How This Gabon Scientist Found Her Calling: ‘The Manatee Found Me!’


Gabonese researcher Christy Achtone Nkollo was on a lake in Gabon attempting to determine what to do together with her profession when she discovered that African manatees dwell there – now she helps research and preserve these mysterious creatures.

“I would say it was the manatee that found me to study it,” stated Nkollo, based mostly on the Université Omar Bongo within the west African nation.

The West African manatee, is a often shy, nocturnal mammal, whose vary is spread across 21 countries alongside Africa’s Atlantic coast and is little studied in comparison with the North American manatee present in Florida and the Caribbean.

Nkollo says that on her sabbatical 12 months earlier than enrolling in a Masters diploma, she was fascinated about the place to go in life.

“Then my dad suggested that I go on a trip to relax and find answers to my questions and I went to the edge of the N’dogo lagoon in southern of Gabon to join friends working in nature conservation,” she stated, “During one of my discussions with them, I was stunned to find that the manatee is abundant in Gabon, but that it has almost no data on the species itself.”

This was Nkollo’s “Eureka” second, saying “Like a click, I wanted to work on it!”

Now, Nkollo’s major venture is to grasp of distribution and the conservation of the manatees within the RAMSAR protected wetlands of Petit Loango and Setté Cama in Gabon.

“This work allows the identification of variables explaining the spatial distribution of the manatee,” she stated, “I am developing a model to relate the manatee and the set of environmental conditions that allow it to live and reproduce.”

Nkollo says this venture is particular as a result of it has not but been accomplished in Gabon and her analysis space, the N’Dogo lagoon is exclusive in having an distinctive manatee inhabitants.

Manatee Spirit

Nkollo grew up and studied in Libreville, Gabon and says regardless of many alternatives to study elsewhere, she insisted on staying house to check.

“With globetrotting parents, they passed on their love of geography and the environment to me, I’ve always wanted to be a geographer,” she stated, “I wanted to do geopolitics at the start, but bio-geography took over.”

It seems Nkollo had a deeper connection to manatees than she thought.

Eight years in the past, when Nkollo’s household discovered she was engaged on the manatee, her maternal grandmother and great-aunts requested her to check one other species, like hippopotamuses, however did not say why.

“It was only a few years later after this conversation with my grandmother, that I learned that the manatee is considered a benevolent spirit of my tribe and that my second name has a connection with the epic of manatees among the Ngwémyènè peoples from which I come from.”

Fighting disdain

Nkollo says the the largest problem in her work is not bodily or monetary, it’s psychological.

“What I consider the biggest challenge of the project is not the search for funding or the tedious work in a dugout canoe in a remote corner in a flooded forest with extreme conditions without a telephone network,” she stated, including that because the starting of her manatee venture, she’s been funded by the World Wildlife Funds’s Education For Nature Program.

She stated the disdain that some held for her venture was “psychologically difficult” and the largest hurdle to beat.

 “It was the disdain that the project aroused: very few people believed in this project, I got ridiculed condescending taunts,” she stated, “People that I highly regarded did not hesitate to denigrate this project to the authorities who were supposed to issue me research authorizations.”

In distinction, Nkollo’s work has additionally been acknowledged on the highest ranges, together with as a Young Francophone Scientific Talent in 2018, an initiative endorsed by French President Emmanuel Macron and she or he was in a position to exhibit her venture on the headquarters of the International Organization of La Francophonie in Paris.

In the neighboring west African nation of Cameroon, one other scientist can be investigating African manatees.

MORE FROM FORBESCameroon’s First Manatee PhD Learned To Swim In Just Three Days

Despite not studying learn how to swim till he was at college, Aristide Takoukam would go on to turn into the primary individual from Cameroon to earn a PhD finding out this endangered mammal and located the African Marine Mammal Conservation Organization (AMMCO).