Mark Gately
Country Director, Congo (Republic of)
Mark has 15 years of experience in conservation management in Central Africa and South-East Asia. Having first arrived in Congo in 1999 to work for the Nouabale-Ndoki Project, he became NNNP Director in 2002. His tenure saw a significant expansion in ecotourism infrastructure and visitor numbers, the successful implementation of wildlife law enforcement activities, and the emergence of a number of young Congolese researchers. In 2007, Mark moved to Phnom Penh to become the Country Director for WCS's Cambodia Program, where he oversaw the development of a number of innovative financing mechanisms such as REDD+ and the expansion of community-based ecotourism. After two years as Director of WCS's Gabon Country Program, including the development of proposals to expand the country's network of marine protected areas, Mark has now returned to Congo to head the WCS Country Program.
Nazaire Massamba
Naz has a Master's degree in Anthropo-linguistics from the Marien Ngouabi University, Congo; and a Master’s degree in Communication from Emerson College, Boston, USA. In addition, he has a Certificate in Environmental Education and Certificate in Conservation Biology. Naz accumulated 5 years as a deputy manager in Lac Tele project, Likouala region. Part of his input was to interact with various stakeholders including pygmies to get their support in promoting sustainable wildlife conservation strategies in the Likouala landscape. He authored a book titled Le Monstre du Lac Tele, a true story about him accompanying a National Geographic crue exploring the lac Tele swamps in search of the largest snake ever and a search for Mokele Mbembe, a monster thought to live in the Lac Tele swamps. Since 2007, Naz has been supporting Projects in tool production, building technical capacities of educators, liaising with media and managing the WCS Congo website
Amy Apokempner
Deputy Director, Congo (Republic of)
Amy received her BSc in Biological Anthropology and Anatomy with a certificate in Primatology from Duke University and a PhD in Anthropology from Stony Brook University. Her research focused on the behavioral ecology of eastern chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, Uganda where she also managed the Kibale Snare Removal Program. Amy also assisted in the habituation of western lowland gorillas at the Mondika site in northern Congo and completed a post-doctoral position aimed at identifying the genetic and regional distribution of the endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee in Cameroon. Before joining to the WCS Congo Program, Amy served as the Senior Program Manager for the Africa Program in the WCS NY headquarters for five years, assisting with the management of over 60 conservation projects in 15 countries throughout Africa.
Eric Arnhem
Nouabale-Ndoki National Park Director
Eric arrived in WCS Gabon's team in 2014 where he currently manages activities across the Terrestrial Landscsape Conservation Program. With a background in biology, Eric was awarded a Ph.D. thesis on the impact of logging on large mammals in Central Africa. Eager to put theory into practice, since 2007 he worked on wildlife management issues in logging concessions. Within the program, he applies the saying « we protect only what we love and we love only what we know » by working on the three strategic themes of WCS Gabon that are: 1 Scientific Research, 2 Law Enforcement Monitoring and 3 Environmental Education and Capacity Building.
Felin Twagirashyaka
Project Director
Felin Twagirashyaka completed his PhD in Forestry Science at the University of Goettingen (Germany). From the same university he got a MSc in Tropical Forestry. He also has a BSc "A" in Forest Management from the Laval University (Canada). His career in conservation began in the nineties in Central Africa with three years posting in Rwanda and two in Cameroon. He is now Director of the Project Lac Télé Community Reserve in the Republic of Congo as well as the leader of the CARPE landscape Lac Tele-Lac Tumba. He worked as academic assistant at the University of Muenster (Germany), where he was involved in teaching and research regarding conservation in Africa.
Hilde Vanleeuwe
Project Director
Hilde Vanleeuwe is fluent in Dutch, French and English. She started in 1992 in Uganda, habituating chimpanzees for research students. She spent 3 years in Congo, exploring remote places by following elephant trails and published two papers in AJE on the subject. In 1998 she completed a Masters degree in Gembloux in Belgium and assisted Dr Ian Douglas-Hamilton in Kenya with elephant GPS radio collar testing, placing, data recuperation and mapping. In 1999 she launched a 5-year elephant movement study on Mt Kenya supported by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and participated in most aerial large mammal surveys and elephant collaring events. She was also member of an advisory committee for Mt Kenya conservation. The Mt Kenya study developed into a PhD in biodiversity management at DICE in the UK, with focus on elephant movements, including advanced GIS movement predictive modelling based on line-transect data. She completed her PhD in 2004 and published several reports, a few papers in Pachyderm and one in AJE. By mid 2004 she started working as a National Park management director for WCS in the coastal region of Congo, where she also gained experience in marine and coastal management. In between, she launched and coordinated a large mammal survey in a very large abandoned area in SE DRC in 2008. Hilde feels at home in quiet remote field sites where she uses her applied research skills for PA management. These skills include satellite image analysis, fisheries surveys, large mammal remote sensing, ground and aerial surveys, surveillance planning and tracking, development and coordinating of outreach activities. Her main interest lies in longer-term management of marine/ terrestrial PA sites with challenges, but she also enjoys short-term interruption allowing to apply her research skills to help (re)validate abandoned wildlife habitats and potential wildlife corridors between wildlife habitats.
Jean Robert Onononga
Project Director
For more than a decade, Jean Robert has dedicated his career to the conservation of Central African forest wildlife. After achieving his undergraduate degree from the Marien Ngouabi University in Brazzaville, he obtained his first conservation post in 1996 with IUCN in Conkouati Faunal Reserve where he was in charge of directing field teams to conduct wildlife inventories. In 1998, his responsibilities expanded to include environmental education. He then joined the Goualougo Triangle Apes Project (GTAP) in 2001, where he contributed to the long-term monitoring of apes until 2008. In 2009, he completed his MSc in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, UK. He then served as a Project Manager of GTAP in the Rep of Congo from 2009 to 2011. In early 2012, Jean Robert was appointed The Principal Technical Adviser for the PROGEPP - PNNN.
Jerome Mokoko-Ikonga
Deputy Country Director, Congo (Republic of)
Jerome’s earned his degree in livestock from the late Soviet Union. He then got a technical certificate in animal food in Egypt and another technical certificate in Zoological Park Management in France. His career in the world of conservation started in the mid-seventies with six years posting in several rural areas in the Republic of Congo. From the early 1980’s through the late 1990’s Jerome held high positions within the Congo’s Forestry Ministry and within the United Nations missions. At some point, he served as a wildlife adviser to the President of the Republic. He’s dedicated his whole career to protecting wildlife and has contributed a great deal to counting of water birds in the Lac Tele Community Reserve. Jerome is now WCS-Congo Program deputy country director.
Ledia Bidounga
GIS Expert
Ledia studied a bachelor’s degree in geography at the University of Brazzaville. She worked as a intern in the Center of Forest and Wildlife Inventory in the area of GIS, ArcGIS interpretation of satelite images, and monitoring of forest cover. For over three years, Ledia worked for a forestry company as a GIS expert and participated in the company’s management planning process, the commerce of woods, as well as monitoring logging operations and organizing cartography and GIS teams. In 2014, she joined WCS staff as a GIS expert and works in collaboration with WRI on forest surveillance and database management of the Congo’s forest atlas. Part of her job is to build the WCS database on wildlife, and to use GIS and remote sensing to help inform management decisions in our core sites.
Nirina Rakotomahefa
Director of Finance and Administration
Prior to joining WCS, Nirina has accumulated more than 20 years experience in the field of operations, finance and accounting and Human Resources management. Nirina holds a Masters degree in Business Administration from Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de l’Université de Lausanne (Switzerland), and a Certificate for the Conservation Leadership Programme provided by WWF-College in Netherlands. He was the Head of Finance for WWF- Madagascar West Indian Ocean Regional Programme Office (MWIOPO) during 15 years and his post title was Regional Financial Controller since 2007. In 2000 during three months, he was acting as Regional Finance Director of WWF West Africa Regional Programme Office (WARPO) in Abidjan. From March to May 2010, he was interim Regional Finance Director of WWF Central Africa Regional Programme Office (CARPO) in Yaoundé. Nirina is married and has two children.
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