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Reflecting on a gentle nature

Lately, I have found myself in a reflective state of mind. Reflecting on my work, my goals, the small successes of the campaigns I’ve joined (Sea World agreeing to end the breeding of its captive whales); the near misses (the slow progress of the UK government in deciding whether to close the domestic trade in ivory); and the complete misses (never getting to see Tilikum free of his Sea World enclosure, CITES not delivering lions with Appendix I protection, etc.).

I suppose it can weigh heavy.

In need of a little pick-me-up, my thoughts went to the beginning —in fact, before the beginning —to the chain of events which began the ripple that would eventually flow into the creation of this sea of words; articles; posts.

It begins with the memory of murdered photographer Julie Ward, whose book, ‘A Gentle Nature’, I won in a raffle many years ago.

Below is a vlog I made a few years back, explaining who Julie Ward is and a little bit about her tragic story.

 

This is the book mentioned, which captured my interest in the Born Free Foundation and wildlife photography and was one of the inspiring factors which made me travel to South Africa to volunteer.

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I had chosen to volunteer at Shamwari Game Reserve because it is home to two Born Free Foundation sanctuaries for rescued big cats, and one of these rescue centres was opened in Julie Ward’s memory.

Shamwari friends with Kate

Celebrating a job well done with my fellow Shamwari volunteers at the Born Free Foundation”s Julie Ward Education Centre.

Since that vlog was filmed, a further development arose in the Julie Ward murder case, where new DNA evidence brought detectives a step closer to finding her killers.

The following video shows a news report from BBC News in the East of England. I must apologise for the quality of the video and give pre-warning that to get the most from the video, it will require viewers to turn the volume to full. It was recorded on simple digital camera by my ever-supportive parents, and emailed to me during my year in Australia, so that I could watch it online from overseas.

 

Back in 2013 I even designed my own mini Go Go Gorilla to send out to Born Free‘s Julie Ward Education Centre at Shamwari.

The basic elements of my design were my Shamwari work t’shirt from my time as a volunteer there, the Born Free Foundation logo, and an image of Julie ward herself. Such were the reaches of their influence.

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It’s wonderful to reflect on my own locality, and how where I grew up ultimately had an influence on ‘how’ I grew up. There are so many wonderful figures who have inspired my path into gentle nature and compassion conservation.

Those that I’ve followed throughout my life are: the late Joy Adamson (writer of the Born Free autobiographical tale of Elsa the lioness, and its sequels) and George Adamson (Joy’s husband, who had a lifetime of incredible conservation work in his own right, rehabilitating captive lions, such as Boy and Christian back into the wild) and the late Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna (who founded the Born Free Foundation with their son Will Travers, and whom played the roles of Joy and George Adamson in the Born Free movie).

I would also, like many people, have to cite David Attenborough in my list of conservation heroes whose footprints I would love to walk in. I am so grateful that, in blogging, I have found a way to honour those idols and to continue to grow in the shared goals; in all their triumphs, near misses, and total knock-outs.

 

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UK Blog Awards 2016 — Kate on Conservation, Highly Commended!

Energy. Energy was flowing (even more so than the free Prosecco) as some of the best storytellers, communicators and leaders of trends gathered together in Westminster for the UK Blog Awards 2016 on Friday.

The UK Blog Awards provide a unique opportunity for individuals to be recognised for their social media achievements through blogging; they provide recognition with a chance to network and be inspired by other industry bloggers, as well as connect with new audiences.

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What a surreal honour it was to find myself among such a high calibre of writers — not to attend lecture or panel talk, as I often do, to hear the words of those more wise and worldly thank myself — but as an equal; myself a Finalist in this prestigious competition.

This year’s Finals were particularly special, as the UK Blog Awards introduced a new section, expanding beyond its fashion, beauty, lifestyle, marketing and PR norms to include Green & Eco (under which conservation falls), so even this in itself feels like positive progression in my eyes.

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For me, this was the most important part of the evening — that so many important issues had the opportunity to be showcased. There were so many fantastic and meaningful blogs to discover!

I’m an avid follower of blogger Wildlife Kate, who blogs about her Staffordshire garden and the wildlife that visits there, so I was honoured to find myself in the Finalist list alongside her. Kate also keeps a blog for Michael Drayton Junior School about using wildlife to learn, which was Highly Commended in the Education Category! Well done Kate!

Meeting fellow blogger Wildlife Kate

Meeting fellow blogger Wildlife Kate

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My aim has never been to be a ‘blogger’, the goal when I started this was to be a campaigner and educator, spreading the word on things I felt weren’t receiving the coverage they should have been, and to inspire younger people to take an interest in the need for conservation.

By admitting my own misconceptions and ignorance at times (I’ve visited SeaWorld, petted a lion, seen elephants perform in Indonesia…), I have hopefully struck a different note, a passive voice who speaks from experience, but has now become knowledgeable enough to trust: and my blog follows that journey into knowledge and education.

I began my blogging as part of a university course, which required that I create four different types of post during the semester. I was asked, when I pitched my idea to the class, whether there would be enough to write about on the topic of conservation to fill the semester. Five years later, I continue to write regular updates on the site, have met some of my biggest idols and inspirations to discuss world-changing issues, and have done my best to spread the word on compassionate conservation; that is, to use cases and examples of individuals to promote a bigger conservation message.

Even so, the surprise that this one-time reluctant blogger felt when UK Blog Awards’ host for the evening, Kate Russell, announced I’d been Highly Commended by judges Miranda Johnson (Environmental Correspondent for The Economist) and Iain Patton (Founder and Director of Ethical Team) was tremendous! Especially to be recognised alongside the incredible work of Wildlife Gadget Man Jason Alexander, and category Winner: Make Wealth History!

Highly commended

What an honour! This truly is a one-woman site, with posts being constructed in my spare time around busy working hours. It’s entirely not for profit, no sponsors or advertising revenue, so to go so far in this competition sincerely means a lot to me, and gives a further purpose to all those hours dedicated to bringing important conservation and wildlife issues to light.

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Thank you so much to all those who voted for me in the earlier stages of this competition, and to all those who’ve enjoyed being on this journey with me —who’ve found information, comfort, or even challenge in some of the posts I’ve written (I try to blog from the heart, with honesty and integrity — I understand that people may not always agree with my views, and as with many issues and solutions, there are various schools of thought as to ‘best practice’ when it comes to conservation).

As humans though, it is our responsibility and indeed duty to maintain and protect our planet’s wildlife and its environment. It is our duty to sustain the areas of nature that we, as a species, have largely caused the decline and endangerment of. Although putting our efforts into conservation sadly cannot reverse the destruction that our planet has already undergone, we can however, preserve and repair that which we are left with.

Imagine a world where a lion’s roar can never be heard rumbling across the plains of Africa.

Imagine that those plains once filled with colourful birds, galloping antelope and chattering monkeys will one day lie quiet and desolate.

Imagine that the only way our children or grandchildren may see those animals is from pictures in a book. Only we can make the choice of whether we continue to have these beautiful animals in our world, or whether we will stand back and watch them disappear. I want my blog to become a source material for documenting all the positive ways we are making change, and to become a diary of the turning points in conservation during my lifetime.

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In the spirit of Elsa, Christian and Cecil

‘Animal activist’ is never a title I’ve given myself, but it’s one that’s been applied to me on a few occasions recently and suppose in many senses of the word, it’s true.

I never intended to caught up in the world of politics – governmental nor organisational, but I’m beginning to understand that the deeper you delve, the harder it is to bury your head in the sand.

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Saturday night I attended ‘An evening for the lions’ at St Pancras Church, held by the wonderful charity Lion Aid. The event was a mixture of music, poetry and celebrity speeches, interspersed with video messages from prominent conservation figures, including the likes of BBC Wildlife Magazine’s number 1 conservation hero; and star of the late producer; Bill Travers’ documentary series The World of Animal Behaviour: Dr Jane Goodall.

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Understandably the story of Cecil was a driving force of the evening; a vehicle for raising the issues of trophy hunting and canned lion hunting — practises that have long been happening, and equally long been protested against (I campaigned against this very issue in April this year) — and Cecil’s story provided a great introduction to rousing speeches from the likes of Game of Thrones star James Cosmo and Born Free Foundation’s very own Dominic Dyer; a regular voice in the ‘animal activism’ world.

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Cecil is, of course, not the first lion to capture the world’s imagination, but such individuals that play so wonderfully into the hands of ‘compassionate conservation’ approaches, like that adopted by Born Free Foundation (focussing on the individual cases to highlight population need) only come around once in a blue moon, and in a bittersweet way, they provide a brilliant means by which to help children understand some of the things that are happening in the world — something I am very proud to be a part of in my job.

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There are two other such individual lions who spring to mind for having captured the world’s imagination and driven the conservation message in ways most animal campaigners pray for: Elsa, of Born Free fame — her famous rehabilitation from hand-reared cub to Joy and George Adamson’s global beacon of hope that once-captive animals can learn how to be wild —and Christian, ‘the Harrods lion’; famous for his wild reunion with former owners Ace Bourke and John Rendall.

Four and a half decades later, the moment captured by Born Free actor — and Born Free Foundation co-founder, Bill Travers, for his documentary: Christian: The Lion at World’s End, went viral on social media.

Having met John Rendall at Pride in the Park last year, it was fantastic to see him again at the inspiring Lion Aid event last weekend, for which he shared memories of his time with Christian and the formidable force that was George Adamson’s life and spirit.

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Hearing the heartfelt calls for action, teamed with the beautiful ‘Draw out the lion in you’ artwork on display, created by children and the odd celebrity, I found myself reconnecting with the roots of why conservation is so important to me, and forgetting all the about the ‘politics’ of animal activisim.

I’ve really enjoyed exploring the link between a love for wildlife and creating ‘animal art’ recently, having visited a long admired artist, Pollyanna Pickering’s, Summer exhibition earlier in the year and holding my own World of Wildlife exhibition in July, which contained artwork created over the last 10 years (pictured below).

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Going back to these roots and thinking about spreading conservation messages creatively, rather than politically, has been an exciting experience and one that definitely seems to inspire me.

Entries to the children's art competition, held as part of my exhibition

One of the young visitors to my exhibition last month, submitted a wonderful ‘zentangle’ lion drawing (shown above) to the 10 – 16 year old category art competition, judged by Will Travers. Following the exhibition she also created a zentangle re-imaging of the Born Free logo.

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Katie Parfett’s work and new interest in Born Free Foundation really touched me, and I decided to do an ‘artwork exchange’; sending her one of my original drawings in exchange for permission to hang copies of her (featured) pieces in my house; as my way of celebrating World Lion Day.

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The satisfaction of such a pure way of exchanging interests; away from internet logins and NGO (non-governmental organisations) disputes, has also seen me return to a former project I worked on in my mid-teens — a Big Cat study inspired by BBC’s Big Cat Week that turned from a simple after school project into a 200-odd page study complete with hand-drawn diagrams and eagerly collected photography and illustrations.

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Inevitably, with about five-planned pages to go, my GCSEs took over and the project got shelved. Ten years later, I feel both compelled (thanks to Lion Aid’s evening for lions) and inspired (thanks to a renewed interest in artwork) to finally finish it. And if the politics of being an ‘animal activist’ become distracting, I can always turn to the words of Virginia Mckenna in her autobiography, The Life in My Years:

“I have a second family, many of whom I have travelled with the past quarter of a century. My Born Free family. Elsa, the lioness, is the true mother of this family. We are her children, her descendents, her messengers, carrying her story and her spirit with us into people’s minds and hearts. Or trying to. Some people welcome us. Some are confused. Others stare, uncomprehending. Others show their contempt. Or laugh. It is of no consequence.”

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‘Wild Neighbours’ with Sir David Attenborough and Gordon Buchanan

In hushed awe, the crowd at the Rose Theatre in Kingston listened attentively as Sir David Attenborough, legendary TV naturalist, led the way at the Environment Trust for Richmond’s annual lecture.

Titled ‘Wild Neighbours’, the event examined what happens when animals living wild in the UK collide head first with busy, urban environments. IMG_8398Sir David examined the issue of non-native species being introduced… and flourishing… on our shores (such as the now firmly established Canadian goose, the green parakeet and grey squirrel) and how they can impact the native species that claimed the land first. IMG_8401I was surprised to learn the long-accepted wives’ tale that red squirrels and grey squirrels are competing for food, is in fact incorrect. Instead, the red squirrel actually faces bigger threat from the pine martin (incidentally a nemesis of its grey counterpart, too) than the grey squirrel.

Often what happens when a non-native species is introduced to Britain (nearly always by the deliberate decision of humans) is that when its numbers climb too high, we take it upon ourselves to ‘control population’… through culling.

This is a fate that the afore mentioned green parakeet has faced on more than one occasion. When pressed, Attenborough conceded that he actually welcomes the parakeet to the UK.

Next to take the stand was renowned wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan.

Through real life anecdotes and humorous videos, Gordon relayed the plight of the urban fox. IMG_8409 As well as talking the audience through the life cycle of a fox (born in March; first emerges from the den in April; weaned in May; leaves den in June; before being kicked out of the family unit in November), Buchanan spoke of why they find themselves living amongst our cities and towns: we ate into their habitat after WWII.

The two admissions that intrigued me most from Gordon, however, were slight tangents from his talk about foxes; his opinions on reintroduction and intervention. IMG_8412 These two concepts seem to leave the nature world divided as to just how much we should ‘interfere’.

Given that people pay no mind to introducing non-native species to the UK, such as the parakeet (and then culling them for crisis control purposes), or taking away habitats, such as that of the fox; it intrigues me that whether or not we should reintroduce lynx and wolves to Scotland sparks such discussion (though for the record, it didn’t spark to much discussion at all from Gordon himself, who quickly declared himself as believing it will ‘pay off economically’).

The area that Buchanan did seem to struggle with having a definitive opinion on, however, was whether or not a wildlife filmmaker should ‘just let nature take its course’.

I’m sure we’ve all seen those heart-wrenching moments on BBC wildlife series’ where an animal becomes separated from its family unit and is left stranded/lost/alone with no food and no hope for survival – and have shouted at the screen: “help him! Why can’t you help him?!”

But when should a filmmaker intervene?

“I used to think; never” Gordon admits, ‘but over time my view has changed and softened a bit.”

“Now I think it sometimes can be ok. If you’re looking at something that is a direct results of humans (such as the clip he shows up of a fox cub with its head stuck in a Pringles can), I think it’s fine. I just wouldn’t go as far as stroking a wild animal, or treating it like a pet.”

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A lifelong love of animals

After a busy few weeks in the grips of Summer holidays and mid summer magazine deadlines, I’ve accidentally found myself re-visiting where my passions and influences stemmed from.

I’ve been looking over old work and ways in which I’ve incorporated my passion for conservation into my passion for media communication, which I’ve found myself doing for the purpose of organising a series of photos that I hope depict the nature of zoos. It’s been a fascinating experience of reflecting, and I’ve come to the conclusion that when you’re an ambitious person, you can become so focused on making steps forward that you can forget to take a look back once in a while , to remember how far you’ve come and why…

Cheetah Conservation

I think the seeds of my ambition were sown when I was around the age of 14. Somehow ideas of being a journalist (or as I quite arrogantly like to position myself; an educational story teller) had entered my head at a very young age – perhaps from the days where my nan had taken me down to her local newsagent-cum-grocers just down the road from her front door, handed me a couple of coins and told me I could pick any one of the “comics” to take home.

I’d stand for ages, fussed over by the gentle old couple that ran the little independent store; just staring at all the colourful glossy pages until the two pound coins in my palm were warm by the time the decision was made and I finally handed them over. I usually opted for a Disney-owned children’s magazine called Big Time, in case you were wondering.

But it was at the age of 14 that the first of my own articles was published. I rushed into WHSmith the same morning that the magazine hit the shelves, only a humble regional magazine, but a magazine that I could open up and feel the buzz of seeing my own name, nonetheless. And the article topic? A local wildlife park.

A featured photograph of a serval critiqued in Photography Monthly magazine followed, and I was hooked.

To add to this, I’ve also recently unearthed my old A-Level photography project – based on the concept of freedom. I think exploring the thought processes of my 17 year old self, just months away from making my well-planned trip to Shamwari is teaching me that my passions, interests and ambitions have long been mixed and entwined, and – hopefully – long will they be.

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I’m sure there will be more to follow on this musing – there’s probably some great purpose for re-connecting with this thought, and may some divine intervention will come along to prove that, but in the mean time – here’s that series of photos I mentioned:

Through Captive Eyes.

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Don’t Go Go Gorilla – Stay!!

So, I’ve been caught up the last few months with finishing uni with a 1st (hoorah!), publishing my last issue of BlueMoon magazine and blogging and interning for several places while I job-hunt (I even blogged about VIP holidays at Shamwari!). So, breaking the cardinal rule of blogging – I dropped the ball a little while with posting on here regularly. But as I’d followed the progress of the Go Go Gorillas in Norwich from the start (see HERE), I figured that when I’d made my way around all 53 sculptures and 60 mini sculptures (painted by local schools) I would put a summary blog post up – that was until I heard the news today via the BBC Norfolk website that one of my favourite gorillas is being removed as the design of his jacket infringes copyright!

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Freddie ‘Radio Go Go’ Gorilla caught up in a law suit – standing outside The Forum, Norwich last week.

I am so saddened to hear that the Mercury Phoenix Trust has asked for this sculpture to be removed! I bought you a blog post in August last year detailing how the Mercury Phoenix Trust had benefited (alongside Born Free Foundation) on the sale of Freddie the Lion, one of the Pride of Cape Town lions that had toured London during Olympic season last summer. Freddie the lion was also decorated with Freddie Mercury’s yellow jacket, which is the centre of the row, and proved to be one of the more popular designs. The difference? The Mercury Phoenix Foundation commissioned (and benefited financially) from Freddie.

Freddie the lion, courtesy of Born Free Foundation's Facebook page.

Freddie the lion, courtesy of Born Free Foundation’s Facebook page.

I understand that every charity wants to make money – but denying a charity you previously worked in collaboration with? And whose initiative saw you receive a sizeable donation at auction last year? Seems pretty crumby to me. It also leaves me worried about the implications this may have on the other gorilla designs – such as ‘Iron Ape’ and my favourite ‘Optimus Primate’: will these have to be changed now? At the very least, I have the suspicion that the creativity of the next Born Free Foundation (remember we previously had Go Elephants?) will be severely hampered by the actions of the Mercury Phoneix Trust this year.

With my favourite Go Go Gorilla - Optimus Primate

With my favourite Go Go Gorilla – Optimus Primate

One of the things that upsets me most about today’s revelations is the undeserving negative publicity it gives the city of Norwich. As a supporter of Born Free Foundation (and big cat ‘adopter’) since 1996, back in the days when Born Free’s first lions Raffi and Anthea resided in the (now closed) Born Free sanctuary in Kent, I have always been proud that my local city has connections with the charity. Norwich has so successfully hosted the  Go Elephants campaign, and is a brilliant supporter of artists local and far afield – which as an artist myself means a lot. Even just recently I visited the Artique Gallery in the Royal Arcade to see wildlife art by TV great Rolf Harris.

Rolf Harris' wildlife art exhibition in Norwich

Rolf Harris’ wildlife art exhibition in Norwich

During the last Born Free campaign in the city, I spent the latter part of those 3 months in South Africa, volunteering at the Born Free Sanctuary at Shamwari. I was posted out news cuttings from the local papers of the Archant News Group (who were nothing but supportive of my self-funded volunteer project) to keep abreast of the Go Elephants news and followed with great interest the journey of one of the sculptures as it travelled from Norwich to Africa, then back again. Although sadly it never reached the Julie Ward sanctuary where I was based (there’s a whole other tangent I could go on about Julie Ward – I won’t, but if you are interested read up HERE), the publicity about the elephant sculpture (and indeed Norwich) did reach us in the depths of South Africa’s Eastern Cape – just showing the importance of these ‘Wild in Art‘ sculptures.

Local Archant Newspaper - The Eastern Daily Press were supportive of my trip to Born Free Foundation's  sanctuary at Shamwari

Local Archant Newspaper – The Eastern Daily Press were supportive of my trip to Born Free Foundation’s sanctuary at Shamwari

So, if tainting the initiative’s reputation and indeed the hard work of the city of Norwich isn’t disappointing enough – I’d love to hear Queen guitarist Brian May’s take on this is. Brian May is a patron of the charity and just last year was part of an acoustic re-release of the song Born Free (which, you guessed it – I blogged about). Surely as a surviving member of Queen he can put his support behind our Radio Go Go Gorilla?

I took a little clip of local news BBC Look East’s news report when interviewing the artist commissioned to do the work. Funnily enough I toured the Look East studio last weekend on my day trip to see the Go Go Gorillas and chatted to BBC employees about how well received the gorilla sculptures had been by the public (Freddie ‘Radio Go Go’ Gorilla had stood just outside The Forum library and news centre entrance) and how they had brightened up the city.

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Here’s a little peak of the Go Go Gorilla’s I’ve managed to spot so far:

The local school’s Mini Gorillas I’ve found so far:

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What Happened to the Voice of Conservation…?

I started this blog on the 31st July 2011 after being inspired… or perhaps jealous… of the Voice of Conservation winners. For two consecutive years Shamwari Game Reserve, in partnership with Worldwide Experience, ran a competition offering a three-month trip to Shamwari Game Reserve on the Eastern Cape of South Africa to be the voice of their animals – and blog, Tweet, Facebook and video share to promote the message of conservation that Shamwari and the adjourning Born Free Foundation sanctuary so strongly believe in.

I loved reading the posts, responding to the Facebook questions and polls, and feeling as though I was still in touch with the Shamwari volunteer projects that I had loved so much when I’d taken my own gap year trip there in summer 2008. So it was with much sadness that the blog and the competition seemed to disappear last year – and from the lack of activity that I have seen this year, it looks as though it is not set to return.

As a blogger, an animal lover and a nostalgic fool, the forgotten and abandoned blogs on Worldwide Experience’s website are a sad sight. I’m sure there are plenty of gap year volunteer returners, previous Shamwari guests and curious web followers that, like me, want to know what’s happening back at our beloved Shamwari. What happened to the projects we worked on? Did they ever get rid of all those wire fences that were leftover from the farms? How big have our trees grown? Where do the student volunteers go to wind down now they aren’t staying at Madolas Retreat (we still reminisce about our nights at Louis’ Bar). Please bring back the Voice of Conservation!

It would really help us ‘Shamwari 2008-ers’ to re-capture our volunteer days at the next reunion – we may not even have to stoop so low as plastic elephants next time!

Shamwari Reunion

Edinburgh

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Shamwari Conservation Experience on Facebook

My own Shamwari Conservation Experience

Whilst Born Free Foundation and Shamwari Game Reserve have had their own Facebook pages for some time now (of which – of course – I am an avid follower of) it is only recently that Shamwari has launched a separate page for Shamwari Conservation Experience.

This new page is focused on giving updates solely on the conservation work of the volunteer projects at Shamwari, including those gap year projects similar to the one I undertook, as well as vet students and field guide training.

There is a chance for previous volunteers to share stories and memories on SCE’s wall, and to see how work has progressed through the regular posting of photos. It is also a useful way for prospective volunteers to see the kinds of things that Shamwari may have in store for them.

As it is a relatively new page, they are hoping to generate more ‘likes’ and interest by offering the chance to win safari clothes and a coffee table book ‘Beat About the Bush’ by entering the first 500 people to like the page into a prize draw.

Prizes to be won. Image from Shamwari Conservation Experience’s Facebook page

I’m interested to see where this page may go, and how it is going to be different from the existing Shamwari Game Reserve page. Watch this space…

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=pu.167943096625275&type=1#!/ShamwariCNSVXP

image from: Shamwari Conservation Experience on Facebook

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Conservation vs. Tourism

Tourism.

This is where my mind has wandered to this week. Now, it’s a big debate as to whether tourism helps or hinders wildlife conservation and whilst there’s no doubting that tourism sparks interest in causes, and allows for the education of the masses, it is also evident that it can cause harm too.

The reason this is in the forefront of my mind is due to my recent East Coast of Australia travels; during which I not only volunteered with Conservation Volunteers Australia (C.V.A) , but also visited Australia Zoo in Queensland, formerly owned by the world-famous ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin.

Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin

Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin

Now, I grew up as a huge Steve Irwin fan – his shows taught me to appreciate not just the cute and fluffy animals of the world, but also showed the value and importance of the ‘uglier’ reptiles and amphibians. I suppose it was this interest he generated in the ‘lesser appreciated’ animals that was Steve’s greatest contribution to the world of conservation. Although I probably should put a mention of his croc research projects in somewhere at this point.

Croc School - Steve Irwin

Croc School

I’d never previously doubted his love and passion for conservation and his ‘Wildlife Warrior’ status and even conservation pioneer David Attenborough said; “Steve Irwin spent a lot of his time and money in nature protection and calling people’s attentions to the danger the natural world is in, so all credit to him.” Adding; “He did it in a way that I wouldn’t do it, in fact he did it in a way that I couldn’t do it.”

However, whilst working with C.V.A Queensland the topic of Australia Zoo came up in casual conservation, and the opinion expressed was one that the zoo is “keeping Queensland in the conservation dark ages.”

Some of the C.V.A staff mentioned for example the fact that you can hold a koala there to have your photo taken with it (which I had done a few days previously) – except it turns out this is illegal over the rest of Australia due to the way it disturbs the koala (I wouldn’t have done this if I’d have known the harm it causes).

Holding koalas can be upsetting and disruptive for them

Holding koalas can be upsetting and disruptive for them

Also, heavily criticized was the way that Steve Irwin always handled and disrupted wild animals – as it is felt that he could be seen to be encouraging others to do this. It is also argued that the concept of the Crocoseum crocodile show reflects how commercial the zoo has become. Now, as a Steve Irwin fan, it was hard for me to admit this, but I do see their point. And of course this battle of tourism vs. conservation is one that takes place the world over.

Australia Zoo's famous 'croc show'

Australia Zoo’s famous ‘croc show’

At Shamwari there is absolutely no option of guests handling the animals. As a volunteer I was able to get a bit closer to the wild than your regular guest due to helping out the vet and working at the breeding centre. However, any other ‘animal encounters’ occurred at nearby establishments, such as Addo Elephant Park, Daniel Cheetah Breeding Centre and Tenikwa Cat Sanctuary.

Helping the vet at Shamwari

Helping the vet at Shamwari

Cheetah walking at Tenikwa Sanctuary

Cheetah walking at Tenikwa Big Cat Sanctuary

Were these experiences ethical? Do we need to get close to animals to appreciate and understand them? Was conservation’s most famous Wildlife Warrior overshadowed by the need for his zoo to make profit? Over to you…

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The Julie Ward Case

For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently living in Australia as part of a study abroad year for my degree, so English news is not always readily available. Luckily my family back in the UK have been keeping me informed of all the important things, and I discovered today that there has been new development in the Julie Ward case (see my earlier blog post for more info ).

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image from telegraph.co.uk

The case has apparently been re-opened with the discovery of new DNA evidence perhaps bringing detectives a step closer to finding her killers.

The following video shows a news report from BBC News in the East of England, I must apologise for the quality of the video and give pre-warning that to get the most from the video it will require watchers to turn the volume to full. It has been recorded on simple digital camera so that I could watch it online from overseas.