It is with great sadness that we are sharing the tragic news that Jana Robeyst died on April 8th 2016, whilst pursuing a promising career dedicated to the study and conservation of wild forest elephants at Mbeli Bai, Nouabale-Ndoki National Park. Jana was an amazing scientist and a wonderful person who loved the work she was doing. She was living her dream by being out in the African rainforest each day observing her beloved forest elephants and western lowland gorillas in Mbeli bai.
Jana arrived in Congo to work at the Mbeli Bai Study in December 2013 as a volunteer research assistant for a period of one year. She remained an enthusiastic advocate of the site ever since, returning in September 2015 for three months to train new researchers at the bai. Finally she returned for a third time a few weeks ago to once again assist at the site, and share her knowledge of the elephants and gorillas that visit the bai with the new researchers.
Jana was incredibly passionate about the work done by the Mbeli Bai Study. She could identify the entire population of gorillas and elephants that visit the forest clearing, and would excitedly share stories about specific individuals with any visitors to the site. For her, this was not only a workstation; it was a way of life and her passion, a lifelong dream come true. Anyone who spoke to Jana of her work will recall how she happily shared her many ideas and dreams for her future studying and working with wildlife.
From the start, Jana was fascinated by the majestic forest elephant, drawn to this animals’ intelligence and complex social systems. After her latest stay at Mbeli, she planned to start her PhD at the University of Stirling in Scotland where she was going to be the first person to analyze the powerful dataset of 20 years of elephant observations at the bai.
I personally met Jana several times during my visits to Mbeli. After only 18 months of experience working in Nouabale-Ndoki it was already clear that she would one day be a great success as a researcher here or elsewhere. She was always incredibly welcoming, passionate about the work at Mbeli, and one of the most promising young researchers that I have come across over the last few years. I saw in Jana the capacity, enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity that make a great conservation scientist and knew that we should make every effort to keep her involved in WCS Congo’s work.
Everyone who ever had the opportunity to meet Jana will truly miss her. She was an amazing, intelligent human being with a great career ahead of her. She will forever be a member of the WCS Congo team and will be very much missed by all of us.
Country Director, WCS Congo Program