Lee White

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From 2014: " White, 48, was born in Altrincham but spent much of his youth in Africa, once attending a school in Uganda with an African dictator’s son who would tell him, after they fought, ‘I’m going to tell my dad to kill your dad.’ He moved to Gabon as a PhD student in 1989 and stayed because it was a zoologist’s dream – a country larger than Britain that is 85 per cent forest and where new species of animal are still regularly discovered. White set up the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Gabon programme. At one point he was declared persona non grata by President Omar Bongo, the incumbent’s autocratic father who ruled Gabon for 41 years, for opposing a logging project. But then in 2002 he helped persuade Omar Bongo to create 13 national parks covering 11,600 square miles. As White tells it, the president had no idea how beautiful his own country was until he was shown pictures of its wildernesses. To create the parks Oman Bongo cancelled – in one stroke – 5,400 square miles of logging concessions.

"White also got to know the president’s Sorbonne-educated son, who was then the defence minister. Ali Bongo, 54, is an interesting character with a prop forward’s build and a love of fast cars and boats. But he also has a London home, sends his sons to British public schools, studies history and architecture, and composes music that has been performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He developed a love of wildlife while growing up with a menagerie of tigers, jaguars and other animals that his father received as gifts from fellow African leaders and kept on the 2,000 square mile presidential reserve south of Libreville, the capital. He now has a private zoo as well, and was an honoured guest in London last September when the Duke of Cambridge awarded the inaugural Tusk Awards for Conservation in partnership with Investec Asset Management...

"When Bongo succeeded his late father after a disputed election in 2009, he appointed White the head of the Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux (ANPN), putting him in charge of 11 per cent of the country...

"Bongo, who has substantial oil revenues at his disposal, has increased White’s budget from $1 million in 2009 to $18 million last year, and his staff to 600. He is creating an elite, 240-strong ‘jungle brigade’ that is receiving training from the US Marines and will be under White’s command – in Minkébé its members may be allowed to shoot armed poachers on sight...

"Elephant poaching ‘has gone beyond an environmental issue. It threatens the very stability of our countries,’ said Bongo, who will appeal for a concerted global response when he addresses the London summit in the presence of the Prince of Wales, with whom he has a good working relationship, the Duke of Cambridge, David Cameron and William Hague. " [1]

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  1. telegraph One man's war on the ivory poachers of Gabon, organizational web page, accessed July 1, 2018.