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Theresa Udofia

Doctoral Researcher

I come from a beautiful village called Bansan Osokom in Boki, Cross River State, which is situated in the tropical rain forest region of Nigeria. The rain forest merges seamlessly with the mountain range and forms the forest belt that today still accounts for a good percentage of Nigerian/Cameron virgin forest. In my youthful days, while trekking to the farmlands in the village outskirt, I use to follow and play with the family of monkeys jumping from one canopy of trees to another till you get to the farm. During the dry season (harmattan), I used to enjoy watching millions of migratory swallows flying past my village to a neighboring village called Boje where they roosted every night. I enjoyed this till I finished my primary school after which I left for the city for my secondary education. A few years down the line as I return from my secondary education, the setting in the village had greatly changed. The deforestation for farming, poaching and logging had become so intense and had taken its toll so that one can hardly see any trace of virgin forest in the near vicinity and the primates and birds had almost disappeared.

I came to understand that this sad development was not just peculiar to my village nor my country Nigeria but was a global trend that was threatening biodiversity and the environment to the detriment of mankind. In Nigeria and in Africa as a whole, the very few Government initiatives in conservation were fast beginning to lose out in terms of overall management and many of these were being abandoned. These realities at home corroborated the picture of the vulnerability of our Earth triggered the drive in me to know more about the subject matter and a conscious decision was then taken to progress my undergraduate work in Forestry and Wildlife Conservation. My final undergraduate project was written on The importance of governmental and non-governmental organizations to wildlife conservation in Nigeria.

In and out of school I have been involved in several conservation initiatives including: (1) Working as a research assistance / Ranger with Pandrillus Nigeria, being part of team identifying primate nests and some other endangered animal species in the Afi River forest reserve, Mbe mountains and the Pillar rock areas (2) I was the first person who collected the plants species present in the drills enclosure with the help of Late Prof Obot a renowned botanist who was heading botanical department and the Herbarium at the Cross River National Park at that time. He assisted me in identifying the plants specimens down to species level (3) I was part of a team at Pandrillus Nigeria that was taking care of the Chimpanzees in their enclosures and recording behaviour patterns and taking them out in the mountains to feed on their natural food and play for several hours before returning back to their enclosure (4) I worked as a Project Coordinator at the Foundation for Conservation of Endangered African Fauna (FOCEAF), (subsidiary of Livingstone Foundations) Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

In recent times the stark realities of the effect of human engineered massive deforestation and pollution has again rekindled the world's focus on conservation science initiatives. To actively participate and contribute to conservation initiatives at the local and international level, one needs knowledge and understanding of contemporary conservation approaches. These lead to my taking a masters' degree in Wildlife Management and Conservation in the University of Reading and now crowning it with a PhD, looking at the implications for conservation of predation by the domestic cat (Felis catus) in Nigeria.

My career objectives therefore are to join others in the business of conservation to bring biodiversity conservation and management to greater height by actively engaging in promoting worthy nature conservation projects in Africa in particular and the world in general. I long to go back to the Afi -Cameroon mountain forest reserve to promote ongoing conservation efforts, bring back to life the dilapidated Cross River State National Park and other eco-regional conservation initiatives in Nigeria and Africa. As an independent environmental policy advocate, I look forward to working with relevant United Nations foundations and conservation NGO's to assist African nation states/governments to focus maintaining a sound environment and other reforms to improve on the status quo of sustainable development.

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