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Conservation Research Institute



My research interests lie primarily in:

  • Applied ecology and endangered species management
  • Law enforcement and illegal use of wildlife
  • Sustainable resource use
  • Community-based conservation
  • Protected area design and management
  • Conservation strategy and policy
  • Evaluating success in conservation

Early doctoral research with the British Antarctic Survey focused on the ecology and management of reindeer introduced early in the 20th century to the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, where they faced a novel environment that lacked predators and intra-specific competitors. This research served as a model for later studies of introduced mammals on other southern islands, and showed how differences in the nature and amounts of winter food had served to influence the population trajectories of introduced species.

Post-doctoral research with the Large Animal Research Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge focused on the ecology and conservation of black rhinoceros in Luangwa Valley, Zambia. Threatened by illegal exploitation, little was known of the management or ecology of one of Africa's largest remaining populations of black rhinos and elephants. Although rhinos became locally extinct in Luangwa Valley, definitive strategies were formulated to manage rhinos and elephants under intense pressure from illegal exploitation, and the study provided the first scientific assessment of the effectiveness of conservation funding.

As Chief Technical Advisor in Tanzania's Department of Wildlife, I established a planning unit to develop an information management system for the wildlife sector, and to create policies to enhance the conservation and economic potential of wildlife. Responsible to the Director of Wildlife, I initiated status assessments, organised appropriate consultative workshops, and completed national policies and management plans, including a review of the complex institutional structure of Tanzania's wildlife sector. Tanzania now moves slowly forward with implementing community-based conservation through locally managed wildlife management areas.

At the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, my research group both investigated conflicts between conservation, people and other large mammals, and built research capacity in biodiversity-rich developing countries. Issues studied included: human-animal conflict, community-based conservation, common property resources, sustainable resource use, wildlife tourism, protected area management and planning, law enforcement and the implementation of international conventions. To address such issues, we studied a wide range of species including: African elephants and black rhinos, giraffes, mountain gorillas, bonobos, orangutans, West African manatees, saola, Przewalski's horses, tigers, lions, Ethiopian wolves, Andean bears, striped hyenas, Komodo dragons and Mexican reptiles, and undertook research in a wide range of countries including: Bolivia, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.


Key publications: 

Leader-Williams, N., Adams, W.M. and Smith, R.J., 2010. Trade-offs in Conservation, Wiley-Blackwell. 400pp.

Walpole, M.J., Karanja, G.G., Sitati, N.W. and Leader-Williams, N., 2003. Wildlife and people: conflict and conservation in Masai Mara, Kenya, International Institute for Environment and Development. 59pp.

Roe, D., Leader-Williams, N. and Dalal-Clayton, D.B., 1997. Take only Photographs, Leave only Footprints: the environmental impacts of wildlife tourism, International Institute for Environment and Development. 83pp.

Leader-Williams, N., Kayera, J.A. and Overton, G.L., 1996. Mining in protected areas in Tanzania, International Institute for Environment and Development. 35pp.

Leader-Williams, N., Kayera, J.A. and Overton, G.L., 1996. Community-based conservation in Tanzania, World Conservation Union. 226pp.

Leader-Williams, N., Kayera, J.A., Overton, G.L. and Commission, I.U.F.C.O.N.A.N.R.S.S., 1996. Tourist hunting in Tanzania, World Conservation Union. 138pp.

Leader-Williams, N. and Tibanyenda, R.K., 1996. The live bird trade in Tanzania, World Conservation Union. 131pp.

Leader-Williams, N., 1992. The world trade in rhino horn, TRAFFIC International. 40pp.

Leader-Williams, N., 1988. Reindeer on South Georgia, Cambridge Univ Pr. 319pp.

Other Professional Activities

Darwin Initiative: Darwin Advisory (latterly Expert) Committee 2006-2012

Fauna and Flora International: Council 1998-2006, 2008-present, Vice-Chair 2012-present

Zeitz Trust UK: Board of Trustees 2012-present

Student Conference on Conservation Science: Organising Committee 1999-present

Director, MPhil in Conservation Leadership

Contact Details

Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place
01223 333397


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