WCS Mourns Ymke Warren

July 30, 2010

Ymke Warren, gorilla conservationist and friend, will be missed by her colleagues.

The Wildlife Conservation Society mourns the loss of Dr. Ymke Warren, 40, a native of London and WCS conservationist who worked to protect the world’s rarest great ape—the Cross River gorilla—in the forests of Cameroon. Quiet and even-handed, Warren excelled in connecting with people and inspiring others to protect Africa’s wildlife heritage.

Warren was killed in her home on June 29 in Limbe, Cameroon, by unknown assailants.

She was the research coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Takamanda-Mone Landscape Project and oversaw the monitoring of Cross River gorillas and other endangered wildlife in 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 and numbering fewer than 300 animals.

Warren had a passion for mountain climbing and had hoped to establish an African “Three Peak Challenge”—modeled on the National Three Peak Challenge in the United Kingdom—as a fund-raising tool for gorilla conservation. She succeeded in reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro—Africa’s highest mountain at 19,321 feet above sea level—and had plans to climb both Mt. Kenya and Mt. Stanley (the second and third highest peaks on the continent).

Warren’s conservation work spanned nearly two decades across the continent of Africa, with 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. Warren 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—as a research assistant—was interrupted by the outbreak of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Warren later returned to Rwanda to continue her research and administrative work there, completing her Masters thesis on mountain gorillas in 1998 (from University College London) and serving briefly as acting director of Karisoke in 1999.

In addition to conducting research, Warren provided guidance for aspiring conservationists and field staff, most recently supervising students in Cameroon.

Warren graduated from University College London in 1992. She completed her PhD at the University of Surrey in 2003.

She was born in London, England and is survived by her parents, Keith and Henny Warren, and brother, Mark Warren, all from Chichester, England, as well as her partner, Aaron Nicholas of Limbe, Cameroon (formerly of Caernarfon, Wales).

Warren’s parents have established the Ymke Warren Gorilla Conservation Fund to help generate support for Africa’s promising conservationists.
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