|Senior Vice President for the Asia-Pacific Field DivisionDavid Emmett has dedicated his life to indulging his fascination in wildlife and wild places, a fascination that he inherited from his father who is also a biologist. David completed his degree in Zoology at Imperial College, London, then left the continent to teach biology and set up wildlife clubs in northern Malawi, Africa. He lived there for several years, after which time he moved to Tanzania to conduct detailed biodiversity surveys in the Usambara Mountains. He lived in a tent deep in the forest for a year where he studied reptiles, amphibians, mammals and butterflies. He discovered a new species of cobra along with a host of other amazing and inspiring finds, including his future wife Annette, a Danish mammal specialist. After leaving Tanzania they moved to Madagascar together for several years to conduct biodiversity surveys in the southwest of the country. Again, they lived in a tent the forest together for more than a year, where they shared their lives amicably with lemurs, tenrecs, crocodiles and chameleons. After the completion of this work, David and Annette returned to Europe to get married and to identify new conservation-related challenges and localities for future work.
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David and his wife were both hired by Conservation International to work in Cambodia, where they conducted detailed biodiversity surveys of the remote, unexplored Cardamom Mountains. They worked together in the mountains for more than a year, after which time they moved into the city of Phnom Penh where they took on more managerial roles in conservation. They have lived in Cambodia for more than seven years. During that time they have worked in Laos, Nepal, Myanmar and Vietnam where they conducted surveys of the most remote regions they could find, discovering new species of small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish and invertebrates. They also met some of the most engaging, fascinating, often poor yet unfailingly friendly people they have ever met. David, who is 38 years old, is now the Regional Director of Conservation International. Annette is the technical advisor for the region’s freshwater program. They have trained many local teams of expert conservationists to do the more interesting elements of the job while they now focus on strategic planning and fund-raising. However, they both still retain a love of exploration and a desire to survey remote regions of the world. David escapes from behind his desk at any opportunity and ventures into the forest, where he thrives on wandering around looking for wildlife, especially at night when the forests come alive.
David is an expert herpetologist and can capture, handle and accurately identify most species of snake, turtle, lizard and amphibian in southeast Asia, and is able to describe their life history and interesting qualities in detail. His specialities are snakes and turtles, and he has been hired as a ‘snake wrangler’ by Animal Planet. Annette is a mammal specialist who is equally capable in terms of species identification and describing the life history of the region’s mammals. She has on-going projects focusing on bears, pangolins, otters and several other charismatic species. When David and Annette work in the field together, the dynamics of a husband-wife relationship are very interesting. They have different roles and expertise - she focuses on camera-trapping, track and sign identification and small mammal trapping, whereas David collects everything he can find and spends a great deal of time in the forest at night, mainly collecting reptiles and amphibians. David tends to be very hands-on and active in the field, collecting a wide range of species and going to any length to collect the more elusive species, which can lead him into interesting situations, whereas Annette is more sensible and provides an excellent voice of reason in the forest. That said, she has encouraged David on several occasions to manhandle 17ft snakes and she is not averse to swimming fully clothed across rivers in pursuit of wayward wildlife.
They have two young daughters aged 1 and 3, who also share their parents passion for wildlife and who have an extraordinary collection of toy animals, many of which they have also seen in real life. They have given David and Annette an even stronger reason to conserve nature for future generations, as well as the opportunity to rediscover nature through eyes that see beauty without judgment. These children also give David another good reason to pause before picking up poisonous snakes when he is in the forest.