Lives Remembered: Doctor Ymke Warren
Thursday 26 August 2010
Dr Ymke Warren, who was murdered in her home in Limbe, Cameroon on 29 June by unknown assailants, was a conservationist with the Wildlife Conservation Society who worked to protect the world's rarest great ape, the Cross River gorilla. Quiet and even-handed, she excelled in connecting with people and inspiring others to protect Africa's wildlife heritage.
Born in London, Warren, pictured right, was the research co-ordinator of the WCS's Takamanda-Mone Landscape Project and oversaw the monitoring of Cross River gorillas and other endangered wildlife in the Takamanda National Park and Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, both recently established for the conservation of these primates. The Cross River gorilla is the rarest of the four gorilla subspecies, found only in Cameroon and Nigeria, with fewer than 300 left.
Warren had a passion for mountain climbing and had hoped to establish an African Three Peak Challenge modelled on the National Three Peak Challenge in the UK, as a fund-raising tool. She succeeded in reaching the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, and had plans to climb Mt Kenya and Mt Stanley, the second- and third-highest.
Warren's conservation work spanned nearly two decades across Africa, and she maintained a special focus on primates. In 2003, she completed her doctoral thesis on olive baboons in Nigeria, the first such study on the species in the forests of West Africa. She also studied the world-famous mountain gorillas of the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, where George Schaller and Dian Fossey conducted their seminal studies on the subspecies.
Her first position for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, at the Karisoke Research Station where she was a research assistant, was interrupted by the outbreak of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. She later returned to the country, completing her Masters thesis on mountain gorillas in 1998 (from University College London) and serving briefly as acting director of Karisoke in 1999.
Warren provided guidance for aspiring conservationists and field staff, most recently supervising students in Cameroon. She graduated from UCL in 1992 and completed her PhD at the University of Surrey in 2003.
Ymke is survived by her parents, Keith and Henny Warren, and her brother, Mark Warren, all from Chichester, and her partner, Aaron Nicholas, who also lives in of Limbe but was originally from Caernarfon in Wales. Her parents have established the Ymke Warren Gorilla Conservation Fund to help generate support for Africa's promising conservationists.
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