07 Dec Meet the Ebony Forest team: Denis Li Lung Hok
If you had to get stuck on a desert island and you could have only one companion, you would be wise to choose Denis. He would have you living in luxury 5 star shelters. But whatever you do, do not eat one of his mushroom dishes!
Denis is happiest when up a tree!
Denis is the Kestrel and Echo Parakeet coordinator at Ebony Forest. He has an MSc in Biodiversity Management from the University of Toulouse, France. Denis joined the Ebony Forest team in September 2019, with over 12 years’ of field conservation experience on multiple bird projects in Mauritius. His practical skills in bird handling, ringing and rigging transmitter harnesses, building and setting up nest boxes, tree climbing, hand rearing, doing bird releases and many more ecological skills are an asset to the team. When not working, Denis likes to go abseiling, hiking, orienteering and crafting items with wood and metal. Denis’ position has been part funded by grants from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.
What advice would you give to anyone working in the field?
Don’t eat mushrooms! 😉 but brede gandole is fine.
[Denis infamously made dinner with some wild mushrooms and spent the next week in hospital. Needless to say, we think he will never make this mistake again…..we hope!]
What lead you to a career in conservation?
I landed in conservation half by accident. I went to France to study medicine but failed the selection exam to get into second year. From there, I searched for a biology related line of work but which suited my desire for a career which would be useful to society. For a class presentation, I chose to talk about the Mauritius Kestrel, which got me interested in conservation. Since then, I chose to pursue ecology as my Master’s degree and conservation as my career.
What does a typical week look like for you at Ebony Forest, Chamarel?
I split my time between looking for plant seedlings to help propagate plants in our nursery, planting during the appropriate season, helping our team catch birds to ring, making nest boxes and putting them up in trees, fixing traps and any other tinkering needed. During the birds’ breeding season, I spend time doing maintenance on nest boxes, look for breeding birds and follow them during the season, tube-feeding Echo Parakeet, searching and harvesting Olive White-eye nests. I monitor part of our predator control grid to help keep an area free from predators so birds can thrive. When we have training courses such as those sponsored by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, I also help develop and deliver the training.
Denis having just installed a new artificial nest box for a Mauritius Kestrel.
What advice would you give to others interested in pursuing a job in conservation?
To go for it with what you have. A degree in ecology or environmental science will help better understand (and progress eventually), but much of it can be learned in the field, as long as you keep an open mind, a desire to learn and enough persistence to keep going.
What did you enjoy most about teaching in the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund courses?
As a hands-on guy, the part I enjoyed most was teaching the practical skills and seeing participants catch on. I find it very rewarding. Most of the courses we deliver are divided into teaching the theory, which is classroom based, and then 50% is spent doing practicals, whereby participants work in teams in the field, come rain or sunshine.
What’s your favourite animal? / plant?
Favourite animal: Mauritius Kestrel, because it’s sleek, because it’s dangerous (and my dog)
Favourite plant: Bois d’Olive (Cassine orientalis), it’s beautiful, it’s majestic and it’s great for climbing
Where is your favourite place?
This one is a secret
Do you have any superpowers?
Yes, I have Advanced Walking, which prevents me from falling in any situation or terrain. It works 80% of the time, but when it works it works it is 100% effective! [Judging by the state of Denis’ trousers, it doesn’t always work!]
Planting day! Denis planting an endemic tree as part of our forest restoration activities co-funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.
Mosquitos or Mouche jaunes?
If it’s 1, mouche jaune, if it’s a cloud, mosquitoes
Do you ever get depressed with the state of conservation in the world?
I don’t think too much about it. I do what I can and hope to inspire other people to do the same.
If you were an animal in Mauritius, what animal would you be and why?
A tortoise, slow but steady
Meet Denis during one of Ebony Forest’s training courses, tree planting days or volunteering with the Ebony Forest conservation team. Learn more about volunteering from our website and following our Ebony Forest Facebook page