Sometimes life throws curve balls at you. Everything happens really fast and you’ve just got to work out how you’re going to catch that damn ball and not drop it. The last month or so has been like that for me. The ball is still in the air but I’ve almost caught it – I think! This blog is to let you know that I’ve decided to move on from Animal Works and leave it in the hands of the organisation’s co-founder Nafisa Naomi and the committee. It hasn’t been an easy decision, but let me explain…
June started for me with a week in Zimbabwe in the Save Valley Conservancy, learning about what’s been going on behind the scenes with the poaching there. More rhinos have been poached since I left there last month, including a white rhino mother, a devastating loss to the population. The challenge to these committed people on the ground in Zimbabwe’s conservancies is that they are up against so much, because rhino horn is worth so much money ($65,000/kg) and the anti-poaching game scouts are paid so little in comparison.
Experts from organisations like TRAFFIC will tell you that the wildlife trade is worth literally billions of dollars. The poaching of rhinos is done by ruthless gangs akin to a kind of mafia; these are not your average poachers killing animals for meat to feed poor families. And it’s feeding a growing demand for rhino horn in China and Vietnam, the horn being (falsely) purported to cure all sorts of ailments, from depression to arthritis, in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
How do you compete with that kind of demand, when rhino horn is worth $65,000/kilogram? How can you get enough guys on the ground to watch all the rhinos all the time and how do you stop them being corrupted when so much money is on offer? How on earth are we going to stop the black rhino going extinct in the next ten years when so many are being poached? Will the white rhino be the next species added to the Critically Endangered list? I left Zim feeling a bit overwhelmed by the poaching in the region, and also thinking it’s time to think more radically about how to solve this problem.
After Zimbabwe, I took some time out with the family. I spent three weeks traveling in the Indonesian archipelago with my husband Andy and our son, Solo. Hanging out with turtles and Komodo dragons in Flores was a real highlight and an awakening for me around how much precious wildlife is to be found in the ‘back of beyond’ parts of Asia.
Being completely off email and facebook for a few weeks also gave me some quality thinking time, and while I didn’t solve all the problems of the world, it certainly cleared my head for some big decisions to be made.
A huge part of the fight for Africa’s wildlife has to be fought in Asia, because this is where much of the demand for things like ivory and rhino horn comes from, the real cause of the poaching. Being based in Singapore for the next couple of years, I’ve decided to pursue conservation work for both African and Asian wildlife from here, which means handing over the running of Animal Works to the organisation’s co-founder, Nafisa Naomi and the committee, and ceasing my involvement from now on.
It’s been a great experience for the first three years of the organisation and to see it grow. We’ve achieved a lot in a short time, supporting great conservation projects in India and Africa. I’ve loved meeting lots of new friends who share my passion for wildlife and Africa. Thanks for your continuing support, and please keep in touch on facebook or by subscribing to my blog, where I’ll be posting all the updates on my conservation work and much more at http://www.tammiematson.com in future.
And hang in there for my next book, which will be released next year, which is all about those animals we all adore, elephants and rhinos, and what’s being done to protect them.