A WCS United Nations Ocean Conference Blog

Conservation in Africa’s Only Spanish-Speaking Nation

Corisco island, one of the main turtle feeding grounds and whale migration path. Photo: WCS-Equatorial Guinea.

By Christian Barrientos
June 7, 2017

Equatorial Guinea is located in the heart of the Gulf of Guinea, a biologically rich area of Africa where it’s possible to see an elephant, a humpback whale, and a leatherback sea turtle all in the same day.

WCS’s offices in Equatorial Guinea were opened at the beginning of 2015 and currently we work in three coastal protected areas, with five communities, and support the work of the government’s national protected area agency, INDEFOR-AP, in those areas and in the management of the country’s whole protected area system.

Turtle rescued and set free at Rio Campo Natural Reserve beach. Photo: WCS-Equatorial Guinea.

WCS-Equatorial Guinea will work on achieving to have more than 10 percent of the marine areas in the country protected through the design and implementation of a marine protected area (MPA) network by 2020. The country currently has no MPA’s but a huge exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with globally important biodiversity thanks to the islands found there.

“Now as country director in Equatorial Guinea, it’s great to have a network of Latin American conservation professionals whose experience I can draw on.”

What also makes Equatorial Guinea unique is the fact that it is the only Spanish-speaking country in the African continent.This creates an opportunity for collaboration with scientists and managers from Latin America with experience in conservation and a shared language.

I started my career in conservation working in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR). The MBR had just begun when I worked there for 6 years in NGO’s, the World Bank, and in government before getting my graduate education. At the time the reserve was an initiative with an open path, great ideas, but undergoing many growing pains.

Tica Beach, Turtle education center at Rio Campo Natural Reserve. Photo: Katherine Holmes/WCS.

Now as country director in Equatorial Guinea, a country “moving out to the sea” in conservation, it’s great to have a network of Latin American professionals whose experience I can draw on.

We are able to avoid pitfalls and growing pains due to these scientists’ knowledge not only in conservation, but also with governmental and political issues like the ones we face in Africa today. So far, Equatorial Guinea has benefited from collaboration with scientists from seven countries in Latin America in different conservation fields.

Fishing boat ready for work at sunset in Pume, a southern point in continental Equatorial Guinea. Photo: WCS-Equatorial Guinea.

Working in Equatorial Guinea has shown me the huge potential for conservation in the Gulf of Guinea. Working alongside a pool of professionals from Spanish speaking countries with relevant conservation know-how has helped to make my work a great adventure.

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Christian Barrientos is the Equatorial Guinea Country Director for WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society).