Who is your conservation hero?
From a young age, my first conservation hero was my grandfather with his profound love for nature and animals, a fondness he certainly transmitted to me. I always had a fascination for cat species and as I grew older, I have looked up to researchers with the same passion. This is how I stumbled on Panthera’s website while studying ethology (the science of animal behaviour). Luke Hunter from Panthera is definitely one of my conservation heroes with all his work on the conservation of cat species worldwide. Alan Rabinowitz is also someone to pay tribute to, owing to his endless dedication to help jaguars.
Along the way, I have also discovered many scientists working on wild cat conservation like Imogene Cancellare and her amazing work on the genetics of snow leopards, Vincent Naude and his work on understanding leopard fur trade, Vincent Van de Merwe and his fantastic project on cheetah populations. The list goes on to so many others that I look up to as an inspiration!
Why did you choose them?
They all have the true passion of saving animals (in particular wild cats) through science and conservation. And they share this dedication which is truly inspiring!
When did you first hear about them/become interested in what they do/did?
Since as a kid, I always looked at documentaries about nature and wildlife. I also read a lot of books on the subject. I first heard about Luke Hunter and Alan Rabinowitz as I discovered the organisation Panthera. I was looking during my studies of how to help the conservation of wild cat species and this is how I ended up becoming interested in their work.
One day, I contacted Luke Hunter to ask him for advice and I was amazed (and really surprised) that he responded to me. He gave me valuable advice about organisations working with Panthera that I could contact. He even kindly offered me his latest book (Carnivores of the World) in my native language (French)! I will forever be grateful to him for fuelling my enthusiasm for wild cat conservation. I am still working on my dream to be part of Panthera and have met so many people along the way that keep encouraging me.
I also had the chance to meet some Panthera scientists while doing my MRes at the University of Cape Town. This is how I learnt about the work of Laurel Serieys and the Urban Caracal Project, Guy Balme Panthera’s leopard conservation head, Marine Drouilly and the Karoo Predator Project to cite a few.
Recently, thanks to social media, I have discovered other wild cat conservationists like Imogene Cancellare as well as Anya Ratnayaka and the Urban Fishing cat.
Do you think it has influenced you in how you have developed your conservation career/interests?
Definitely! Learning from their work and dedication, it has a positive impact on your own aspirations. Like everyone, there are people you look up to to move on and achieve your own goals. It also helps to see their failures as much as their wins as it gives you the perspective that anyone can lose one day but it does not mean you should stop.
If you could meet them what would you ask them?
I think I would ask them what their fears were before starting their careers and if some of these fears were justified. We all face uncertainties at the beginning, especially in the field of conservation so knowing what scared them can help realising that it is not easy for anybody. We all have to start from nothing to achieve something.