Jean Louis Kakoua
Our Friend of the Month for February is Jean Louis Kakoua, who is the Deputy Technical Director for Gabon’s national parks, as well as being the EPI’s focal point in that country.
Tell us a little bit about yourself - did you grow up in the countryside or the city?
I grew up in the south-east of Gabon, in Leconi. I would walk some 15 kms to the fields with my parents, and was fascinated by the landscapes of savannah and forests we passed through.
Were you always passionate about conserving nature?
Yes, I worked my way up through the system, after getting a technical diploma in water and forest management. I was in charge of Batéké National Park from 2018 to 2020, when I became Deputy Technical Director for National Parks Agency (ANPN). As a specialist in wildlife and protected areas, I’m proud to make my contribution to the conservation of biodiversity.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your current job?
I’ve been Deputy Technical Director for 18 months now. The biggest challenges are:
- Protecting wildlife and natural resources (i.e. fighting against poaching, the illegal exploitation of timber, fish, gold panning);
- Management and training of colleagues;
- Raising revenue through ecotourism etc.
Have you had the chance to travel around Gabon and see all its magnificent national parks? Which is your favourite?
Yes, I’ve travelled in all 9 provinces of Gabon and each one has at least one protected area. Each park was created for a specific reason. They are all unique and extraordinary. I’m especially fascinated by the National Park of the Batéké Plateau. It is on the border with Congo and has magnificent savannah landscapes. The diverse fauna includes elephants, buffaloes, bird life, antelopes, and wild cats, even including a lion, which was seen in 2015, after we thought they had been wiped out back in 1997.
Human Elephant conflict has become a big problem in Gabon. We know it’s a complex issue, but what do you think are the most practical solutions?
This has become an important national issue for Gabon, affecting all parts of our territory. We had 11,959 complaints about crop destruction between 2016 and 2021, which gives an average of almost 2,000 complaints per year. In the period 2020-2021, we had 15 people seriously injured by elephants and 8 killed.
We held consultations in the provinces from July 2021, in preparation for a national meeting in December 2021. The principal recommendations were to improve our management of this problem, through compensation, better administration, more electric fences and support for injured people. We identified the major causes as being the illegal exploitation of forests, poaching for ivory, and climate change.
Your compatriots in Gabon face many challenges in their daily lives. Do they have the time to think about nature conservation?
It is true that the situation is not easy. Some people are unemployed, and these problems have been accentuated by the Covid-19 pandemic. But regardless of each person’s situation, the impact of climate change, poaching and the illegal exploitation of natural resources touch all parts of society. Everyone is aware of this, and must do their part to protect and manage our biodiversity sustainably.