Eco-guards In Action: From Poachers To Protectors

Taylor Robb-McCord

Feb 8, 2018


Rainforest Trust is supporting its local partner Conservation des Espèces Marines to create the 12,360-acre Dodo River Community Natural Reserve along the southwestern coast of Côte d’Ivoire.

The primary purpose of this proposed reserve is to protect a key tract of vanishing coastal forest and adjacent wetlands, river, ponds, mangroves and beaches which also serve as a key nesting site for many marine turtles, such as the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle and the Green Turtle, and is the most important nesting site in West Africa for the Vulnerable Leatherback Turtle. Through efforts to protect this important landscape, our local partner is creating a lasting impact throughout the community and inspiring change to protect this habitat and its species.

In 2017, our local partner worked to recruit and train 16 community members who were formerly poachers to become eco-guards for the forest and beach. These eco-guards came from the local villages and bring a wealth of knowledge about the landscape and wildlife which enables them to be vital protectors when they conduct their daily patrols of the areas. The eco-guards work alongside Ministry of Water and Forestry agents and Maritime police agents. Collaboration between the local eco-guards and government agents ensures that the importance of protecting this area and its species is acknowledged and valued across sectors.

From July to December of 2017, the trained eco-guards were able to identify and remove 147 cable snare traps from the proposed reserve area. The local partner is already seeing wildlife return to the area, and the seasoned eco-guards have discovered a possible Leopard track and evidence of the possible presence of the Endangered Pygmy Hippopotamus. In addition, they heard the calls of the Sooty Mangabey, a monkey species which is under high threat from deforestation and hunting for its meat. The eco-guards also actively patrol the shorelines day and night to protect female turtles laying their eggs, prevent egg poaching and provide oversight as turtle hatchlings journey to the ocean.

  • An eco-guard stands next to the sign for the Dodo River Community Natural Reserve. Photo by Conservation des Espèces Marines

A key component to ensuring lasting conversation success in areas inhabited by humans is that the local community members are engaged in conservation efforts and that they believe in the importance of conserving the area. Rainforest Trust is thrilled that the eco-guards are deeply committed to regional conservation efforts and that they are actively gaining the support of their friends and families to protect the future Dodo River Community Natural Reserve.

  • Eco-guards travel to the edges of the protected area to mark the preliminary boundaries. Photo by Conservation des Espèces Marines

To learn how to support projects like the Dodo River Community Natural Reserve, please visit the Conservation Action Fund.