Social Justice & Activism · The Creative Process: Activists, Environmental & Indigenous Groups, Artists & Writers Talk Activism
Highlights - RACHEL ASHEGBOFEH IKEMEH - Whitley Award Winner - Founder of Southwest Niger Delta Forest Project
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"There's no question, we are in a state of conservation emergency. And we have a real situation on our hands and it's so fragile that if we take a step back, we could say goodbye to two types of chimpanzee species and the forest is also on the brink of disappearing forever. And when I started as a conservation researcher, there was kidnapping and insecurity throughout the Nile Delta region, and it was immersed in a lot of oil politics and civil conflicts. Kidnapping and insecurity ran throughout that region. Let's not forget that Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation now. We are over 200 million people in the country, and it's a growing population of young people who are looking for means of livelihood and on the lookout to find space to live. So parts of the forest within one year would suddenly become a new village."
Rachel Ashegbofeh Ikemeh is a Whitley Award-winning conservationist and Founder/Director at the Southwest Niger Delta Forest Project, a grassroots-focused conservation initiative that has been dedicated to the protection of fragile wildlife populations and habitat across her project sites in Africa’s most populous nation. Rachel won the award in 2020 for her work on chimpanzee populations in Nigeria and is aiming to secure 20% of chimpanzee habitat in Southwest Nigeria. She is also the winner of the National Geographic Society Buffet Awards for Conservaton Leadership in Africa, a Tusk Conservation Awards Finalist.
She works to protect some of the most highly threatened forest habitats and primate populations in southern Nigeria. For example, Rachel’s determined efforts has helped to bring back a species from the brink of extinction – the rare and critically endangered Niger Delta red colobus monkey, also, considered one of 25 most endangered primates in the world. She has helped to establish two protected areas and have also taken on the management of these PAs to restore habitats in these very highly threatened ecosystems which are also areas of high-security risks in the country.
Rachel is the Co-Vice Chair for the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group African Section and Member of the International Primatological Society (IPS) education committee. Through her strategic positions in these networks, Rachel has been committed to championing the need to increase conservation leadership amongst Africans as she co-founded the African Primatological society in 2017. She’s trained the 55 persons that make up her team from local institutions and local communities.