In Memory of Rory Young

Apr 28, 2021

We Honor Rory Young

 It takes a special person to dedicate their life to protecting wildlife in the most dangerous places in Africa. Rory Young was such a person.  He was killed yesterday in a firefight in Burkina Faso (West Africa), literally putting his life on the line as he did so often. We mourn the personal and professional loss of a conservation giant who wanted nothing more than a world in which wildlife and people could live with and help each other…. a world he wanted for everyone, but one especially in which he and his wife could raise their two young children.

Rory — Zambian born, Africa-raised and an Irish citizen — was co-founder and CEO of Chengeta Wildlife.  He was a steadfast partner of WILD’s in Mali and Burkina Faso, in regions of West Africa where other organizations will not operate, in regions the United Nations peacekeeping forces publicly refer to as their “most dangerous deployments in the world.”  Under Rory and his team, Chengeta delivers leadership and expertise in both active counter-poaching and training-the-trainers to build much needed and seldom-existing capacity so that poor, under-developed countries can take care of their wildlife and their rural communities.

The EU asked WILD to lead a team of three NGO partners to help protect wildlife and bring community benefits to the Burkina aspect of one of the most important natural areas in West Africa, the trinational array of UNESCO World Heritage treasures known as the “W-Arly-Pendjari Complex,” protected areas that span Burkina Faso, Benin, and Niger. As lead NGO in the project, WILD focused on delivering the community benefits of conservation to the thousands of people who live within or near the area while Rory and his team brought valuable counter-poaching skills and techniques. His team was in the final stage of their successful effort when they were ambushed by Islamist terrorists, in which Rory was killed along with two highly-regarded and well-experienced Spanish journalists preparing a documentary on wildlife and security in West Africa. One Burkinabe soldier is still missing. 

Our work with Rory and Chengeta spans many years. WILD was originally asked by the Mali government to help the local communities of central Mali protect their unique desert elephants and to deliver community training and economic opportunities, thereby creating a future for wildlife and people. The conditions in which we assisted our Malian partners became increasingly perilous over the past ten years as terrorists began to destabilize and render lawless huge swaths of Mali and surrounding countries. Rory and his team eventually joined us and our Malian partners because their conservation work was in total accord with the foundation of our fieldwork around the world…community-based empowerment and benefits to local people from protecting their wildlife and environment. The Chengeta doctrine of operations is almost unique in the counter-poaching sector, and their work spans the African continent.

Our words cannot express our deep sadness for the loss suffered by Rory’s family and the families of those killed in action and in service to wildlife and people.  WILD has established the Rory Young Memorial Fund to assist Rory’s family and your donations earmarked for such will go directly to them.

In addition to asking for your donations, the most important thing that we at WILD can do is to increase our efforts to protect wildlife and empower local communities to care for and receive benefits from protecting their wild nature. In their hands are the natural treasures that we all love, upon which our global survival literally depends….and for which a very few, rare and special people are willing to give their lives.   

Please designate your gift “In honor of Rory Young”
so we can be sure it goes to the memorial fund.


A Reflection by Timothy Hass, WILD’s Trustee

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