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A Successful US-EG. W0hite-Bellied Kingfisher, and Bioko Drill (Photo: Justin Jay). Modest Forest Tree Frog (Photo: Pat McLaughlin)
EGVistas Magazine
A Successful US-EG Collaboration
to Protect Bioko’s Wildlife

By Drew T. Cronin
EGVistas MagazineEGVistas Magazine

Sotik Acrae Butterfly (Photo: Drew Cronin)Rain-drenched and wildlife-rich Bioko Island is an environmental treasure that is being studied and protected through a successful collaboration between Drexel University in Philadelphia and la Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial (UNGE) through the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program (BBPP; www.bioko. org). The BBPP was established by Drexel’s Dr. Gail Hearn in 1996 and is now the longest successful conservation organization in Equatorial Guinea.

Bioko Island offers a unique opportunity for conservation success: the human population is relatively low; there are large areas of intact forests; and wildlife still flourishes in many areas. With the continued support of the government of Equatorial Guinea, these factors will be leveraged to make Bioko Island a regional example of cutting-edge higher education and research, successful biodiversity conservation strategies, and a nation that greatly values environmental stewardship.

The success of the BBPP is founded upon the long-term academic partnership between Drexel and UNGE. BBPP includes a twice-yearly study abroad program for American undergraduates and numerous research opportunities for graduate students. These study programs give American students a first-hand experience of African tropical forests and environmental conservation and the Equatoguineans an opportunity to learn American study and conservation methods.

The BBPP also maintains Equatorial Guinea’s first and only field research station, the Moka Wildlife Center, financed by the ExxonMobil Foundation. Located in the highlands of southern Bioko, the Center is staffed full time by Drexel postdoctoral researchers, and includes research and educational facilities, a small natural history museum and an interpretive trail network that is a popular tourist destination.

The overarching mission of the BBPP is to study, conserve and educate the world about the unique biodiversity heritage of Bioko Island. These broader goals of research, education and conservation can be generally divided into the following aims:

  1. Develop and maintain an intensive research program that emphasizes applied biodiversity conservation;
  2. Collaborate with UNGE in order to advise the government of Equatorial Guinea on best practices to conserve Bioko’s flora and fauna;
  3. Empower local citizens through employment and knowledge about the value of conserving their natural heritage;
  4. Strengthen UNGE’s educational capacity to serve as a regional center for biodiversity conservation;
  5. Raise global awareness about Bioko’s biodiversity. Leatherback Sea Turtle.

Part of the BBPP’s mission has been its ongoing long-term research programs that include decades of data collection on urban bushmeat consumption and the health of Bioko’s terrestrial and marine ecosystems through biomonitoring of primates and marine turtles. Moving forward, the BBPP will continue critical baseline biomonitoring programs and address exciting new questions about the evolution of this biodiversity hotspot.

The BBPP also continually supports environmental education, community development and microenterprise to foster community driven conservation. Since 1998, the BBPP has employed local patrols to monitor and provide passive protection to wildlife, while, more recently, the “Bioko Heirloom Project” has empowered women in two villages to leverage their artistic talents and tradition as an avenue for economic stability via the creation of hand-constructed jewelry.

Leatherback Sea Turtle (Photo: Shaya Honarvar)

The BBPP has also collaborated in the development of the award-winning children’s book, “Moon Over Bioko” (la Luna Sobre Bioko) and the full-length documentary, “The Drill Project”, which focuses on one of the main species of monkey unique to Bioko.

As part of an international effort to protect the environment in Central Africa, the BBPP is partnering with the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) and the Central African Biodiversity Alliance (CABAlliance). The CBFP (http:// is a non-profit initiative that promotes the conservation and responsible management of the Congo Basin’s tropical forests and is sponsored by more than 40 international governments and investors.

The CABAlliance ( is an international academic partnership that seeks to develop an integrated framework for conserving central African biodiversity. Dr. Mary Katherine Gonder, a co-founder of the CABAlliance, recently joined the Drexel biology faculty and is serving as BBPP Principal Investigator as Dr. Hearn transitions into retirement.

A wide range of opportunities are available for individuals who want to get involved with the BBPP, such as postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate research, as well as volunteer opportunities. For more information, please email Dr. Katy Gonder at or visit

Drew T. Cronin, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the BBPP at Drexel University. He has studied primate ecology and conservation, and the drivers and dynamics of bushmeat consumption on Bioko Island since 2005.

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