New York, N.Y.  - July 16, 2015 - Scientist Daniela De Luca of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Tanzania Program was knighted by the Government of Italy in a recent ceremony held in Dar es Saalam at the Italian Residency.

Recognized for her extensive research and conservation work on endangered mammals in Tanzania, De Luca was awarded the Order of the Star of Italy. The award confers the title “Cavaliere” (Knight) on the recipient. The award was presented to De Luca by Luigi Scotto, Italy’s Ambassador to Tanzania on June 2nd.

Established as a national order 1947 by Enrico De Nicola, the Italian Republic’s first elected president, the Order of the Star of Italy was initially given to Italian citizens and expatriates making significant contributions to Italy and the country’s reconstruction following World War II, but has since been expanded to recognize individuals for the promotion of international prestige, and cooperation and friendship between Italy and other countries.

“This is great recognition for Dr. De Luca, and we commend the Italian government for bringing attention to De Luca’s important conservation work in Tanzania and beyond,” said Joe Walston, WCS’s Vice President for Field Conservation Programs.

De Luca is the Senior Scientist for WCS’s Southern Highlands Conservation Program in Tanzania. Her first work with WCS in (2001) focused on carnivore research and conservation across southern Tanzania. While working in Udzungwa Mountain National Park in 2002, De Luca rediscovered Lowe’s servaline genet, a small predator not seen by scientists for 70 years.

In the Mt. Rungwe-Kitulo landscape, De Luca initiated and conducted a 7-year study on the conservation status of carnivores species, then more recently across the Southern Highlands the first-ever field studies of the clawless and spot-necked otters. Together with Noah Mpunga (director of the WCS Southern Highlands Conservation Program), she studied the feeding habits and distribution of leopards and Servals. Her other research efforts have focused on a range of species, including the dugong (a relative of the better-known manatee), a new population of chimpanzees in Southwestern Tanzania, the Zanzibar red colobus monkey, and the newly discovered kipunji monkey, a primate species unique to the highland forests of Tanzania discovered by WCS.

A native of Rome, De Luca received her degree in zoology, and wildlife ecology and management from the University of Rome in 1991. Her first research project focused on the banded mongoose in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. De Luca’s work in Uganda continued through elephant surveys and natural resource inventory work and concluding with her Ph.D. in behavioral ecology of banded mongooses through the University of London and the Zoological Society of London.