Rosalind Aveling - Conservationist and Mum.

Martin Aveling

To have a good mum is to win the lottery of life. A strong role model with you from day one, teaching you what is fair and helping prepare you for adulthood. Your own personal influencer, but one who believes that YOU are the only audience that matters.

I am one of the lucky ones. 

After a 17 year tenure with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), Rosalind Aveling is leaving her post as deputy CEO.

I can’t talk for Ros as a work colleague, but having been the beneficiary of such kindness and wisdom over 37 years, I am certain that there are others who will also be a little sad to see her go. Indeed, a lot of people are now working in conservation because of her. Some may not even know how hard she championed them, because she never craves attention or praise. Mum has always said conservation is about people, and has spent a large chunk of her career recruiting the best talent to tackle the very real challenges of wildlife conservation. Knowing this will hopefully bring her comfort as she quietly steps out of the limelight.

Conservation is about people. After all, the clean up of the planet starts with us.

This evening Amy and I will be joining mum at a drinks reception in Cambridge, hosted by FFI, to celebrate her contribution to conservation.

My mum is only scared of two things; moths and retirement. I will not mention the latter again, and of course she will carry on as Chair of Cambridge Past Present & Future until her term is up.

Here are just a few of her career highlights (with a sprinkle of the personal):

Graduated from Bristol University with an honours degree in Zoology, basing her thesis on observations she made with the resident gorillas at Bristol Zoo.

Sneaky little postgraduate admin and business diploma.

4 years in Indonesia setting up conservation projects to help Sumatran orangutans. 

“Working with gorillas and orangutans was ideal preparation for being a parent”.

Owning a very male dominated society.

Wrote the original proposal for the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP). Mountain gorilla numbers are up to 1004 individuals, compared with 640 in 1989.

Took part in the first ever successful darting of a wild mountain gorilla, caught in a snare. Immediate medical attention administered, followed by a mad uphill dash to reunite gorilla with family (Eloquently detailed in John Fowler’s book, ‘A Forest in the Clouds’).

Had three boys.

Climbed an erupting volcano looking for lost climbers. Moths, really??

Moved to a new country on her own with three dependents below the age of 7.

Joined the team at the African Wildlife Foundation. 11 years in work and juggling endless school sports occasions.

Moved back to the UK and rejoined FFI, becoming deputy CEO four years later.

Offered her expertise to the boards of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, The Darwin Initiative, Cambridge Conservation Initiative and United for Wildlife.

Hung out with Sir David quite a lot by now.

Became Chair of a local charity, Cambridge Past Present & Future. 

And the next chapter begins..

Mum may be leaving FFI, but she will not be ‘R’ word from nature. Her great influencer was her dad, whom in his 70s decided to take on a degree in geology. Ever curious. The apple doth not fall far from the tree.

Good luck, mum, with whatever you decide to do next. We could not be more proud of you.

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  • This is a gorgeous tribute, Martin. We were so lucky to be in Goma together all those years ago, and I wish Ros all the best for whatever comes next.

    Deborah Betts

  • Your mother is an extraordinary woman. Not many can lay claim to contributions such as hers. What an incredible heritage you have :) No wonder you have inherited her love of nature and wildlife and are now the ardent conservationist that you are. It’s a privilege to know you, Martin, and to see your love and your passion through your art.


  • I am proud to know your mom who brought much-needed people skills to the conservation efforts for the mountain gorillas of the Virungas and cultivated the first cooperative efforts between Karisoke Research Center and the Mountain Gorilla Project. She could also make jam tarts and potato crisps on a camp stove! During a visit to hers and your dad’s campsite at the base of Mt. Visoke, I had been lamenting that we hadn’t been able to get flour up at Karisoke for weeks – from which I made my “Karisoke Soufflés” upon which I subsisted. It happened to be my birthday and she impishly snuck half of her flour into my backpack before I headed back up the mountain. Few would think of a few pounds of flour as an exciting birthday gift, but in that hardscrabble existence, nothing could’ve been a better, more memorable gift.

    John Fowler

  • I’ve only known Ros during our time at CPPF together but it had been a pleasure, sometimes hard but proud of our achievements.
    Feel very lucky to have shared tonight with Ros’ Family, Colleagues and Friends

    Robin Barratt

  • I’m sure you’re just as proud of your sons as they are of you. But as to the generosity you’ve shown the world through your hard work, thank you doesn’t seem enough. I hope life brings you and your loved ones much laughter and joy in this next chapter of your life.

    Renee Green

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