Cathy Dean awarded MBE for Services to Conservation

A woman in a rhino costume, next to a black rhino calf and a ranger, outside

Save the Rhino International is proud to announce that Cathy Dean, the charity’s Grants Lead and former CEO of 22 years, has been appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her exceptional services to conservation. This prestigious honour, part of the King’s 2024 Birthday Honours List, celebrates Cathy’s outstanding dedication to rhino conservation since she began working for Save the Rhino International in 2001.

Upon receiving the award, Cathy said, I am thrilled and honoured to receive an MBE in the King’s Birthday Honours List. It is very touching to be recognised for my impact in conservation, but this achievement is not mine alone: it reflects the immense efforts of my colleagues at Save the Rhino and our partners around the world. Rhino conservation is a concerted and collective effort, and our successes over the years would not have been possible without the support and collaboration of so many dedicated individuals.

Under Cathy’s leadership, Save the Rhino International grew significantly as a charity, increasing annual fundraising from c. £400,000 to more than £4 million. As CEO she led by example, undertaking personal fundraising challenges, including completing seven marathons and four ultra-marathons, often alongside her husband, Kenneth Donaldson, who is also a Patron of the charity. Together, they have personally raised and donated more than £300,000 to support Save the Rhino’s vital efforts, in addition to the funds secured from Cathy’s day-to-day role of applying to grant-making organisations and individuals. In 2023, Cathy transitioned to a part-time role as Grants Lead, handing over to Save the Rhino International’s current CEO, Jo Shaw.

“I’m delighted that Cathy’s remarkable efforts for rhino conservation over more than two decades have been honoured in the King’s Birthday Honours List,” said Jo. “In conservation, it’s often difficult to step back and celebrate milestones because our work won’t be complete until all five rhino species thrive in the wild, however this is a moment to appreciate the huge impact that Cathy’s commitment has had..”

When Save the Rhino International was founded in 1994, global rhino populations were at an all-time low, with fewer than 13,000 rhinos estimated across all five species. Thanks to long-term collaborative conservation efforts supporting the growth of white, black, and Greater one-horned rhinos, the most recent estimates indicate that approximately 27,400 rhinos now exist in the wild.

Reflecting on her journey, Cathy said, “Working at Save the Rhino has transformed my life for the better in countless ways. I feel as though I’ve grown up alongside the charity. There have been numerous challenges since 2001, but also extraordinary highlights, such as being able to finance a follow-the-money investigation, assist with rhino range expansions in Kenya and Namibia, and have a black rhino named after me in North Luangwa National Park in Zambia! We still have a long way to go to achieve our vision of thriving rhino populations, and I will continue to do everything I can to help us get there. My dream is to work myself out of this job.”

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