Martial Kiki was always fond of wildlife and nature, but a field trip to a nature park in Martial’s home country of Benin is what really made him consider entering the field of conservaiton. The park harbors some of the last remaining populations of large mammals in all of West Africa. The animals and their complex interactions with their environment fascinated him; eventually this fascination led him to pursue carnivore conservation, specifically lions. Martial believes these majestic animals play a key role for the good health of our ecosystems. As shy and mostly nocturnal animals, he knew working with them would not be easy, but this did not deter him.
For Martial, community-based conservation is key to preserving wildlife. Unfortunately, demonstrating the importance of carnivores to communities who often suffer losses at their expense, leading to situations of human-wildlife conflict is not an easy task. By developing innovative projects that involve local people in conservation, he hopes to bring about a wider awareness in the community, both about the importance of protecting species like lions and about using the land and natural resources sustainably. He is currently working as the field coordinator for National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative Project “Lion Guards in W NP,” a community-based conservation project that aims to reduce pressure from transhumant livestock—the seasonal migration of livestock to suitable grazing grounds.
He also hopes to expand on the project via new and innovative ways to mitigate human-lion conflicts, by improving the livelihoods of local villagers through protecting livestock, and reducing poaching by creating alternative employment and incentives for poachers. In addition, he seeks to link biodiversity conservation and human well-being through analysis of lion distribution in relation to human activities in an understudied region of West Africa. His plan is to take an interdisciplinary approach to examining complexities of lion conflict with livestock herders in and around a protected area system that is subject to complex land use dynamics.
We believe that Martial Kiki is poised to succeed in reaching these goals as a result of his strong commitment to conserve the environment of his home country of Benin and elsewhere, and to improve human-wildlife relationships for future generations.