heroes, visit

Did you know?

DWCF is funded by Disney and contributions by Disney guests. Guests help to support the fund in a variety of ways from adding a dollar or more to their purchases of food and gifts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and select resorts, to participating in special animal experiences on Disney Cruise Line and at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot and Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai’i, to purchasing reusable shopping bags and other items and at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts.

Do you have a personal conservation hero—someone who has inspired you? If so, please tell us about your hero in the comments.


  • Such an awesome story. Condolences for Mr. Sandoval’s family. Such a young life lost!

  • What a great group of people! Principal Zikhali is such an inspiration. So sad that Mr. Sandoval lost his life.

  • I teared up a bit reading Jairo Mora Sandoval’s entry. It’s a noble person who would give their lives to protect those that can’t protect themselves, and I am glad to know that there are people like him in the world.

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