Location: Epulu, Okapi Wildlife Reserve, Democratic Republic of Congo
Reports To: WCS DRC Country Director
Overseen By: OWR Steering Committee
Start date: January 2023
Duration: Minimum 2 years
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been active in the OWR for more than 30 years, supporting its creation, and subsequently working closely with ICCN (Institut Congolaise pour la Conservation de la Nature) – the government agency responsible for protected areas and wildlife – in its management. In December 2018, WCS and ICCN signed a 10-year management agreement that delegates management authority of the OWR to WCS, and which was initiated in September 2019. This mandate is implemented through an OWR Management Unit (RMU) that is the executive body in charge of all day-to-day management activities and personnel in the OWR. The Reserve Director is a WCS-appointed position in charge of the RMU.
Created in 1992, the OWR, at more than 13,000km2, is the single largest protected tract of intact lowland tropical forest remaining in the DRC. The OWR harbors one of the largest remaining populations of forest elephants and the largest stronghold of okapi in the DRC and the single largest population of the eastern chimpanzee in Africa. OWR is situated in the larger Ituri landscape; comprising more than 40,000km2 of contiguous forests, in which WCS is actively building conservation constituencies and supporting sustainable agricultural practices amongst the local communities who depend upon the forest resources for their livelihoods, and on whom the future integrity of the OWR is inextricably linked. The Ituri forests also have a rich cultural heritage and are home to the indigenous Mbuti and Efé peoples.
The OWR presents a challenging environment and is faced with a number of threats to its biodiversity and operations, including poaching, gold mining, and sporadic insecurity from armed groups. The past three years have seen the OWR develop its situational awareness, establish a core presence, build capacity and infrastructure and secure significant resources. We are now looking to capitalize upon these gains to make substantial impact in addressing key threats to the OWR, its unique biodiversity and its local communities.
WCS are seeking a highly experienced manager in the role of OWR Director who can lead the OWR through the next phase of its management contract.
The Director will provide strategic and operational leadership and be responsible for all aspects of Reserve management including ranger deployment and wildlife protection, community liaison, research, tourism development, fundraising and reporting, communications, M&E, and capacity building of national staff. The job includes staff management and development, establishing and maintaining strong relationships with government partners, including state enforcement agencies, partner agencies and organizations, as well as oversight of a significant budget and ensuring efficient day-to-day program operations.
The Reserve Director is based permanently on-site at the OWR headquarters in Epulu, Ituri Province. The Reserve has a large staff of around 300, working across six Departments.
Candidates will need to clearly demonstrate they have the necessary experience, leadership, communication and diplomatic skills with which to manage such a large and complex project in a challenging and insecure area.
- Assuring full financial and operational responsibility of the OWR and its staff, including anti-poaching, research and ecological monitoring, community conservation, logistics, M&E, operations and finance and administration
- Formal liaison with the Steering Committee established under the management contract, and overall responsibility for the coordination of the bi-annual meetings of the Steering Committee and implementation of directives from the Steering Committee
- Responsibility for the review, update, validation and implementation of the OWR Management Plan, SOPs and Strategic Framework.
- Strategic oversight of the law enforcement strategy, in consultation with the Deputy Director and in liaison with the CorPPN (Army Corps detached to ICCN for the Protection of National Parks and Reserve), DRC armed forces and the WCS Law Enforcement Advisor
- Oversight of corrective measures approved by UNESCO to remove the OWR from the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger
- Official representation to, and actively building and maintaining of relationships with, provincial and national Government, community partners, donors and other key stakeholders in the OWR, including hosting of the annual CoCoSi meetings
- Assuring that all park operations adhere to Standard Operating Procedures and Interior Regulations of the OWR
- Management of the RMU and all OWR personnel, including the facilitation of weekly meetings with Heads of Department of the OWRMU
- Preparation of a recruitment plan, staff evaluation plan and proposals for re-deployment of OWR staff according to the Interior Regulations
- Participation, as needed, in field operations for the OWR
- Ensuring monthly and quarterly reporting to WCS, donors and ICCN
As the position will take on a broad management mandate, a wide range of management skills and experience are required. For this position, WCS will consider candidates with:
- At least 15 years of senior management experience
- Strong leadership skills and demonstrated experience in managing a large and diverse team
- Strong diplomacy and decision-making skills in a high-risk environment
- Proven experience of cultural understanding and leadership in a complex, multicultural and remote environments
- Excellent communication and negotiating skills
- Wildlife enforcement training and field experience an advantage
- Fluency in French and English. Knowledge of Swahili is a distinct advantage
- Previous experience with international donor organizations
- A business background or in another professional sector is desirable
- Previous development or conservation experience in Africa is highly preferred
- Experience in protected areas or equivalent natural resource management context desirable
- Commitment to the values and mission of the Wildlife Conservation Society
Attributes that will make you stand out
- Excellent team building, leadership and communication skills
- Engagement with local communities and indigenous people
- Knowledge and experience of DRC
- Passion for wildlife conservation
Interested candidates, who meet the above qualifications, skills and experience, should apply through the Link by 5 December 2022.
WCS is an equal opportunity employer dedicated to hiring and supporting a diverse workforce. We are committed to cultivating an inclusive work environment and look for future team members who share that same value.