Field Journal

Seeds of Change: Internship Program Cultivates a New Generation of Conservationists

About the Author

Manda Nfor is African Wildlife Foundation Communication Officer based in Cameroon. More

The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) in Cameroon is nurturing the next generation of conservation leaders through its Young Graduates Internship Program. This initiative aligns with AWF Cameroon's 2020-30 strategic plan to cultivate a pipeline of future conservationists. The Young Graduates Internship Program empowers passionate graduates, transforming them into highly skilled conservation professionals.

"The Young Graduates Program serves as our pathway to nurturing future wildlife conservationists," says Norbert Sonne, Country Director of AWF's Cameroon Office. "We designed this program to address the critical need for skilled conservation professionals in Africa. By providing young graduates with hands-on experience, we're empowering them to become future leaders in wildlife conservation."

Launched in 2021, the internship program has welcomed over 15 interns, offering them a platform to develop field-based competence and skills. Its goal is to establish a "reservoir" of qualified, talented, young, and dynamic professionals not only for AWF but also for other conservation organizations.

Each year, interns are selected through a highly competitive process to gain skills in wildlife conservation and the broader professional field.

"We didn't just hand them a dusty instruction manual and say, 'Go save the animals!' Instead, they worked alongside experienced personnel, patrolled with seasoned rangers and biomonitoring specialists, and explored the mysteries of our local forests in Cameroon," Sonne adds.

One inspiring story comes from Alexander Yoba, who excelled in AWF's biomonitoring program, meticulously tracking wildlife populations and ecosystem health.


"The first time I conducted sensitization for AWF was at a football pitch in Dja. I remember waiting for halftime to address the crowd. Whenever I called a species by its scientific name, the locals responded with their local names," recalls Yoba.

He continues, "For example, when I said 'Gorilla,' they replied with 'Tchile,' the local name for gorillas. The energy from the crowd fueled my passion for conservation. I realized many community members wanted to learn more about animals."

"AWF, with the help of our funders and my supervisors, has been giving me the training I need to create more awareness on the ills of poaching and the necessity of wildlife conservation," he reminisces.

Aurlus Korndoi is another success story, blossoming into a skilled biomonitoring assistant under AWF's guidance.

"I joined AWF Cameroon in February 2022 during the peak of ECOFAC 6 and Nancy Draper Foundations in Dja landscape. Working under the funding of these partners allowed me to acquire solid technical knowledge in planning, installation, and removal of camera trap data," shares Korndoi. "AWF gave me the platform to learn so much, including the use of tools like the cyber tracker, GPS, and data analysis software like Argis, SMART, and PIE."

Cynthia  Nji, who initially doubted her ability to work for a wildlife conservation organization, found her place in AWF as a Finance intern.

"Joining AWF as a young graduate helped me enhance my skills in finance. I was given challenging assignments, but with guidance from my supervisor, I completed them," she explains. "This experience made me believe in myself and encouraged others not to see an assignment as unattainable. With this, I believe I can save an animal one penny at a time. AWF gave me room to grow."

Now a Finance and Administration Assistant in the Cameroon office, Cynthia's journey underscores the transformative power of the internship program.

The stories of Alex, Cynthia, and Aurlus serve as a call to action for other young heroes with a thirst for adventure and a passion for making a difference. The Young Graduates Internship Program continues to pave the way for a future in Africa where both people and wildlife thrive.