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  • Writer's pictureEPI Secretariat

Meet Major Remi Hefoume, EPI's Friend of the Month, December

Colonel Major Rémi HEFOUME is a courageous wildlife conservationist in Benin. He was one of the key players in getting Benin to join the Elephant Protection Initiative in 2020, and has since worked to implement activities in line with the EPIF's objectives. Under his leadership, Benin has adopted the standard operating procedures for managing wildlife stocks, implemented EPI's stockpile management system, and been able to conduct its first inventory of the central ivory stockpile.


Major Remi Hefoume speaking at the end of a training for Benin forest rangers. Photo credits: Credo Media


Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself, and your position?


I'm Conservator Major Rémi HEFOUME, Director General of Water, Forests and Hunting in the Republic of Benin. The General Directorate of Water, Forests and Hunting (Direction Générale des Eaux, Forêts et Chasse) is the oldest government department in Benin, dating back to the 1930s.


We are dedicated to protecting Benin’s natural resources, with an emphasis on climate change and new threats, such as insecurity in protected areas and human-animal conflicts.

I am honoured to have led this administration for nearly three years, and to be the highest-ranking officer leading a valiant group of men and women all committed to conservation.


Tell us a little about the origins of your passion for forest and wildlife conservation.

 

My passion for wildlife conservation goes back to my early childhood in the far reaches of Benin, where I grew up surrounded by nature. We were aware from a young age of the benefits of nature, and the importance of wildlife was blatantly obvious in our daily lives. We used nature for food, medicines and more. Given the importance of biodiversity to our lives, I decided that I should work to conserve it. That's where my vocation comes from. I then followed an academic path that took me to forestry schools in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire and France, before joining public service.

 

In your many years of experience in the management of forests, wildlife and protected areas, what have been the main highlights of your career?

 

One of the things I am most proud of is that we have recruited 300 new forest rangers since 2019, after having had no new recruits since 2007. I’m also pleased to have contributed to the implementation of secure stock management for wildlife products, such as ivory, working in conjunction with the EPIF. I’m honoured to have been awarded the Knight of the National Order of Merit (Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Mérite) for my services to the nation.



Major Remi Hefoume speaking at the end of a training for Benin forest rangers. Photo credits: Credo Media


If a member of the public asked you what they can do to help conserve wildlife, what would be the first piece of advice you'd share?

 

My first piece of advice would be to understand that without wildlife, life itself would cease to exist. We come from nature, and derive most of our sustenance from it.  We must preserve it for present and future generations.

 

The complex issue of human-elephant conflict is a growing problem. What do you think are the most practical solutions?

 

The most practical solutions are:

  • Secure protected areas more effectively

  • Strengthen legislation to support affected communities

  • Train communities in animal management and repelling methods

  • Adapt agricultural and urbanization policies to the conservation of wild species.


Elephants in W National Park, Benin


Are you still optimistic about the possibility of human-elephant coexistence in Benin?

 

Yes, I remain very optimistic about this.

 

In Benin, we are planning to create new protected areas to ensure wildlife continues to have space where it can flourish without competition with local communities. But we also need our agricultural and urban planning policies to take these issues into account to reduce the risk of conflict.


Find out more about EPI's work in Benin here.

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