ExplorersBio

Mbunya Francis Nkemnyi

Conservationist

Conservation Trust Grantee

Photo: Documenting community livelihood

Photograph by Nyiawung Florence

Photo: Mbunya Francis Nkemnyi

Photograph by Alungamoh Edwin

Birthplace: Fontem, Cameroon

Current City: Buea, South West, Cameroon

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

As a child my dream was to be a medical doctor, maybe because these were the honored people in the society when I grew up. However, this line of thinking changed when I grew up and became more exposed to face the challenges in life. What I wanted to be in life now was not a question of honor but more a question of passion.

How did you get started in your field of work?

My career as a conservationist began when I had a field trip to the Korup National Park, Cameroon. This was a class trip to do practical exercises on plant collection and identification. By then (2006), I was in the last year of my bachelor's degree (botany). While in the field, we visited many camping stations, and I had the opportunity to talk to many foreign researchers on their experience as conservationists. This is when I finally made up my mind and developed an interest in conservation sciences.

After my bachelor study, I immediately opted to volunteer for a local NGO, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), on their great apes conservation project in the Lebialem Highland in Cameroon. I was later integrated as full-time staff after volunteering for over six months.

What inspires you to dedicate your life to conservation?

My aspiration in life was to follow a career that comes from within me, where I could make decisions by myself. More specifically, to do what many people ignore which is very important. After talking to conservationists during my trip in the Korup National Park about why they chose to "risk" their lives in the forest for conservation, I was able to clearly understand the value of nature. Conservation sciences was a career very uncommon in the society where I grew up, and nobody will advise you to go in for it. My motivation was that I wanted to practice conservation science and be successful in the field so that I can be a hero from my area of origin in conservation science and, by my example, many other conservationists would eventually emerge.

What's a normal day like for you?

As a young researcher in conservation science, my day revolves around exploring opportunities that will lead me successfully through my aspirations. Notwithstanding, I also create time for leisure, my family, and my friends.

Do you have a hero and, if so, why is this person your hero?

Jane Goodall is my hero; her dedication and contributions to conservation sciences inspire me a lot. I keep on dreaming of being like her one day through my conservation efforts. Maybe I like her even more because I started conservation science working with chimps and gorillas, so I read a lot about her work.

What's been your favorite experience in the field? Most challenging?

Team camping has been my favorite experience in the field. It feels so great to be part of a team, especially in the camp station after daily surveys or data collection.

My most challenging experience has been how to deal with local community livelihood. It is very unrealistic to ask local people not to explore forest resources when we know that this is their only source of livelihood. Meeting this challenge has motivated the shift of my research interest from biological research to community-based conservation.

What are your other passions?

Aside from my love for nature, I also enjoy photography, humanitarian services, and discovery.

What do you do in your free time?

In my free time, I write short stories about my important experiences in life, I play outdoor games like football and table tennis, and I also play a lot of indoor games, of which Scrabble is my favorite.

If you could have people do one thing to help save gorillas, what would it be?

Save the Cross River gorilla by supporting local community livelihood in the proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, South West Cameroon.

In Their Words

Jane Goodall is my hero; her dedication and contributions to conservation sciences inspire me a lot. I keep on dreaming of being like her one day through my conservation efforts.

—Mbunya Francis Nkemnyi

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