I believe in journeys.
I believe in journeys because they bring change and challenge and movement.
Journeys bring progress. They bring knowledge and hunger and resilience. Often frustration, always triumph; if you afford yourself such things.
The best journeys are often the journeys you never even knew you were on, until you suddenly find yourself at a crossroads or dramatically changing course. I believe that to be successful on journeys you have to be successful at opening your mind and letting your opinions change. A stubborn journey will likely be a short one.
I first encountered Sinbad, the miniature lion in his home at Shamwari Game Reserve. Sinbad was at the Julie Ward Centre; a location that I certainly feel some connection with. His legs were stunted in their growth when his teeth were pulled from his gums to make him a more suitable photographer’s prop at the French zoo he was rescued from. He couldn’t eat properly without them.
But Sinbad the miniature lion grew. Not physically. He was given the opportunity to adapt from a confined cell in a zoo to a lush enclosure in South Africa; the closest to the wild that the small lion can possibly survive in. And he thrives.
You see, it’s easy to appreciate nature when we watch it on the television. We admire it when Sir David Attenborough so beautifully narrates the journeys that creatures great and small, land and sea, make in the wild – but it’s easy to overlook the journeys of animals in captivity.
“Animals need zoos to survive. Zoos are a vital tool in getting the next generation interested in nature and they provide the best means of studying animals.”
This is a viewpoint I hear often, and one I, myself, had previously subscribed to. Earlier in the year, I penned a post about my opinion of zoos and captivity; to clarify my standpoint to myself, as much as anyone who may find themselves reading my incessant typing! I concluded with an opinion much in-line with the afore mentioned.
But I’ve been on somewhat of a journey since then.
About this time last year, I felt that my blog platform had run its course. There were other matters to focus on, and as my number of views dwindled, I knew whatever audience I was writing for had other matters to focus on too.
But in May, I found myself back on a pathway I thought I’d ventured away from – journeys can have a funny way of doing that, you see.
In Born Free Foundation’s 30th anniversary year, I found an opportunity to reconnect with my reasons and motivations for supporting the charity by attending some of their one-off events: and what wonderful, educational eye-openers they were.
I am beyond grateful for the opportunities I have had – thoughtful discussions with lifelong idol Virginia McKenna and long-time role model Pollyanna Pickering, and the long in-depth chats with Born Free President Will Travers about the future of conservation that have gone on to reshape my thinking.
To put that simply, I no longer have an internal argument as to whether the educational benefits of zoos justify the isolation and unnatural surroundings of a captive environment: through research, discussions and uncompromised honesty, I now see clearly that they don’t.
At the same time as reaching these realisations, this year I have found myself a little lost at times while finding my way onto the correct career path.
But after nearly taking the chance on a blogging and marketing internship in Malawi, I opted out after reaching the final three in the process, because another offer reached me: a full time, paid and permanent position at Discovery Education UK.
There is something quite wonderful about having a job that helps to educate children by giving them the tools and knowledge to discover their own thoughts and opinions on things happening in the world, and when that includes case studies on stories such as isolated elephant Mali, I know that somehow, I have found my way.