Our December Friend of the Month is Futsum Hagos, Director of Wildlife Conservation in Eritrea.
Where did you grow up and how did this influence your interest in wildlife conservation? I grew up in Asmara, Eritrea, in a place where there is relatively rich vegetation so this made a career in conservation a natural choice for me.
You studied in Kenya and Tanzania – how important has this been for your work in Eritrea? It is fair to say that all the knowledge and skills I am applying to wildlife management in my own country were acquired from my time spent in Tanzania and Kenya. So I would say that my studies there have made a decisive contribution to wildlife conservation in Eritrea.
Can you tell us about the elephants that live on the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia? These elephants are moving freely between Eritrea and Ethiopia and we are paying serious attention to their conservation. However, they are still coming into conflict with local farmers. Serious water shortages create another problem. A number of newly born elephants are dying after getting trapped in wells dug by farmers.
What is the attitude of young Eritreans to wildlife conservation? Over the past twenty years we have been working intensively to raise awareness, using the mass media, poster campaigns and brochures. The results have been encouraging. There is a greater sense of ownership of our wildlife among the public in general and young people in particular. I would say that the attitude of young Eritreans towards wildlife conservation is promising.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of Eritrea's elephant population? I am very much optimistic about the future of our wildlife. With the prevailing peace on the border, we will have greater opportunity for cross-frontier management and good communication on both sides.