I am currently taking a leading role in scientific research, biodiversity monitoring and providing scientific/technical information to support wildlife conservation and management decision making for various projects that WCS Laos Program is working on.
Which ASAP species you are working to conserve, and can you tell us a little about your work?
The ASAP species that I am working to conserve are the white-cheeked gibbons and the Siamese crocodile. Their habitats are threatened by agricultural development and other habitat encroachment activities in the protected areas and wetlands where they are known to exist, respectively. For the gibbon, we just completed a survey in the NEPL NP to determine the species distribution and hotspots within the park with an aim to include the protection of this species as part the biodiversity conservation in the National Park through development of a species-specific management plan.
For the Siamese crocodile, we have been doing a head-starting program for population recovery where we assisted hatchling and get them to .8 to 1m length where they have higher chance of survival and release them back to the wild. I am currently supporting the team in designing monitoring design and protocols for this species. We have been working with the local community in conducting survey and managing the population of the species and will continue to involve them because sustainability of the project also depends on their involvements.
How do you think the Women in Conservation Leadership Programme will help you in carrying out your work?
The areas outlined in the Women in Conservation Leadership Programme course contents are what I sought to improve as a leader. I believe that these are important skills that a good leader should have. While I have some experience in proposal writing, I had never received training in this area nor project design. Learning the logic of how things should be carried out in order to design and draft a fundraising proposal will be invaluable in the near future as I am seeking to develop a gibbon conservation project in a few protected areas in Northern and Central Laos. My teams currently finished a gibbon survey in Nam Et – Phou Louey National Park and we are planning two more surveys in other two conservation areas. I hope to use the survey findings to identify the species hotspots, work towards defining species specific conservation strategies and raise funds to support the implementation. The latest is where I see the skills in fundraising become very crucial.
I also believe that an effective leader should have good leadership and communication skills. This course without any doubt improved my understanding of what effective leadership and communication entail and makes me feel competent in my role. I am currently applying and practicing the learned knowledge and skills to enhance my current role, and hopefully with some more experience I can move towards a greater leadership role in the future.
What inspired you to start working in conservation?
For some people realizing which career path to take came easily, but mine took a bit of a journey to get there. However, my interest in the natural world began as a child exploring the bountiful open spaces around my home in Savannakhet Province. My passion for wildlife conservation and wildlife studies began to grow steadily since I started working for WCS. I started at WCS in 2005 as a GIS specialist, which brought me an opportunity to meet and work with various wildlife specialists whose chosen profession I aspired to. Accompanying them to the field led me to my own research project many years later. Although I began working in the technical field, I was happy knowing that I was part of a nature conservation organization and this experience made me want to be more than a mid-level technician. I greatly value the services that nature provides to the well-being and health of people everywhere. It is therefore most fulfilling for me to be actively involved in the protection of wildlife and wild places because I know that my contribution goes beyond just saving a few species to serving the planet and its people.
Akchousanh participated in Phase 1 of WiCLP and is also a part of the ongoing Phase 2 Visible Leadership Programme.