Edward Aruna

Country: Sierra Leone

Occupation: Conservationist

Specialty: Conservation Biology

Best part about my job: Research, education and public awareness

Biggest challenges I face: My biggest challenge in the conservation world is getting people to feel the way I do about threatened and endangered species. Everyday I wish that more people become interested in the issues of conservation but this is not easy in situations where people have to worry about their day-to-day living. Most people are willing to accept the sermons about conservation of threatened/endangered species, but the biggest question they have is “What can we do to improve our standard of living?” Alternative means are not always easy to develop, especially for conservationists like me, so I consider this my biggest challenge in sea turtle conservation work in Sierra Leone.

The most unusual or exciting thing that’s happened to me while working in the field: The most exciting thing happened to me on the 12th June 2006. This was the day I was going on a sea turtle survey along the northern coast of my country – Sierra Leone. On our way to Yeliboya, an island located very close to Sierra Leone’s border with Guinea, we had two heavy rainstorms while sailing on a speedboat. The first rain wasn’t that breezy but the second was very much so. We were five on the boat including two boatmen. The wind was so strong that we all lost hope of surviving the trip. We had life jackets on but I believe we were more concerned about possibly having to swim to safety. Sadly enough, I don’t know how to swim so this even made things worse for me. But finally the wind ceased and the water was calm again. Thank God we survived this terrible wind. I am praying for this not to happen again.

Why I like being a member of the MTSG: Before 2000, marine turtles were among the least studied species by Sierra Leoneans, and they were among the “data deficient” species in Sierra Leone. I took up the challenge in trying to be at least the first Sierra Leonean to do something about sea turtles in the country. My interest has grown so much that I would want to be in any organization that deals with these species. I like being a member of the MTSG because of the experience and turtle expertise in the group and also for the goal/vision of the group.

Turtle researcher / conservationist I most admire: Manjula Tiwari is the turtle researcher/conservationist I most admire. Manjula has the spirit of encouraging people to be involved in turtle research/conservation. She is always there to give hope to the hopeless in the area of turtle work. Her words “Don’t give up” always ring in my ears when things are tough with turtle work in my country. She is very courageous in handling things. I admire her very much.

When I’m not working on turtles I like to: Learn how to work with new software, listen to news, watch movies, play games and help on other conservation issues (education/awareness, research, surveys) in my organization.

Ten years from now, I hope I will be doing: Scientific/technical research projects on sea turtles and have a full time office for turtle conservation work in my country.

Relevant links to find out more about me and my work: Conservation Society Of Sierra Leone