I’m so pleased to share that I recently won an Animal Star Award, for my conservation work under the banner Kate on Conservation.
I was awarded the Highly Commended prize for the Animal Hero Category of the nationwide Animal Star Awards, and accepting this accolade has given me a great chance to reflect on the journey so far.
So here we have it; I would love to share with you my story, and how the honour of accepting this award came to be.
An early love of wildlife
As a child, I raised money for the wildlife charity Born Free Foundation through garage sales and bake sales and talked about it at Show and Tell at a school.
Though I didn’t realise or take notice at the time, the area in which I grew up was classed as an ‘economically deprived’ area. My high school was considered inadequate, and subsequently closed its doors as a ‘failed school’, but my own deep passion for the world around me — and how it all worked — led me to achieve the best ever results at my former high school; 5 A*s and 5As at GCSE level.
The upshot of this was: I earned a ‘Gifted and Talented scholarship’ to go to university — and successfully gained a grant to join a volunteer project abroad.
I followed my passion for wildlife conservation and in 2008, when I was 18 years old, I spent 3 months volunteering with the Born Free Foundation at a game reserve in South Africa immediately following my A Levels.
I was in South Africa when my A Level results came out, and I was awarded the Brook Street Award for Outstanding Achievement. This was covered on the front page of my local paper — a truly proud moment for me and my family at the time. Especially as I had spent summers doing work experience for the paper.
Thanks to my scholarship, and a lot of hard work, I later achieved a degree with 1st Class Honours in English Language and Communications at Hertfordshire University and spent a year of my degree studying in Australia, where I also volunteered with Conservation Volunteers Australia.
Since then, I have gone on to have a career in journalism, with a focus on wildlife and conservation. I currently work as Education Editor at National Geographic Kids UK, and formerly spent 2.5 years working for Discovery Channel’s Discovery Education UK branch, where I was their only in-house Sub Editor.
The start of Kate on Conservation
It was during my year’s study in Australia that I began this blog, for which I have since interviewed the likes of Dr Jane Goodall, Sir David Attenborough, UN Global Ambassador and actor Aidan Gallagher, and Queen guitarist and wildlife enthusiast Dr Brian May, among others.
I was delighted to find myself shortlisted as a finalist in the UK Blog Awards for three consecutive years, and winning the Highly Commended accolade back in 2016 — shortly afterwards being named a Top 10 UK blogger by Market Inspector.
Through the work of my Kate on Conservation blog, I was invited to London to meet with the President of the global wildlife charity, Born Free Foundation (the same charity I volunteered with following my A Levels!), and today I am the youngest ever Trustee on the board, with the likes of Virginia McKenna OBE and actress Jenny Seagrove also serving as board members (Jenny also won an award at the Animal Star Awards).
Campaigning and fundraising
I am an avid wildlife campaigner, having been involved in various protest marches (including to ban canned lion hunting in South Africa, to Empty the tanks at SeaWorld and to Stop the annual Taiji dolphin slaughter in Japan — among others).
I have over the years raised thousands of pounds for wildlife charities; including a $3,000 donation from Discovery Communications gifted to Born Free by my then employer-company following my volunteer work with educational, conservation VR project vEcotourism.org (in association with 4Apes and Born Free), and I’ve also held events and art exhibitions locally; which raised several hundred pounds towards the construction of an elephant rescue sanctuary in Europe.
Last year, I was invited to become an ambassador of wildlife charity International Aid for the Protection and Welfare of Animals and it was IAPWA Founder Nicky Stevens who was the overall winner of the Animal Hero Category of the Animal Star Awards. Born Free Co-Founder Will Travers OBE was awarded a Special Recognition Award at the event, which was founded by Mary Burgess and was held at the Marriott Hotel in Portsmouth.
Of course with my background and study in print journalism, and my passion for conservation writing; it is my work with National Geographic that I am most proud of.
From interviewing the likes of Dr Jane Goodall and Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, writing a cover story about sea turtles in Florida; joining a research boat and collecting data on spotted eagle rays, and even attending the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference last year; this role has brought me closer than ever to understanding the workings of the conservation world.
I continue to work with the local community of my hometown; as an alumni partner at Thetford Academy — and with my knowledge gained at National Geographic, I came on board last year as a judge of our local magazine’s annual photographic calendar competition.
Particularly close to my heart, as I used to write copy for the magazine and helped build their website voluntarily when I was 15 years old and the magazine was in its infancy.
What next for Kate on Conservation?
My next project is teaming up with Cyprus -based ELAFI Animal Welfare Awards, for which I am an ambassador and have two ‘Kate on Conservation’ award categories named in my honour.
The aim is to use the awards to bring a global spotlight to animal welfare issues in Cyprus, to help local on-the-ground charities to lobby their government to give more focus and harsher deterrents against wildlife crimes.
So please, don’t ever let humble beginnings or your early ‘limitations’ affect where you’re headed in life, and what you’d like to be.
I come from a ‘disadvantaged’ background, and a failed school — and that has been the biggest asset and the very thing that’s opened many doors for me. It’s certainly not luck that see’s us surpass our expectations; it’s hard work, passion and sheer determination.
Thank you so much to all those who have read and supported my work and fundraising efforts over the years: my gratitude towards you is enormous.