The president of Endangered Species International has traveled the world to save obscure reptiles and amphibians. During a lecture at the San Francisco Zoo on Wednesday night, the 34-year old French-born conservationist will discuss work in the Philippines that has preserved a rare species of freshwater turtle.
Who funds your travel and pays for your work? At the beginning, most of the travel I paid for myself, because this is my passion — I discovered that when I was 6 months old. I always loved nature. So I would work some jobs, and then leave for several months. Then I started to apply for grants. The last grant I was awarded came from the Conservation Leadership Initiative, which was founded by BP.
What is one ofthe biggest barriers you face in your work? The topography. It can be very remote, so it’s extremely difficult to access the sites. There are a lot of health and safety concerns, like areas that have malaria and cholera. It’s not where the tourists go.
What does the future hold for the environment? It’s pretty bad, let’s face it. In the Philippines, more than 95 percent of the forest is gone. We’re losing an enormous biodiversity that’s essential for our survival.
What was your most frightening experience? In Venezuela, we were using a small boat and we were going very deep in the forest, traveling for several days. Our boat broke down, and just below us was a lot of rapids and waterfalls. I thought I was going to die. We decided to dump out our water bottles and cut them into pieces and use them as paddles.