Project Coordinator – Lion Restoration, Coordinateur de projet – Restauration Lion, Plateaux, Haut-Ogooué, PANTHERA
Role Responsibilities/ Responsabilités du rôle
Job Title: Project Coordinator – Lion Restoration
Location: Plateaux Batéké National Park, Gabon
Duration: 1 year, renewable
Department: Conservation Action, West and Central Africa Regional Hub
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to the conservation of wild cats and their landscapes, which sustain people and biodiversity. Panthera’s team of preeminent cat biologists and site security specialists develop and implement science-based conservation and protection strategies for tigers, lions, jaguars, snow leopards, leopards, pumas and cheetahs. Representing the most comprehensive effort of its kind, Panthera works in partnership with governments, NGOs, scientific institutions, communities, and corporations to create effective, replicable models that are saving wild cats and the wild places they roam in around the globe. For more information, visit http://www.panthera.org.
In Gabon, Panthera has been involved in big cat survey and conservation activities since 2010, while individual Panthera staff members based in Gabon have been working on leopards and other felid species in Gabon for substantially longer. While in earlier years most of Panthera’s work represented large-scale surveys aiming to establish big cat distribution and local abundance, and to determine the factors that limit those parameters, Panthera now also establishes strategic partnerships to strengthen and restore key big cat populations. One such key site for felids is the unique Plateaux Batéké National Park (PBNP) situated in south-east Gabon. This 2,000-km2 park represents the most intact proportion of the Western Congolian forest-savannah mosaic – the largest natural expanse of open habitat within the Congo Basin. The area boasts a unique mix of Congolian rainforest and Zambezian savanna fauna; it is the only place where iconic savanna species like lion and spotted hyaena used to co-occur with chimpanzees and gorillas. However, due to decades of poaching, wildlife populations in the Batéké landscape were dramatically reduced, particularly in the more accessible open habitats, and the large savannah carnivores all disappeared in the early to mid-1990’s.
Regional Panthera staff has been involved in research and conservation activities in the Batéké region since 2001, taking part in the surveys which led to the creation of PBNP in 2002. Since the creation of this park and due to the protection efforts by Gabon’s National Park Agency (ANPN), wildlife has been slowly recovering, with species like chimpanzees and leopards naturally recolonizing the park. The most spectacular recovery to date, however, was the sudden arrival of an adult male lion in the park in January 2015, which has since then taken up residency in the park. Panthera led efforts to monitor this individual, and it has last been recorded in September 2020. In 2017, once it was established that the lion had taken up residency in PBNP but was not accompanied by females, ANPN officially invited Panthera to 1) assist ANPN to better protect the park to prepare it for an introduction of additional lions and other species lost from the area, and to 2) lead efforts to introduce female lions to the park to re-establish a breeding population, with the ultimate goal to restore a viable, self-sustaining lion population in Batéké. Since late 2017, patrol work in the park has been intensified due to Panthera support, and camera trap and aerial survey data suggest that poacher distribution and activity levels were dramatically reduced through ANPN’s efforts over this time period, and that there are now large parts of the park which can be considered secure enough for active reintroduction efforts.
Panthera Gabon is looking for a motivated and dedicated full time Project Coordinator (PC) for its lion restoration efforts in Plateaux Batéké National Park (PBNP) in Gabon. Panthera has been supporting the protection and managing of this park since 2017, and supports park authorities ANPN in their vision to fully restore wildlife populations and ecological processes in this landscape, including the re-establishment of a breeding lion population. Lions had been considered locally extinct in this landscape and the remainder of Gabon, until one lone male was recorded in PBNP in 2015. While this male was last recorded in late 2020 and may still be present, the re-establishment of a breeding population will involve repeated transfers of unrelated, wild-caught individuals from a suitable source population. The Project Coordinator for Lion Restoration will be responsible for all aspects of Panthera’s lion restoration and long-term monitoring and recovery efforts in this landscape. The position will be based at a simple field camp inside the park, and will involve extensive stays in other parts of this remote park in the context of lion and prey monitoring activities. Candidates must be fluent in English and French, and be physically fit and used to work in remote and challenging field conditions.
In the above context, Panthera seeks an experienced, motivated and dedicated full-time employee to act as Project Coordinator (PC) for the lion restoration component of our Plateaux Batéké support project. In this role, the PC would be responsible for the planning, preparation and execution (jointly with other Panthera staff) of one or several transfers of wild-caught lions from a suitable source population to Batéké, as well as post-release population monitoring, overall prey monitoring, and design and oversight of a community outreach project to improve local perception of lions and their assisted recovery.
The PC will report to Panthera’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Dr. Philipp Henschel. The ideal candidate will be supported administratively and logistically by Panthera Gabon and ANPN Gabon staff, and can draw on the expertise and experience of Panthera’s senior lion experts, who will actively assist in the capture and transfer of the lions. This initiative is carried out in support of ANPNs vision to fully restore the faunal composition and ecosystem function of the Batéké landscape, and the PC will also be required to assist ANPN Batéké park staff with other specific activities carried out to accomplish this vision; this can include logistical assistance for ANPN field operations, knowledge transfers on wildlife and/or poacher activities from Panthera camera traps installed for lion and prey monitoring, and the supervision and support of joint ANPN-Panthera community outreach activities.
Due the absence of lions for almost two decades, local communities to the north of PBNP have lost the habit to coexist with lions, and some community members have voiced concern since the lone male has been discovered in the park. Community members are already aware of ANPN’s plans to restore a breeding lion population – however, these plans are met by some with reserve and even concern. A joint ANPN-Panthera community survey encompassing all villages in the park’s vicinity already established the perceptions of community members to lions in particular and wildlife and PBNP in general, as well as the most pressing problems and needs community members seek assistance with. This survey was meant to provide the baseline for a joint ANPN-Panthera community support program, which has since been developed and will be tightly linked to the lion restoration efforts. In concert with senior ANPN and Panthera staff, the PC will be required to design and carry out activities to inform community members about the lions and their recovery, assist them to better coexist with lions, and develop a limited number of community support activities which would assist village members in their most pressing needs.
The PC will also be required to report on the above activities to senior Panthera and ANPN staff and to project donors where required. The PC may also be asked to assist in specific fund-raising efforts and to take responsibility in direct donor relations.
Prepare the soft release of wild-caught lions into PBNP, including the preparation of the release enclosure in the park, the logistics of the transport, the feeding while in the enclosure, and all the paperwork required for the international transport;
Prepare and coordinate the capture of females in a suitable source population (likely Namibia), as well as the international transport back to Gabon and release in the enclosure in PNBP;
Assist in the preparation and execution of community meetings to prepare the lion release and restoration, to share information and garner wide support for lion recovery in Batéké;
Once transferred lions are released, follow their movements and establishment in the park closely using GPS collars, camera traps placed strategically based on collar data, and all secondary information such as spoor and feeding sign, with a particular focus on potential evidence of lion reproduction;
Intensify lion prey monitoring efforts, using a combination of systematic camera trapping and by participating in aerial wildlife surveys;
Reconstruct lion diet in the park by walking in on kill sites identified based on clusters of GPS locations;
Analyse and present findings on lion movements, feeding behaviour and prey population trends for use in technical reports and scientific articles;
Work with Panthera’s community outreach officers (already recruited for this project) to inform community members about the location of the lions, and to prepare for the potential arrival of individual lions near community areas;
Develop and supervise community support activities, and collaborate with community members in the fields of wildlife conflict mitigation and potentially intelligence gathering;
Liaise and establish collaborations with potential project partners in-country, particularly in the context of gathering further support for the restoration project, including media outreach to the wider public and partnerships with the private sector;
Assist with administrative and logistical tasks where required, such as the importation and maintenance of project equipment;
Assist ANPN field teams in the park where needed, and provide any relevant information on specific wildlife (including lions) and/or poachers activities to ANPN, as gathered by Panthera camera traps or through other means;
Produce regular project updates for Panthera and ANPN needs, either in English or in French;
Liaise directly with project donors to provide updates on project activities, and produce project reports and financial reports specific to lion restoration activities and according to donor requirements;
Assist in fund-raising activities to help grow and diversify the donor base for this project.
An MSc or (preferred) PhD in biology, ecology, wildlife management or a related field;
Proven experience in the wildlife research and conservation, and/or protected area management, obtained in Africa or Asia over 5 years or more;
A good understanding of technology solutions for field data collection (such as telemetry equipment and camera trapa), navigation and communication (SMART, Locus Pro, etc.);
Knowledge of basic database management and GIS tools;
A physical ability and willingness to work and live in a demanding field environment. The position will be based inside the national park, in a field camp with limited comfort;
Fluent in English and French;
Good organizational skills and a high degree of self-motivation, resistance to frustration and dedication to project objectives;
Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work in a multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural team, and lead and develop it where required;
Full driving license;
Social media skills are an asset.
Timeframe and Salary
Panthera will offer a 1-year contract, which will be renewed if parties agree. The salary will be set corresponding with qualifications and experience.
How to Apply
Please submit a CV and cover letter through the Panthera Careers Page. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. We encourage applicants to apply as soon as possible. The closing date for applications is Wednesday, October 20th.
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