The Diane
Skinner Award

for the

Unsung Hero in Conservation


Africa’s conservation community has lost one of its leading lights. Diane Skinner, the Executive Director of the Painted Wolf Foundation, succumbed to cancer on 10 August 2022. Although only 41, Diane leaves behind a stellar legacy of global efforts to conserve not only African wild dogs but also chimpanzees, elephants, rhinos, pangolins and other charismatic fauna in Africa

About Diane Skinner

Diane was a passionate and dedicated conservationist who worked tirelessly to protect endangered species and their habitats. She was an advocate for collaborative approaches to conservation, recognizing that true progress requires the involvement of local communities, governments, and stakeholders across sectors. She volunteered to mentor and train young conservation students at the School of Wildlife Conservation and her time spent on campus as a Conservationist in Residence from February to March 2019 was nothing short of impactful. She also gave a considerable amount of her time to hosting guest speaker and intensive sessions for both our undergraduate and MBA students as well as consulting on our wildlife economy research efforts

As Executive Director of the Painted Wolf Foundation, Diane led efforts to support African wild dog conservation through funding, research, and education. Under her leadership, the foundation worked with partners across Africa to improve the status of wild dog populations and protect their remaining habitats.

Diane’s contribution to conservation extended well beyond wild dogs. She started her career at the Jane Goodall Institute in Washington DC helping on projects to save chimpanzees. After completing her masters, she managed the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group in Nairobi before becoming a sought after independent consultant working on species such as elephant, rhino, pangolin as well as developing strategies to improve coexistence with local communities.

Those who knew Diane remember her as a warm and resilient person with a contagious enthusiasm for the natural world. Her loss is keenly felt within the conservation community, and her legacy will continue to inspire future conservationists.


I remember her passion for wildlife conservation in general but specifically her advocacy for the endangered painted wolf species. I will forever cherish the insightful sessions we had with her on campus in 2019

Gugulethu Dube

Class of 2017

I had the pleasure of working closely with Diane on a few projects over the last 5 years.  Her dedication, passion, professionalism, humility and hard work were always inspiring.  I learnt so much from her, both personally and professionally.  She is greatly missed!

Sue Snyman

Director of Research, SOWC

About the Diane Skinner Awards

Diane Skinner was not a household name, but her contribution to conservation was significant. Her values were about making a difference in wildlife conservation, and she did not waste energy on self-promotion or seeking recognition. These qualities were recognised and valued by her colleagues as rare and important. This is because it is the work that is important, and it is the work that lives on.

Purpose of the Diane Skinner Awards

The Painted Wolf Foundation and the School of Wildlife Conservation have set up this award scheme to recognise Diane’s contribution to conservation. This award will celebrate people like Diane, who work selflessly for conservation, focused on the wildlife and not themselves.


The award is open to any individual working in conservation in Africa

The person cannot be an award winner, previously recognised/celebrated or have a widely followed profile.

The Award

There are many individuals across Africa who work tirelessly to conserve the Continent’s incredible flora, fauna and landscapes and find ways to support the people who coexist in this wilderness environment. Many do this for what they love and not to promote themselves.

The Diane Skinner Award for the Unsung Hero in Conservation seeks to recognise those individuals and give the world the opportunity to say thank you. This will be an annual event to honour Diane’s memory as she exemplified this type of conservationist.

A candidate needs to be nominated by a colleague online (one nomination per organisation/person) and we will create a shortlist to find the winning candidate.

The winning candidate will be invited to Kigali, Rwanda to attend the African Leadership University’s School of African Wildlife, Business of Conservation Conference at the end of August 2023. Their flights and Accommodation will be covered, and they will be presented the award on stage at the end of the conference.

Both the African Leadership University and the Painted Wolf Foundation intend to maximise publicity on this awards to raise the profile of the winner and some of the candidates as well as the organisations they work for.

How to be selected

This is a nomination-based application and the individual must be nominated by someone else such as a colleague or employer or funder or community member. Self-nominations will not be accepted.

The nominator should consider the question “What has the individual done to advance conservation and what impact is it making?” to make a nomination

More Quotes

Diane was a beacon of hope in Wildlife Conservation in the region. She inspired many students during her time as a conservationist-in-residence by showing us how possible it is to pursue conservation careers, why it is important and demonstrating tangible results from her work. I liked how she had multi-sectoral perspectives on conservation, which enabled students like myself with little background in in wildlife to find her sessions helpful.

Emmanuel Minja

Class of 2017

Di never let her ego get in the way of tackling  conservation’s most difficult challenges.


Nicholas Dyer

Diane’s husband & CEO,
Painted Wolf Foundation