Common Searches

Corneille Ewango (MS 2006)

Dr. Corneille Ewango grew up in Congo, which has one of the largest forests in the world. He came from a family of soldiers, poachers and fishers and spent his early years supporting his family by collecting elephant tusks and the meat of animals killed by his father and uncle.

Corneille Ewango

“That grew my passion for protecting the forest and plants," he said. "When I am studying plants, I feel like I am talking with some kind of supernatural life, like I am talking with someone who does not speak.”

Corneille studied biology at the University of Kisangani, where he supplemented his studies with an internship at the Wildlife Conservation Society. After receiving a BS in 1995, he was employed as botanist and herbarium curator by the Centre de Formation et de Recherche en Conservation Forestiere, adjacent to the Ituri Forest Reserve.

Amid civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1996 to 2003, Corneille was responsible for the botany program at the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. Over the course of the war, he became the only senior staff member remaining after others fled. He risked his life by staying throughout the conflict, hiding the reserve’s rare herbarium collection while confronting military officials about the various illegal, anti-environmental activities in which the soldiers were engaging.

The reserve remained intact throughout the war. Many poachers were eventually arrested or exiled, partly because of Corneille’s efforts. After the war, he received a Christiansen Fund fellowship from the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center to study in the Department of Biology at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, earning a master’s degree in tropical botany in 2006.

Corneille received the Goldman Environmental Award while still a master’s student at UMSL. He used his award proceeds to help build an herbarium that still serves to protect and research local flora in the Congo. Additionally, in 2011, he was awarded the Future of Nature Award which recognizes international species protection efforts.