In the late 1990s, EAWLS, impeded by management problems, was in danger of collapse. Under Kaka's leadership, the Society has reestablished its credibility and is a lead player in advocating for crucial policy change to enhance conservation practice in the region.
Previously, Kaka was services head of tourism, marketing and facilities development of the Kenya Wildlife Service. Kenya's wildlife tourist industry contributes more than U.S. $500 million to the Kenyan economy.
Earlier in his career he established Kenya's Marine Park Unit and tackled issues such as community consultation, illegal harvesting, and enforcement. The unit now manages seven marine parks and reserves. He also worked in the field as a warden and tested the first Conflict Resolution System to avert acute human-wildlife conflict from livestock and crop losses caused by wildlife.
Other achievements include helping found the first Rhino Capture and Translocation Unit in Kenya in 1987, which led to the establishment of Kenya's Rhino Sanctuary Programme, and helping create a comprehensive database on wildlife research in Kenya.
"Twenty-seven years in the field, dealing with many problems and challenges, has taken its toll, and I have sometimes felt there is no point in carrying on," Kaka said at the award ceremony. "This award is much appreciated, and I intend to use a substantial part of the money to address some of Kenya's conservation needs."
Recipients of the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award are chosen from nominations submitted to the National Geographic's Conservation Trust. After the nominations are screened by a peer-review process, a selection of names is forwarded to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which recommends the final winner.
In addition to serving as president of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Buffett is chairman of Lindsay Manufacturing and president of Buffett Farms. His foundation has established a reserve in South Africa, where he has set up facilities for cheetah research. He is a widely published agricultural, humanitarian and wildlife photographer, who has traveled extensively throughout the Third World.
Buffett announced at yesterday's ceremony that next year a similar award would be introduced for conservationists in South America.