Dr. Emma Stokes has been appointed Vice President of Field Conservation for the Wildlife Conservation Society, overseeing the organization’s conservation portfolio in nearly 60 countries and across the world’s oceans.

Stokes, currently Regional Director of WCS Central Africa and Gulf of Guinea, will take up the Vice President position on Oct. 1, 2022.

Stokes will lead the global portfolio of regional programs for WCS which has more than a century of conservation successes, long-term commitments in dozens of landscapes and seascapes, and has helped to establish more than 300 terrestrial and marine protected areas across the world. The Wildlife Conservation Society has amassed the biological knowledge, cultural understanding, and partnerships to ensure that vibrant, wild places and wildlife thrive alongside local communities.

Joe Walston, Executive Vice President of the WCS Global Conservation Program, said: “Emma has spent more than two decades in the field, dedicated to supporting, designing and leading a range of innovative conservation programs in Africa and Asia. She has built on her early studies on gorillas of the Congo Basin and the development of conservation tools for tigers in Asia, to leading the Central Africa Program and becoming one of the most effective strategic leaders in the conservation field today. Emma is uniquely qualified to lead our 60+ programs and 3,000+ staff across the globe.”

Dr. Cristián Samper, WCS’s President and CEO, said: "Emma has done an outstanding job as regional director for the Congo Basin, focusing it on key issues and expanding it for greater impact. She combines great skills in science, management and fundraising that can help us build an even stronger global portfolio.”

Stokes brings to this position a performance history of outstanding conservation delivery and management experience with WCS, spanning the tropical forests of the Congo Basin and South-East Asia. Her groundbreaking strides for conservation started early, as a gorilla field biologist in Northern Congo. From there, she led some of the first systematic large-scale field surveys leading to a significant upward revision of the western lowland gorilla population and resulting in her nomination as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2010. Stokes went on to lead conservation effectiveness monitoring programs for tigers in South-East Asia before returning to Africa where she directed a portfolio of projects measuring and improving conservation impact.  Her expertise and leadership as a global specialist in ecological monitoring were pivotal to the founding of the Spatial Monitoring & Reporting Tool (SMART) partnership, which continues to be widely adopted, now in more than 600 sites across Africa, Asia and Latin America. She went on to take up the position of Director of Conservation Science for WCS’s programs across Africa, before her appointment as Director of WCSs Central Africa Regional program, in 2016.

As Director of WCS’s single largest regional field program – in Central Africa and Gulf of Guinea – Stokes’ strength of vision and expertise enabled the upscaling of conservation support to government and local partners at significant and perhaps unprecedented scale for conservation organizations. Her leadership helped shape the evolution of Republic of Congo’s Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park as a model Protected Area in Central Africa. Working together with the WCS DRC team, she helped expand this impact through two new government partnerships, to manage the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and Kahuzi-Biega National Park in DRC – marking a new chapter for these World Heritage Sites, and the wildlife and people who depend up on them.

Stokes’ career has been characterized by her attention to building a resilient and diverse team and supporting the career development and leadership capacity of some of WCS’s most influential and effective African conservationists. It is this approach that has enabled strong partnerships to be forged with less traditional conservation actors from across the human rights, peace-building, development and private sectors, and which in turn has underpinned conservation success.

Stokes will be based out of Kigali, Rwanda, a WCS hub for field conservation programs.

Said Stokes: “I am delighted to take this next step with WCS and look forward to leading our field programs in our mission to deliver increasingly effective and impactful conservation.”

Stokes attended the University of Cambridge where she received a BA in Natural Sciences (Zoology), and University of St. Andrews where she received her PhD in Chimpanzee cognitive ecology.