I am a Dutch conservationist with a strong interest in ex- situ conservation programs and how these, as part of the One Plan Approach, contribute to species conservation in their natural range.
I am currently serving as the Country Director of the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), a conservation centre of Allwetterzoo Münster (Germany) in Cambodia aiming to improve the protection and management of some of Cambodia’s most endangered wildlife.
Which ASAP species you are working to conserve, and can you tell us a little about your work?
Here at the Angkor Centre for Conservation for Biodiversity we established and maintain assurance colonies for Bengal Florican, Elongated Tortoise, Giant Asian Pond Turtle, Giant Ibis, Southern River Terrapin, Yellow-headed Pond Turtle, and White-shouldered Ibis. Through our rescue and rehabilitation efforts we also work with Sunda Pangolin, Red-headed Vulture, White-rumped Vulture, Slender-billed Vulture, Cantor’s Softshell Turtle, Big-headed Turtle, and Douc species.
In my role I lead a team of curators, animal keepers, groundskeepers, research, construction, education, and administrative personnel dedicated to the ex-situ conservation and educational and public awareness of some of Cambodia’s rarest species.
How do you think the ASAP Women in Conservation Leadership Programme will help you in carrying out your work?
The Woman in Conservation Leadership Programme has provided me with practical tools focusing on project design, proposal development, fundraising, leadership, and communication. Giving me the opportunity to further develop my leadership skills, and enhance my creativity. I have used the opportunity to share the knowledge I gained with my team to empower them and cultivate a team spirit. I’ve also made a life-long connection with very inspiring women in the field of conservation.
What inspired you to start a career in conservation?
My love for animals started at a young age. I started my professional life working in Dutch zoos focusing on breeding programs for endangered species, where I was dedicated to provide the best possible care to each individual animal under my care. Early in my career I was fortunate to be presented with the opportunity to move abroad and work on ex-situ conservation programs for species within their native range.
My affinity for turtles started several years ago when I joined the ACCB in Cambodia as Curator for Ex-situ Conservation. This experience gave me the opportunity to join the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) on their Confiscation to Reintroduction Strategy for Radiated Tortoises in Madagascar where my passion for chelonian conservation grew even more. Currently I am back at the ACCB in Cambodia, this time managing the centre, and working alongside a team of people who have dedicated their lives to conserving Cambodia’s native species.
I have been tremendously lucky to have spent my professional life working in conservation. One of the things I love most about it is that I always feel I am part of a special team of people who share my passion for conservation.
Christel participated in Phase 1 of WiCLP and is also a part of the ongoing Phase 2 Visible Leadership Programme.