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Conservation outreach: sharing ideals

It’s so important in the field of conservation to share our message. Not just with those already connected to nature and the issues faced by our local and global wild species, but also those who may encounter wildlife in a different context.

This past month I was invited to be featured as part of a Blogger Showcase series for a parent blog and chosen for a Youth Nature Spotlight slot on one of my favourite blogs about British wildlife — a great opportunity to share some of my goals and motivations!

Common by Nature — Spotlight

It was an honour to be interviewed by James Common of Common by Nature blog and recognised as a member of the youth nature movement. Similarly to Kate on ConservationCommon by Nature has been Highly Commended at the UK Blog Awards under the Green & Eco category, and was also listed in the 75 Top Wildlife Blogs — coming a few places above me at number 1!

common by nature interview with kate on conservation

In James’ own words; “the youth nature spotlight series is intended to give readers an insight into the lives, aspirations and motivations of the intrepid and inspirational young people doing great things for nature in the UK”, so I was very excited to get involved.

I’ve included a small snippet of the interview below, as a little taster:

How did you first get involved in your conservation campaigning?

For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in animals. This interest was developed into a more active conservation role when I became a supporter of the Born Free Foundation. At six years old I received a gift of an adoption pack for Born Free’s for Roque the tiger and I’ve wanted to save animals ever since then. 21 years later I am now a trustee of the Born Free Foundation charity and the subsequent passion I fostered for wildlife photography and conservation writing (which can be traced back to a 200-page big cat project I hand wrote when I was 10 and 11 years old), has evolved into my career at National Geographic Kids magazine and my Kate On Conservation blog.

If you won the lottery today, what would you spend the money on?

I would buy a big plot of land in the UK and work on rewilding it. Bringing back native flora and fauna and hopefully watching it flourish – and I’d buy an allotment for growing seasonal fruit and veg. I would then start up an education programme, offering opportunities to people from all walks of life to work on these projects and learn about the UK’s natural environment and sustainable food consumption. Hopefully, it would start a movement.

Read the full interview here.

Every Treasure blog — Showcase

I also had the pleasure of chatting to parent blogger and fellow UK Blog Awards finalist, Every Treasure. I saw it as a brilliant opportunity to talk to others who appreciate the outdoors and enjoy family hiking trips (subjects regularly covered on Every Treasure) about the wildlife they encounter — and equally, some more exotic species — about why it is important to take notice of our impact on the planet.

Every treasure interview with Kate on Conservation

It was great to have the opportunity to answer the interesting questions that blogger Kelly had picked out to ask. I’ve included a couple of these below, to give a snapshot of the interview:

Can you tell me a little bit about the focus/vision/ethos behind your blog?

I wanted to change the world. Maybe one person at a time, by sharing important knowledge about our planet’s wildlife and the threats it’s facing. I was 21-years old when I started the blog and originally it was to be a voice among young people and students, to inspire them to care about these things. I wanted to speak as a peer, so they wouldn’t feel patronised and I was specifically using my gap year experience of volunteering in South Africa with Born Free to inform the blog. But I’m not that young anymore and thanks to television series like Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II, I think students care more than ever. So now I try to reach all people of all ages through various means. And I still want to change the world.

What keeps you motivated in everyday life and in the blogging world?

The desperate plight of so many of our planet’s wild species. When you hear that there are less than 20,000 lions left in the wild in Africa; that if things remain as they are, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050; and when in 2018 we all lost the last ever male Northern White Rhino in existence — it’s enough to motivate me to spend the rest of my life trying to make a difference.

A couple of years ago when I was employed by Discovery, I worked on UK school resources to accompany the amazing documentary Racing Extinction. Researching the facts and watching that documentary was the reason I stopped eating meat and consuming dairy products. That documentary is something I return to when I’m in need of a little motivation. It’s shocking and so important!

Read the full interview here.

Thank you so much to these brilliant bloggers for sharing their platform. Only by working together can we make our voices louder in the so-called ‘blogosphere’! And on that note, don’t forget to check out my latest guest blog posts, for more fascinating stories and voices!

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Like this? Read more about the UK Blog Awards Green & Eco category here.

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Great Horned Owlets Rescue: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way!

Great horned owlets, Willow and Wisdom - Photo by Cheryl Aguiar

It’s no secret that I’m a lover of reading. So it was a real treat when first time author and all-round animal lover Cheryl Aguiar sent me a copy of her award-winning nature book, which chronicles her experience of observing a family of great horned owls and finding herself part of a rescue mission to save their two young owlets.

A modern day ‘Pocahontas’, Cheryl’s draw to nature and the great outdoors is a deep-rooted desire that certainly resonates. As does her compassion to help wildlife, one animal at a time.

Kate on Conservation holds Great Horned Owlets Rescue book

Kate on Conservation with author Cheryl Aguiar’s Great Horned Owlets Rescue book

Great Horned Owlets Rescue: Where There’s A Will, There’s a Way details Cheryl’s early encounters with wildlife in the woods where she grew up, and explains how these experiences — including rescuing a newborn baby rabbit and nursing it back to health as a child — inspired her later fascination with animals.

“Throughout the years, my love for wildlife continued to grow, along with many attempts at saving anything from small birds to tiny frogs”, Cheryl writes. “Some were successful and some were not, but I always tried to give them a fighting chance.”

I must admit, I knew very little about the Great Horned Owl before reading this book. Found throughout North America and Canada, these large raptors have bright yellow eyes and distinctive feather ear tufts, which combined with their deep sounding hoots, make them the perfect storybook owl.

Great horned owlet, Willow - Photo by Cheryl Aguiar

Through Cheryl’s tales of her daily (and weekly) visits to the owl family, I was able to learn fascinating facts about their diet (which consists of small animals; rodents, lizards, insects); how, and when, they are fed by their parents; the different stages of their maturity (i.e. when they lose their down feathers, when they leave the nest, etc.) and the challenges they face in their natural environment.

This charming tale takes readers on a journey of the highs and lows that Cheryl, husband Jim, her nearby Aunt and Uncle and close neighbours who share their woods, experience when high April winds bring down the gradually depleted nest that the young owlets have been hatched into.

Their affectionately named parents; Mama and Papa, like many great horned owls, chose to reuse an old nest — possibly built by hawks a year or so previously — and in this instance, it wasn’t up to the job!

Fortunately, Cheryl springs to action to save the little owlets, who find themselves alone and vulnerable on the forest floor as the last light of day is fading.

With her afore mentioned team of rescuers and the expert advice of seasoned pro and founder of Eyes On Owls in Dunstable, Massachusetts; Mark, she is able to give the little owls a fighting chance (and a brand new basket nest!). And so begins this beautiful and dedicated chapter of her life.

Great Horned Owlets Rescue book by Cheryl Aguiar

Great Horned Owlets Rescue by Cheryl Aguiar

An enjoyable read and a great source of information (for example, I had no idea that owl feathers are not waterproof, to enable them to be silent flyers), this is a cute little read and a great way to connect with nature.

To learn more about about Cheryl Aguiar, order her book or view her wildlife photography, click here.

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10 Tips to Ensure Responsible Wildlife Photography: guest post by Max Therry

Wildlife photography is a brilliant way to encourage others to appreciate the natural world in all it’s splendour. But what happens when we turn our own hand at wildlife photography, and how can we ensure we’re not negatively impacting the flora and fauna we’re so desperate to celebrate? The week, guest blogger and photographer Max Therry discusses the dos and don’ts of photographing animals in the wild.

photographing camels

An Ethics Guide to Responsible Wildlife Photography: Top 10 Tips

Getting great shots of wildlife is an amazing feeling, but how can you do it in a responsible way?

Thousands of photographers enjoy getting out into the wild and photographing wildlife and nature in all their glory, but some are doing untold damage to the animals and environment they live in. Often their actions are completely unintentional, but the consequences to wildlife can be huge.

This article provides a few tips and guidelines on how to capture great images ethically without harming the wildlife and environment we love.

1. Don’t Bait or Feed Animals

Some photographers will put down food to lure an animal out in to the open so they can photograph them. The problem with this is that it can change the way that wildlife behaves and interacts with humans — you actually reward an animal for acting unnaturally. It can also cause them to get sick if you are giving them food that they are not used to. Wild animals that are regularly fed by humans may even become overweight due to constant feeding with unsuitable food.

2. Don’t Take Photos of Dens or Nests

Nesting and den photography involves getting very close to birds and mammals in their homes. This can cause terrible stress to the animal, and can make them abandon their young within the nest or den. The disturbance can also cause the animal to move their family to a dangerous location in order to escape from the intrusion.

Never be tempted to take photos of nests and dens like this, no matter how good a shot you think you’ll get.

3. Never Chase or Provoke an Animal

Unscrupulous photographers have been known to chase animals until they’re too tired to run anymore, all to ensure they don’t escape before they get the shot. The chased animal is unbearably stressed, and left too tired to escape from a predator or to go hunting for food.

tourists photographing tigers

Photo by Arnab Mukherjee. Source  

4. Don’t Crowd an Animal

Photography group tours and visitors to wildlife parks may end up crowding and getting too close to an animal. Often they are only after a good photograph, but the animal becomes stressed. Crowding may also provoke a response out of the animal, such as snarling, which is something naive or unethical photographers want, in order to get a ‘good’ photo.

Keep a safe distance from the animal, and if you’re with others who are going too close, try to politely ask them to back off. If they don’t, then try to report the abuse to park authorities.

5. Don’t Use Flash 

Nocturnal animals are sensitive to light, and if you use a flashgun it can temporarily blind them. Even using a flashgun during the day can upset the wildlife, so it is best avoided. There are ways to photograph nocturnal animals that avoids using flash – try looking on the internet for tutorials on photographing wildlife in low light.

6. Don’t Use Playback of Calls to Attract Birds or Animals

Studies have shown that this can cause stress in wildlife. The results suggest that animals or birds responding to these calls may suffer as a result of serious energy expenditure, social system disruption and even pair break-ups.

Using call playback during breeding season could distract adults from nest or den guarding or defending territory, and could have huge consequences on breeding success.

7. Don’t Handle Amphibians or Reptiles for Photographs

This applies to all wild animals, and is illegal. Apart from stress, it can cause huge problems for reptiles and amphibians, because they can get infected with bacteria and fungi from your hands, and their skins can dry up if they are taken out of their natural environment. Also, if a snake has just eaten, handling it will cause it to regurgitate its food.

Some photographers have even refrigerated quick moving amphibians in order to slow them down for photographs. This can cause death or sickness, and should never be done.

8. Avoid Off-Roading in Sensitive Habitats

Grasslands, sandbanks and salt flats, etc. can be damaged if you drive off-road on them. This can be disastrous for ground nesting birds and lots of plants, insects and snakes, not to mention causing destruction to the habitat itself. Also be aware that this applies if you are on foot. Don’t leave the footpath or designated trails.

9. Keep the Noise Down

It might seem like common sense, but people, (especially groups) can make a lot of noise and disturbance, even if they think they’re being quiet. Other photographers who have waited patiently for hours in a hide can understandably get quite upset when other photographers turn up, start being loud and scaring off the birds or animals.

Try to keep your movements and noise to the minimum. Some of the ways you can achieve this include: choosing your camera settings beforehand, so you won’t be switching them in the middle of a good shot; bringing a small tripod and wireless release that would let you stay still for a long time; using zoom lens which allows reaching far without moving physically.

Don’t talk loudly on your mobile phone, or have loud ringtones; don’t shout or play music. Being quiet and discreet will increase your chances of actually seeing wildlife.

10. Look Out for Signs of Distress

Most of us don’t want to cause distress to any animal or bird, but may do so unwittingly. If you are photographing an animal and it appears to be distressed, stop shooting and move away immediately.

A good example of doing this without realizing would be seeing a bird in a tree, and moving closer to get a better shot. The bird then begins to fly around you, calling. This means you are likely near its nest and causing it distress. If something like this does happen, you should go elsewhere straight away. It might be legal to get close to some bird species near their nests, but that doesn’t mean it’s ethical.

Most Importantly — Use Common Sense!

Generally, if you have to ask yourself any questions about whether a shot you want to take is ethical, then it probably isn’t. On a more practical level, make sure you take home everything you brought with you, including batteries, litter and any uneaten food you may have left from lunch. Don’t be tempted to leave the leftovers for the wildlife. An image is never, ever going to be worth the disturbance, distress or life of an animal, and we must put their welfare, and that of their habitat first.

 

Max Therry

Max Therry is a 28-year-old photographer, with hopes of pursuing his passion for all genres of photography as a full-time career. He runs the blog site PhotoGeeky.com, and has contributed to a number of photography websites, including: Picture Correct and A World to Travel. 

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Shocking reality of exotic pet trade exposed by Paris lion cub pet!

It’s hard to imagine the unstoppable, untameable force of the lion fitting into a tiny cage in private home. But King the lion cub found himself trapped in such a scenario. A victim of the illegal exotic pet trade, he was rescued from an apartment in Paris after shocking social media footage showed his captor beating the tiny cub.

Born free foundation's king the lion cub

King made international headlines in October last year, when he was found half-starved and cowering in a dirty cage in an abandoned apartment in Paris.

Just a few months old and kept illegally as an exotic pet, he had been beaten and kicked by his owner who then posted videos of the abuse online.

It’s hard to imagine such a shocking case can exist so close to home, and the thought of living near by to someone with a pet lion sounds like something that would only happen decades ago — but the latest research by international wildlife charity Born Free has revealed more than 292 dangerous wild cats – including at least nine lions – are being kept privately, and legally, in Great Britain under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.

The growing demand for wild animals to be kept as exotic pets worldwide is fuelled by both the legal and illegal wildlife trade. The illegal trade alone is worth an estimated $23 billion US dollars a year!

These wild species may be captive-bred, sourced from zoos and circuses or wild-caught, and they are sold through various means — such as online, in pet shops, trade fairs, markets and directly through breeders.

In response to King’s story, Born Free, has launched an urgent appeal to rehome King to its big cat sanctuary at Shamwari Game Reserve — a place I was fortunate enough to volunteer at many years ago — in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

 

#LongLiveTheKing from Born Free Foundation on Vimeo.

King has left the building

Fortunately, King was rescued from his cruel captor — who was later tracked down, arrested and charged — by French animal rescue charities Fondation 30 Million d’Amis and Refuge de l’Arche.

King has now been given a temporary home at Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre, in Belgium, and Born Free plans to transport him from Belgium to South Africa, where he will be given a permanent home at their long-established big cat sanctuary at Shamwari. The sanctuary is already home to 16 lions and leopards rescued from appalling captive conditions.

King’s new life at Born Free’s big cat sanctuary will be a world away from the Paris apartment in which he was discovered. He will be given lifetime care in a spacious, safe and natural environment, surrounded by the beautiful sights and sounds of Africa.

King, in Belgium, awaiting a ‘forever home’ at Shamwari’s big cat sanctuary

He was born free, he should live free

I have always been a huge supporter of Born Free Foundation, who strongly oppose the keeping of wild animals as pets. Wild animals have complex social, physical and behavioural needs and are, therefore, particularly susceptible to welfare problems when kept as pets.

“Whether wild-caught or captive-bred, wild animals retain their wild instincts and their often complex social, behaviour and environmental needs: needs that are impossible to meet in a domestic environment,” Born Free’s Head of Animal Welfare & Captivity, Dr Chris Draper explains.

“It is high time that we stop viewing exotic wild animals simply as objects to own, and start considering their welfare — and the risks they may sometimes pose to us. It should be abundantly clear that the never-ending demand for increasingly exotic and dangerous wild animals in the pet trade needs to stop.”

Born free king campaign letters

As ever, perhaps the most impassioned voice comes from Born Free Co-Founder and Trustee, Virginia McKenna OBE:
“Have we learned nothing over the years? How can we not understand that keeping wild animals in cages is not just cruel, but shameful? Lions are known as kings of the jungle.”
“This little king, sadly, will never wear his crown, but at least we can give him love and respect and a natural environment to roam and rest in. That is the least he deserves, and I hope people will help us write a happy ending to this story.””
To donate to this cause, visit www.bornfree.org.uk/king, call 01403 240170 or text KING to 70755 to donate £10.

 

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Learn more about Born Free Foundation

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Sea turtle conservation and my first National Geographic Kids cover story!

There’s nothing like the excitement of new life. Scooping out the final handful of cool sand to reveal the first couple of pristine, squishy white eggs, it was a complete thrill to know that soon there would be a mass of tiny loggerhead sea turtles hatched out and running toward the sea.

sea turtle eggs in nest

Watching the Sarasota sun rising in the sky as we completed documenting and recording every detail of the nest, I felt the wave of sickness in my tummy starting to shift too. It was morning sickness. Like the tiny little lives flourishing inside the eggs of the sandy nest we’d been recording, there was a tiny life flourishing inside of me too.

Even without eating breakfast, the 6am sea air churned my stomach. But it was worth it to join the Mote Marine Laboratory‘s turtle patrol team. I was on one of my first field assignments for National Geographic Kids magazine; to explore the local marine life in Florida, and I didn’t want anything to get in the way!

Kate on Conservation turtle nest monitoring

Photograph by Mark Sickles

Joining Mote’s sea turtle nest monitoring team on Venice Beach, Sarasota was a fantastic assignment. Finding the newly dug egg chambers, having the opportunity to actually see the eggs — and then protecting the nests from unsuspecting beachgoers who may accidentally stand on them — was a very moving experience.

As a soon-to-be mum; seeing the effort that these incredible turtle mothers go through to find the perfect nesting spot to give their young the best chance at life brought a tear to my eye! (ok, lots of things brought a tear to my eye when I was pregnant, but this truly was special).

Mote team with patrol vehicle on the beach

Out and about with the Mote team

I learnt that over the previous year’s nesting season, Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program reported that Longboat Key through Venice hosted a total of 4,588 nests (beating the 2015 record by 2,103 nests), showing this thriving nesting area’s importance to the local sea turtle population.

Shifting sands and moving nests

Sometimes, when the nests are in a spot that may be affected by human impact, such as beach nourishment, it’s necessary for the Mote team to move them.

A nourishment project takes place where there is a need to place fresh sand on the beach. It takes a while for the turtles to get used to the new sand, because its texture and height can be different and create obstacles.

Following the previous year’s nourishment project on Venice beach, the turtles would not come very far up the sand. There were almost three times as many false crawls (where a mother comes onto the beach to lay her eggs, but returns to the sea without actually nesting) as there were nests.

A false crawl on Venice beach, Sarasota

A false crawl, where a mother turtle has turned around and returned to the sea without nesting

in 2016, the team had to relocate 200 nests! Which meant moving up to eight a day. This is no easy feat when there’s a tight deadline to move nests by 9.30am, before visitors and tourists come to the beach.

Apparently it takes an hour to find all the eggs, dig them all out of the sand, and put them all back in at the new location. Of course eggs have to be moved extremely delicately and carefully, as the team don’t know exactly when the eggs were laid overnight.

mote team moving sand

To make the task even more complex, when a new nest chamber is dug, it must be exactly like that which the mother created.

“You have to measure it perfectly and dig a new one exactly the same,” Mote’s Kirsten Mazzarella tells me. “And you have to find a spot that’s not going to have a predators and a place that doesn’t have any lighting to draw them in the wrong direction. You don’t want to move them to a worse spot than where the mum laid them.”

Mote’s Kirsten tells us all about the nest relocation programme. Photo by Mark Sickles

Mote feel very strongly about creating nests the way that mother’s intended, as they try not to interfere with nature. Moving nests is not something they like to do, as usually the mother has picked the best natural spot and they may be moving it to a less desirable area. If the mother has picked a bad site, they don’t like to move this either, as that’s nature’s way of saying the genes were not meant to be passed on.

“We take care of human impact, but not nature’s impact,” Kirsten explains. “We used to move the nests that were too close to the water higher up the beach, but now if the mother turtle gets it wrong, we allow nature to take its course. The only time we actively move a nest is when a nourishment project of the sand is actively taking place. That requires the nourishment people to get a special permit and then contact Mote to do the work.”

Turtle treatment and recovery

Mote work hard to reduce human impact and help the turtle populations in other ways too. They own one of only three wildlife hospitals in Florida with special facilities and training to care for turtles suffering from fibropapilloma tumors.

Because scientists are still learning how the disease is transmitted among turtles, they must provide a separate facility just for animals with these tumours.

Grace the green turtle gets ready for surgery

Grace the green turtle gets ready for surgery to remove her fibropapilloma tumours. Photo by Mark Sickles

Tumours can grow on the surface of the flippers, inside the mouth (affecting feeding), and on the turtle’s eyes. All tumours are removed by laser surgery, though the animal must have at least one salvageable eye after removal of the tumours in order to be released back into the wild.

It was an incredible and emotive experience to be allowed behind the scenes in this amazing facility, which really is changing the lives of these beautiful animals. The care and attention delivered by staff is admirable, and I don’t quite know what the outcome would be for the injured and sick turtles if it weren’t for Mote.

turtle hospital feature in Nat Geo Kids magazine

It’s also fascinating to discover how far the facility has come and what they have learnt in the day-to-day handling of its patients.

Up until 2010, they used to have to keep turtles in the centre for a year after their tumour-removal surgery, to ensure they were not contagious. If they had a re-growth of any tumours, they would have to start that clock again.

This meant that some animals were being kept at the facility for two years and more! But in 2010, Sarasota had an outbreak of red tide (a harmful algal bloom), which saw the hospital inundated with patients, so they made the decision to release turtles with the disease as soon as they healed from surgery.

Over time they learnt that the virus comes out in times of stress, so keeping them in captivity to ensure they were healed was actually creating a vicious cycle where they ended up getting more tumours instead of recovering.

Kate on Conservation with Nat Geo Kids cover story

I learnt so much about Mote’s projects and Sarasota’s different species of turtle (loggerhead, leatherback, green turtle, hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley) on my trip — all of which are mentioned in my Nat Geo Kids article. If you’d like to read about them and much more about the turtle nesting patrol and turtle hospital (I’ve tried to keep the content of this blog post quite different from the article), the May issue is out now!

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Killer whales in captivity: guest post by Ben Stockwell

My latest Kate on Conservation guest blog post explores the reality of orcas in captivity. Just two weeks after a new film detailing the story of Tokitae (renamed Lolita by Miami Seaquarium) was shared online, this post from Ben Stockwell was inspired by his Geography dissertation, and reminds us all why the issue of orca captivity is one we should still be talking about after the death of SeaWorld’s Tilikum.

Exploitation or Conservation Education?  

sea world tilikum

In 2014 I wrote my undergraduate Geography dissertation, entitled Killer whales in captivity: Exploitation or Conservation and Education?  Since then, public and media attention around the topic has soared as a result of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s incredible Blackfish released in 2013.

The documentary followed the life of SeaWorld’s prized bull orca, Tillikum, and his involvement in the tragic deaths of three people, highlighting the issues with keeping such large, intelligent animals captive along the way.  

Whilst publication of the topic is not in short supply, I couldn’t let this stop me (finally) sharing some of my findings. I have chosen to focus on my favourite section of the project, which looked at the pros and cons of anthropomorphising orcas (assigning them human characteristics). Now this might not seem like a good way of arguing for or against keeping orcas captive, but just bear with me.  

Humans certainly have a desire to label things, especially in ways that we can relate to. Take pets; we give them human names and assign them human characteristics. A good example is the viral sensation ‘Grumpy Cat’, whose underbite and feline dwarfism induced ‘grumpy’ face made her a social media sensation (she even has her own movie, Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever!). By identifying animals, such as a (grumpy) cat, as having shared features and even emotions with us, we can empathise and relate to them, forming tighter bonds.    

In the case of SeaWorld, these bonds are developed via the naming of their orcas, say Tilikum, or even ‘Tilly’ for short. Additionally, the orca perform human actions throughout the show, splashing the crowd and blowing raspberries — a playful act that signifies their intelligence and further helps us empathise with them. They reinforce this message by referring to trainers and orcas as being part of ‘one really big family’ and each orca having a ‘unique personality’. 

Sea world, Florida

The shows combine anthropomorphisation of the orca with repeated messaging about our ‘one ocean’ that is under threat, which through ‘conservation and education’, ‘we’ can help to protect. I do actually think that these techniques will inspire many watching about the species and their natural habitats. You only need to look at dogs and cats, animals we have forever anthropomorphised, and look how well we treat them!  

However, this all needs to be considered in the context of these being wild animals living in unnatural circumstances. Suggesting they are ‘one big family’ is simply not true, as the artificial pods in captivity are often highly dysfunctional, comprised of individuals from sub-species thrown together in a small pool. The result is often raised levels of aggression towards each other (and humans), high levels of stress and abnormal behaviours.  

Similarly, applying human characteristics to animals, like names and human behaviours, hardly educates the public about orcas in the wild (or even the issues they face). Yes, being able to blow bubbles on command is impressive, but it’s not a natural behaviour that would occur without our interference. I think this provides very little educational value to the shows and whilst they do attempt to inspire the audience to relate to the orca, I would be very interested to know how many people go on to donate to conservation efforts as a result.  

In fact, it is highly likely that this form of consumptive tourism attributes to some of the issues orca face in the wild anyways. Think about the number of single-use plastics sold at SeaWorld – how many of those end up in in the marine environment? Even SeaWorld’s own orca have a legacy of damaging wild populations – the Southern Resident population is now Endangered, largely as a result of the 47 individuals killed or captured by the industry in the 60s and 70s. I suppose there is a strange irony that this staged spectacle is sold as a conservation and education tool, whilst it may well have contributed or is still contributing to the plight of wild killer whales (but this is a whole other section of my project, which I won’t bore you with!).

Ben Stockwell, Galapagos Conservation TrustBen Stockwell completed a degree in physical geography, focussing his dissertation on keeping killer whales in captivity, before going on to complete a Masters in Conservation Ecology. Working for Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, he gained experience in community engagement and urban conservation and is now working for the Galapagos Conservation Trust as the Communications and Membership Assistant.

 

Find out more about whale and dolphin conservation here: http://uk.whales.org/

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Goodnight Sudan: the world’s last male Northern White Rhino has died

Sudan tribute from Helping Rhinos

Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino has passed away.

on 19th March 2018 Sudan took his last breath, following age-related complications. These complications caused both degenerative changes in his muscles and bones, combined with extensive skin wounds.

Margot Raggett and Dan Richardson with Sudan last male northern white rhino

Remembering Rhinos founder Margot Raggett and Ambassador Dan Richardson with Sudan, the last male northern white rhino

Helping Rhinos stated “His condition worsened significantly in the last 24 hours; he was unable to stand up and seemed to be suffering a great deal. The veterinary team from the Dvůr Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta and Kenya Wildlife Service made the decision to euthanize him.

The Northern White Rhino is a sub species that we have literally witnessed the extinction of. Sudan was one of only three known northern white rhinos left in the world; the remaining two females are his daughter, Najin and granddaughter, Fatu.

Photographic portraits of the last three northern white rhinos.

Photographic portraits of the last three northern white rhinos.

I spoke to Simon Jones, Helping Rhinos, CEO who said: “Losing Sudan is of course tragic, not so much for Sudan himself, he was an old man and had lived a good life, but his death represents the loss of the last male of an iconic species. It is humans that have caused such a demise of the northern white rhinos, and it is humans that can ensure we create a legacy that Sudan would be proud of. Let us make sure this is the last time we bid farewell to the last of a species”

With this sad news, we must remember that he had a death denied to so many rhinos — at the age of 45, he died of old age. Safe and dignified.

He did not have his horn hacked from his face.

He did not die in a pool of his own blood, butchered by poachers for a lump of keratin.

He was old and loved and noticed.

Let’s make a future where all rhinos count.

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Learn more about rhinos and the horn trade

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In loving memory of a loyal friend.

So, I’ve thought long and hard about whether to share this — a very intimate moment in my life — but ultimately, I feel I can make good of it, with your help…

Last Sunday I said goodbye to our family dog. Leaving my parents house after a Mother’s Day visit, I knew the next time I visited home he would be gone. At 16 and half years old he was beginning to suffer and the obvious choice was for him to put to sleep.

Kate on Conservation with dog, Chaz

What could have been a more fitting day than Mother’s Day, to bid farewell to my first baby?

During those 16 years he’d shared so many of my adventures and milestones — from my first year of high school to my first year of motherhood — and although we lived apart in his final years (as I moved to London and he stayed in his comfortable home with my parents), I cherished the evenings back home where he would rest on my lap in front of the TV, or sleep on my bed at night.

Kate on Conservation with dog, Chaz as a puppy

The day we bought our boy home, 21st November 2001 — I was 11 years old, and it seemed reasonable to suggest naming him after a character in The Rugrats!

Though I will miss his presence, I’m so glad that he had a long and happy life surrounded by love and family in a comfortable home.

Not all dogs are so lucky. Which is why I’m hoping to raise money in his memory for the brilliant charity Wetnose Animal Aid. Based in my home county of Norfolk, Wetnose Animal Aid help small shelters across the UK, including dog rescue centres.

I had the pleasure of meeting the Wetnose team, as they launched their annual Wetnose Day fundraiser last year, and they welcomed me like family. I really believe in what they do, and would love to use this as a chance to support them,

Andrea Gamby-Boulger at wetnose day

Wetnose Animal Aid founder Andrea Gamby-Boulger at Wetnose Day 2017 launch

I’ve opened up a JustGiving page in Chaz’s memory (https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/wetnose-for-chaz), to help with raising much needed funds.

If you have a spare pound, please consider a donation. I want to spread the love in my heart that my little dog has given me, and do something good with it.

I made the above video 11 years ago, and I never would have dreamed I would have still had that crazy little guy this long. We truly have been lucky!

So please don’t feel sad, and know that no sympathy is needed here. I had a good friend for a long time, and his life was filled with love and comfort and family. There are so many dogs who don’t have this, and those are the ones we should feel sad for.

Kate on Conservation with dog, Chaz on mothers day

Saying our goodbyes last Sunday

It was not a sad goodbye, the story in the photo is true. I said goodbye with a smile — because, hey, 16 is pretty good age for a dog — and I know he’s had a good life.

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Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Awards 2018: inspiring eco-warriors


Nothing is better for the soul than spending a few hours listening to children talking about the future they imagine and how they are working towards it. Last Friday’s Roots and Shoots Awards gave me the opportunity to do just that.

Portway School's display at Roots and shoots 2018

Portray Junior School at Roots and Shoots 2018

It was a privilege to attend this inspiring award ceremony for a second year, and to learn about the different projects that schoolchildren are working on across the UK to help care for people, wildlife and the environment — the three prongs on which the Roots and Shoots programme is built.

Rockwood School's display at Roots and Shoots 2018

Rockwood School’s display at Roots and Shoots 2018

Now present in over 100 schools across the globe, Roots & Shoots is a youth service programme for young people of all ages to foster respect and compassion for all living things; to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs and to inspire individuals to take action to make the world a better place for people, other animals, and the environment.

Held in the Barbican Centre in London, the event saw a packed out room teeming energy and inspiration. As the children showcased their schools’ green initiatives and the eco-friendly activities they’re orchestrating, it struck me just how passionate and switched on they are when it comes to making informed choices about their impact on the planet.

Harrow Way Community School with their display at Roots and Shoots 2018

Harrow Way Community School with their models of the school’s eco-friendly activities

From planting vegetable patches to recycling Lego sets, and from monitoring local air pollution levels to creating and sending care packages to dogs in Romania, the compassion showed by these young people was truly admirable.

This year, a new addition was included in the day’s programme of events; a ‘Trashion’ Show; for which clothing designs were made from recycled and up-cycled materials and packaging. Here are some of the superb entries!

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So much creative talent was displayed during the Ethical Fashion Show, and I could only admire the eye-catching styles and brilliant bravery of the entrants as they sashayed down the makeshift catwalk.

The day of course culminated in honouring this year’s Roots and Shoots Award winners, and the incredible effort they have all shown.

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I’d like to take a moment to give a special mention to Ella from James Allen’s Girls’ School for winning the Most Outstanding Photograph Award for her picture of rain water in a lotus flower, taken in Ubud, Bali.

The award was sponsored by National Geographic Kids magazine, and my colleague Alex was on hand to present her with her prize. We’re looking forward to welcoming Ella into the office when she becomes a Nat Geo reporter for the day!

Roots and Shoots Most Outstanding Photograph Award winner Ella. Award presented by Nat Geo Kids magazine.

Most Outstanding Photograph Award winner Ella from James Allen’s Girls’ School

A special well done also to:

  • Chloe Bonner, who won The Jane Goodall Award for Individual Endeavour
  • Children’s Hospital School who won the Most Outstanding Group Award
  • Harrow Way Community School, who won the prize for Most Outstanding Group in Touch With Nature.

There could be no better way to end such an inspiring event than to hear a few words from Dr Jane Goodall herself. First greeting us all in chimp language, she went on to excuse the absence of her beloved toy monkey, Mr H, who is this year 29 years old, has visited 63 countries and been touched by millions of hands across the world!

The original Mr H is currently in transit back to the UK from Borneo, but a similar design was on hand to help in his absence!

Jane Goodall speaks at Roots and Shoots Awards 2018

One of my favourite anecdotes from this year’s closing speech — and one I had never heard from Jane before — was about her favourite tree. The name Roots and Shoots was of course inspired by trees, which Jane described as ‘magical creatures’.

“My fave tree, Beech, is in Bournemouth where my sister lives,” she said. “He’s over 100 years old and I used to swing from his branches growing up.”

When you think of trees as the ultimate givers of life — providing energy, shelter and clean air to the world around them — it’s easy to see why Dr Jane would take such inspiration from them!

Kate on Conservation with Jane Goodall

Thank you once again for allowing me to be a part of this brilliant celebration of education, empowerment, environment, people and wildlife!

If you want to know more about Roots and Shoots and how your local school can get involved, please visit: www.rootsnshoots.org.uk

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Learn more about Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots

Learn more about Dr Jane Goodall

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Big Cat Hero: Meet Drew Abrahamson

Happy World Wildlife Day 2018! The theme for this year is ‘Big Cats‘; which encompasses the four largest wild cats — which are also the ones that roar — lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars. Often the term is extended, as is the case with World Wildlife Day, to include the cheetah, snow leopard and mountain lion, and sometimes even the clouded leopard and Sunda clouded leopard (pictured below).

Big Cats CITES

My personal theme of today is hope. To me, hope is key in conservation.

We must uphold the belief that the fight to protect our planet’s wildlife is one worth taking on. Fortunately, I’m lucky enough to encounter lots of incredible conservationists proving that their work is making a positive impact on troubled species. One such individual who is showing just how much one person can make a difference is Captured in Africa’s Drew Abrahamson. I decided to find out more…

Lion Rescue and Relocation Work

I was curious to learn more about Drew’s work with Captured In Africa Foundation  — who I spotlighted on a previous blog post. If you would like to know more about what they do and why, more info can be found here.

Drew Abrahamson

Name: Drew Abrahamson

Organisation: Captured in Africa Foundation

Job Title: Director & Founder Captured In Africa Foundation

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Favourite animal: Leopard. It’s strange I know, because I rescue and relocate lions, but they found me.

I first realised I wanted to work with big cats when: There wasn’t really a point of realisation, it happened so naturally and without any fanfare, that one day I found myself immersed in conservation and fighting for them.

I got into this field because: I strongly believe that everything you do in life that you are passionate about, is chosen before you are even born, and that you come to Earth to fulfil that purpose if you are lucky enough to.

As I mentioned before, leopards are my favourite animal so you would think I would be directly involved with them somehow — and although I have been contacted to help with leopard / farmer conflict — the main animal that I have ended up working with is lions.

What I’ve learnt along the way: I have learnt many things, so to pinpoint one specifically is difficult. The lessons and human emotion is definitely what stands out for me though. Dealing with rescues and relocations brings about so many different emotions on a daily basis across the spectrum and on opposite sides…from elation to despair.

It has taught me to fight and not give up, as that’s not an option. It has taught me how to work with people but sadly has shown me that not all people who claim to be friends are. I think I have become more humble and earthly doing what I do, always thinking of the animals before myself.

Most memorable rescue: There have been memorable moments with all the rescues I have done, wild as well as captive. The feeling you get when you see an animal that was in a compromise walking into an area where they will be safe forever, there is no way to explain that & my heart more often than not is on my sleeve.

I am a fierce fighter and believe that we should be fighting fiercely for our wild lion and the habitat they occupy, so if I am completely honest, the wild lions that I have relocated have been the most rewarding as they are still alive to contribute to the conservation of the species.

Drew Abrahamson speaking at event

Drew Abrahamson talks about the main issues affecting big cats. © Drew Abrahamson / www.capturedinafrica.com

Favourite people/organisations I’ve worked with: I work with amazing people in conservation but am very specific as to who, as they need to have the same moral compass and vision for where they see wild or captive lions and other wildlife to be in the future.

I think my favourite people I work with are Dereck & Beverly Joubert who are National Geographic Explorers In Residence and own their own lodges and properties throughout Africa under the brand Great Plains Conservation, they have their own foundation called Great Plains Foundation which is specific to Lion and Rhino.

Other organisations I work closely with are Four Paws International (Vier Pfoten) who own Lions Rock Lodge & Sanctuary in Bethlehem, Free State, South Africa — who are partners with Princess Alia Foundation in Jordan and have their own Sanctuary. Another is Born Free Foundation; we have collaborated on International issues and we often communicate via e-mail on certain situations regarding zoo or captive issues in Europe.

© Drew Abrahamson / www.capturedinafrica.com

Career highlight: I think it was one of the first rescues I had done. I started an online campaign to bring awareness to a situation regarding a white lioness called Nyanga, who was born & being kept at a zoo breeding farm in the Free State. Nyanga attacked a zoo employee who subsequently died.

The whole situation was due to human error, as the gate was left open at feeding time and she was going to be euthanised.

It was a 4 ½ month battle applying pressure to various authorities to grant her a second chance at life. We were successful and when I got word from the authorities I just burst out crying… I think that was mainly from pure exhaustion after many sleepless nights and stressful days!

Biggest challenge: It has to be trying to locate a safe reserve for wild lions as there are very few empty spaces left, especially in South Africa due to all the reserves being fenced.

Each fenced reserve has a certain carrying capacity and are on the constant lookout for a place to move their lions to or they have to cull. I think the longest time frame was about 1 year and 6 months to find two males a safe home.

Another is when lions break out of reserves and find themselves in compromise due to being in the middle of communities, most times manpower is limited and days or weeks later the lion has now killed livestock or has become a danger to community members, so hunters are called in to destroy the lion/s.

However, there is a solution as Carl from Pit-Track K9 Conservation and Captured In Africa Foundation have joined forces starting an initiative called K9’s For Big Cats, which uses dogs trained specifically to track and locate lions quickly, so we can relocate them back to the safety of the reserve or sanctuary they have managed to escape from.

captured in africa and k9 for conservation logo

Hopes for the future: I am eternal optimist and for me there is always hope, this is what I choose to focus on and don’t pay too much attention to negativity or walls placed in front of me. I can scale.

There are so many organisations and individuals from around the world who have banded together to fight for our wildlife and it is the most humbling and heartening thing to see — and experience. Children from different countries are doing school projects and presentations from as young as Grade 3 to bring awareness to their peers and parents, this is the beauty of education — which is vital.

It is a movement that is growing daily and this gives me hope — because the more people that stand up against atrocities, the stronger our chance of protecting our wild spaces and the animals within.

Drew Abrahamson wildlife photographs elephants

World Wildlife Day parting thought: I would love for people to set differences aside and start working together. We are all on the same mission, which is to do as much for whatever species we have chosen. At the end of the day, whether it is a lion or a pangolin, we need to have an important common goal — which is to protect habitat, because the biggest hindrance is habitat loss. This has a knock-on effect of human-wildlife conflict. I believe people should start focusing on dropping egos for the benefit of our wildlife or we are in serious trouble.

For more information about Captured in Africa and their latest news, visit their website here.

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