A Tribute to Philippe Bouché

Updated on 28 October 2022

Our friend and colleague Philippe Bouché passed away on 5 April 2018 in W National Park in Niger, West Africa. The plane he was piloting crashed during take-off and both Philippe and his passenger, a member of the park staff, were sadly killed. Philippe leaves behind his wife and their two children. 

Philippe Bouché was widely recognised as a prominent elephant expert in the West Africa region. His wildlife inventories and work monitoring illegal elephant killing in West and Central Africa contributed hugely to the global community's understanding of the status and threats to elephant conservation in the region. He was a long-standing member of the African Elephant Specialist Group, and took a leading role in the West African component of the recent ‘Great Elephant Census’. On some ‘time-off’ this week Philippe was supposed to continue this work through an aerial survey in Gambia. His passion and commitment to his work leaves a large gap to fill; and his wry sense of humour and playful spirit will be sorely missed by all who worked with him. 

Since July 2016, Philippe had rejoined the CITES MIKE Programme as a Senior Technical Advisor after helping establish the programme in the West African region between 2001 and 2004. Working out of the IUCN regional office in Burkina Faso, Philippe was supporting efforts to build the capacity of four critical wildlife areas in Central and West Africa: Boumba Bek National Park; Dzanga Sangha; Okapi Faunal Reserve; and, the area closest to his heart, the Parc W Complexe of protected areas. In the few years he had been in this position, through his energy, dedication and focus, improvements on the ground were already beginning to show, and the strong partnerships he had developed with our partners in these areas are a true credit to his straight-forward, no-nonsense approach to work. 

During his career, Philippe’s work took him to over 15 countries, mainly in West and Central Africa, where he often piloted himself or participated in aerial surveys as an observer. Building capacity for the next generation of wildlife conservationists was at the heart of much of Philippe's work, whether this was through his work on the ground throughout the West and Central African regions, or in the classroom at the University of Liège in Belgium. In the short-time he was the MIKE Programme Senior Technical Advisor he had already carried out trainings in Boumba Bek National Park and Dzanga Sangha. But, as ever, it was the WAP Complexe that was the focus of his efforts, where he had already trained over a quarter of the area’s staff. It was as part of his aim to ensure that all staff in the area were sufficiently trained that his last tragic mission to W National Park in Niger took place. 

Our thoughts and deepest condolences rest with Philippe’s wife, children, family and loved ones. 

The CITES Secretariat

9 April 2018