As a botanist at the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Congo basin, Corneille Ewango has faced down poachers and soldiers who threaten this delicate and vital ecosystem.

Why you should listen

Corneille Ewango grew up in a family of poachers and hunters -- it was simply a way of life in his village. But when he got the chance to go to school, he found a new mission -- to study and preserve the flora and fauna of his region, the Congo Basin forest. In his passion for the forest, Ewango found himself an unwitting hero, taking bold steps to secure its resources and convince warring parties to leave it in peace.

The Congo Basin's great forests are under pressure from many angles. Settlers look here for fresh farmland; miners look for deposits of valuable col-tan; and soldiers fight over the forests both as territory to be won and as a resource for bush meat (from the threatened okapi) and cooking charcoal. It's home to families of pygmies and herds of okapi -- and a treasure house of green, growing things.

Ewango won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2005 for his work at the Okapi Faunal Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a World Heritage Site. He's now studying in the United States.

What others say

“A man who’s seen more hardship and done more hard work that most of us could ever imagine.” — Ethan Zuckerman, My Heart's in Accra

Corneille Ewango’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Corneille Ewango

A hero of the Congo forest: Corneille Ewango on

August 19, 2009

The archive highlights continue today with a powerful talk from 2007 on one man’s passion for his forest and his country. Corneille Ewango braved dangers that most of us can’t even imagine, in order to protect the animals and plants of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve during the First and Second Congo Wars. Not long after […]

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