New York, NY (June 5, 2017) – The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) today honored President Ali Bongo Ondimba for expanding marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Gabonese Republic and for his efforts to advance wildlife conservation.


WCS President and CEO Dr. Cristián Samper presented President Ali Bongo Ondimba with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Theodore Roosevelt Award for Conservation Leadership.


Said Samper: “We present the WCS Theodore Roosevelt Award for Conservation Leadership to President Ali Bongo Ondimba for safeguarding Gabon’s unique coastal areas and marine ecosystems for future generations. This recognition is granted by WCS to heads of state who have stood out for their work in favor of the conservation of species and natural spaces. It follows the tradition undertaken by President Theodore Roosevelt more than a century ago as a nature lover and pioneer of conservation in the United States. President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s effort to secure a coastal legacy for Gabon’s current and future generations is testimony to his support for conservation, and a good example to the world.


At the United Nations Oceans Conference this week, President Bongo declared the establishment of 20 marine protected areas; nine marine parks and 11 aquatic reserves. Gabon’s marine protected area network will now total 53,000 sq. km, just over 26 percent of Gabon’s Territorial Sea and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).


The largest protected area in the network (27,000 km2), “La Réserve Aquatique du Grand Sud du Gabon,” extends protection of the existing Mayumba National Park to the 200 nautical mile limit of Gabon’s EEZ, protecting a continuous swath of habitats and marine life from the beach to abyssal 4-kilometer depths.


Other small marine parks are situated at key places along the coast, such as river mouths, to protect particularly sensitive or productive resource areas.  


The UN Oceans Conference, which runs from June 5-9, supports the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.


Gabon has made great progress in the last decades expanding its protected area system. In August 2002, President El Hadj Omar Bongo, surprised the world with the establishment of 13 national parks.


In the last 120 years WCS has supported the establishment of more than 250 national parks and protected areas, as well as research and conservation work on emblematic species. WCS currently work in countries in 60 countries, including Gabon.

Last year, WCS presented the Theodore Roosevelt Award for Conservation Leadership to President Juan Manuel Santos for his role in expanding the national park system in Colombia.