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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  • It was great working with you at FFI, Ros. Inspiring and motivational. Always smiling too. Happy new adventures. You will be missed I am sure.

    Helen Nyul

  • Martin, a wonderful tribute and chronology of a remarkable woman. Wishing everyone a wonderful evening. I’m absolutely sure there will be no retirement… only more adventures and conservation commitments X


  • Dear Ros,

    The best of luck in the next phase of your life. Please come see me and the elephants in Amboseli the next time you are in Kenya.


    Cynthia Moss

  • Always enjoyed spending time with you. Congratulations on all your achievements, not least three wonderful sons of whom you must be very proud. Enjoy your retirement. Elaine

    Elaine Smith

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