Women in Conservation: Two Wildlife Heroes in West Africa

This International Women’s Day, celebrate the dedication and achievements of two women working to protect wildlife and inspire the next generation in West Africa.

By: PASA Staff

International Women’s Day is a significant day to honor the achievements of women around the world. This year, we are proud to celebrate two remarkable women – Marie Jean and Marie Claire – who have overcome obstacles and made meaningful contributions to protecting primates and the environment in West Africa.

Marie Jeanne Bourouno

Marie Jeanne Bourono is the only Guinean woman employed by the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre (CCC), a PASA member sanctuary in Guinea, where she works as an environmental educator. She grew up in Kissidougou, a forested part of Guinea, where she became passionate about growing food. Later, she nurtured that passion by attending the University of Faranah to study environmental and agriculture studies and earned her degree in agronomy.

Marie Jean loves working with children and has a seven-year-old daughter. In her role at the CCC as an environmental educator, she teaches Guinean girls to feel empowered in their choices and that anything is possible if they set their minds to it. By educating and inspiring the next generation of conservationists, Marie Jean is helping to build a better future for both people and wildlife.

As the only Guinean woman employed by the CCC, Marie Jean’s employment is a significant achievement. In the past, the CCC has found it challenging to recruit Guinean women for the project due to the limited opportunities for education, their overwhelming responsibilities at home, and the remote location of the project. However, her employment provides hope and inspiration that more women will join the project in the future.

Marie Jeanne is an environmental educator at the CCC, where she works to inspire Guinean children to protect wildlife. Photo: CCC

Marie Claire Gauthier

Marie Claire Gauthier, a native of France, is the field coordinator at Akatia, a rehabilitation and research camp for orphan primates and other mammals in a remote part of the Ivory Coast. Led by a primarily women’s team, Akatia is one of the local partners of PASA’s grant awarded by the State Department’s Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) to combat wildlife trafficking in West Africa. The grant allows frontline groups like Akatia to work with government partners to strengthen anti-poaching patrols and enforcement capacity. This is where Marie Claire and her team members come in. Marie Claire liaises with her Ivorian colleague, Catherine, who is based in Abidjan, and Akatia’s director Sarah. Stationed in the field, Marie Claire works closely with local authorities and coordinates patrols of protected areas and arrests of poachers. She also oversees the rehabilitation of orphaned primates and other animals such as the successful release of an endangered pangolin rescued from a seizure this past Christmas.

Marie Claire’s work is particularly challenging because she is the only female on-site and is in a leadership position. She has faced obstacles in her role as the authorities and staff are not used to having a woman in charge. Nevertheless, Marie Claire handles it like a pro and has successfully coordinated patrols and arrests to protect the forest.

Marie Claire works with law enforcement to coordinate patrols and poacher arrests within protected areas. Photo: Akatia

On this International Women’s Day, we celebrate Marie Jean and Marie Claire’s achievements and their dedication to their fields despite the challenges and dangers they have faced. Their stories remind us that there are strong and capable women working on the ground to protect the planet every day.