We’re delighted to include another new country for our Friend of the Month. Duclair Makaya is from the Republic of Congo, where he works as a legal adviser to our partners WCS, and has played a key role in that country’s ivory inventory.
Please tell us something about your childhood?
I was born in Pointe-Noire, the Congo’s second city, where I did some of my primary schooling as well as secondary school.
Were you always passionate about conservation?
My passion for nature began long before I joined WCS, where I am involved in the laws on wildlife crime, CITES, and in supporting the government in various ways. As a child I would spend weeks with my grandmother in the village, where I would discover the marvels of the forests of southern Congo.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in compiling an inventory of Congo’s national ivory stockpile?
The regular changes of civil servants, as well as difficulties with internet connection when we’re trying to send in data, are both challenges. But also, a shortage of secure facilities to store animal trophies, making for a high risk of theft.
Do you get much chance to enjoy the forests and fauna of Congo?
It’s always an inspiration when I get the chance to see the luxuriant and virgin forests of Congo. On a recent inventory visit to Mbomo, in Odzala-Kokoua National Park, I saw a group of large monkeys in the trees, shaking branches to make it clear to us that we were in ‘their territory’. It was marvellous!
In some parts of the Congo basin the forest is fast-disappearing. Do you ever feel discouraged?
We can’t afford to be defeatist in our struggle to save the forests and the animals that live within it. We have a great partnership between conservation colleagues in the field and those in Brazzaville. This keeps me optimistic. We share our victories, and we try to learn from our mistakes.
Some of your compatriots in Congo-Brazzaville face many daily struggles- do they really have time to think about saving wildlife?
Alas, the average citizen has not really taken on board the significance of conservation. But we do see a change in attitude, especially amongst the young, thanks to the work of WCS and other partners, in schools and universities.