Achieving Sound Conservation

I knew before accepting the position that succeeding John Newby as the CEO of the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) would involve filling some very large shoes. This was not a decision I took lightly. I had previously met John 25 years ago when I was just starting out in conservation, working as an intern at IUCN in Gland, Switzerland. In the intervening decades we have both been engaged in conservation efforts, largely in Africa. 

L-R: John Watkin- John Newby

My path to this position included undertaking and improving the methods of analysing aerial sample counts of protected areas, assessing motivations behind community conservation and ecotourism, successfully reintroducing a group of 10 juvenile western lowland gorillas – all orphans from the bushmeat trade – back into the wild, environmental education, and ecological monitoring. Over the years I heard mention of John’s work across Africa, always in positive terms.

Having the opportunity, now, to work alongside John, and gradually be introduced to his vast network in the Sahelo-Saharan landscape, the captive breeding community, and conservation arena is a significant responsibility. As is taking the helm of SCF, an organization that John built from the ground up. In time I hope to develop the organization to fulfil a greater role in the conservation of threatened desert species, landscapes, and arid land ecosystems. This is needed more than ever, as new threats emerge in the region, adding to the already complex list of causes of wildlife population decline.

L-R: John Newby-John Watkin

Achieving sound conservation across the Sahelo-Saharan region cannot be accomplished alone. SCF’s work receives unparalleled support from the Ministère de l’Environnement, de l’Eau et de la Pêche in Chad and Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Salubrité Urbaine et du Développement Durable in Niger. SCF hopes to build on existing and sound partnerships as well as develop new relations with organizations that are aligned with SCF’s mission. Fortunately, the organization has very solid foundations, a strong and dynamic board of trustees, and sound technical staff on the ground and in the Paris office.   

General Assembly-Board-EU

I just have one question. I wonder, what size John’s shoes are?