A day in the life of an ecoguard in Cameroon

by ZSL on

Dedicated guards patrol the Dja reserve, helping to protect its precious biodiversity. For World Ranger Day (31 July 2016), we've profiled Stéphane Marel Madjaye, a guard on the forefront of wildlife protection.

Stéphane Marel Madjaye, ecoguard, Dja Cameroon
Stéphane Marel Madjaye, working for wildlife in the Dja reserve

Stéphane Marel Madjaye has been working as an ecoguard in the Dja Biosphere Reserve (DBR) in South East Cameroon since 2002. 

For the past 14 years he has been dedicated to protect the Dja reserve, starting as an ecoguard, later working to lead the anti-poaching units and now managing the Southern sector of the DBR. 

“Steph is the man [to go to] when there is a crisis” says the Reserve Manager (Conservator). Colleagues praise his professionalism, integrity and enforcement experience. 

Stéphane likes working in the reserve the field, and feels it’s important to continue working directly on the ground in the reserve, patrolling with other guards. “It is not because I am the head that I should not go to the forest, I have to lead by example,” says Stéphane.   

A typical field work day with Stéphane kicks off with a debriefing meeting, a review of field equipment and food rations, and an explanation of the patrol strategy.  

On patrol, Ecoguards are always on alert ready to pursue any escaping poachers they may encounter.  In 2015 teams led by Stéphane arrested four suspected poachers carrying giant pangolin and chimpanzee meat.

Forest Elephant
Forest elephants are just one of the incredible species Stéphane and his team protect

Crossing the Dja river can be risky, even with the help of local fishermen. In general in the DBR, rivers are dangerous to cross in the raining seasons. Stéphane has to find the right spot to cross along a fast flowing river.

In both the wet and the dry seasons there are challenges for Stéphane and the guards. In the wet season looking for dry firewood and making a campfire is difficult but essential for cooking, warming up and drying clothes. It’s important to ensure matches are always kept dry.

On the other hand, at the dry season peaks, the rivers are dried up and there is a risk of dehydration.

The success of patrol missions depends on highly skilled team leaders like Stéphane to manage all the challenges the guards face. 

He is very proud to be an integral part of helping the DBR maintain its value as a world heritage site and home to many endangered species, including forest elephants and western lowland gorillas. 

He is not only proud of reducing poaching levels in the Dja reserve but also of converting former poachers to cocoa farmers.

Ecoguard at a hunting camp in Dja, Cameroon
Stéphane and his team at a camp in Dja

 

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