It’s with some sadness, and admittedly, a degree of surprise that I will be leaving Sydney after five years here in just a couple of weeks, bound for yet another place that I never imagined I would live – Singapore. It’s funny how life takes surprising turns and opens up all sorts of opportunities that you didn’t see coming. In my experience, even when you have low expectations new places usually turn out to have their own sources of inspiration. Back in 2007, after a decade in the bush in Africa, I didn’t think I’d survive my first few months in Sydney when I moved here to take up a job with WWF. In those days, high rises and traffic were completely foreign to me and I was much more comfortable in the company of a dung beetle in the middle of the desert. But there you go, five years later, it’s been a really good thing to live here and I’m moving on with a husband, a gorgeous little 2 year old boy, and much more conservation experience under my belt. We’ll be leaving some wonderful friends and family behind and will miss having them in our daily lives.
We are moving to Singapore because my husband Andy’s team, Earth Hour global is moving there. And I’m sure, with all the amazing wildlife on Singapore’s doorstep, like in Borneo, where pygmy elephants and rhinos and orang-utans are struggling to survive the massive habitat loss, poaching and human-wildlife conflict, there will be no shortage of challenges in this new stage of our lives. I’m looking forward to understanding a bit more about the demand side of the wildlife trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn, because Asia is the heartland of that, fueling the poaching in Africa.
I’ll continue to run the communications side of Animal Works from Singapore, while Nafisa keeps working on her art for wildlife and Meli keeps our Indian elephant adoption program going, both in Sydney. So stick with us as we’re not going anywhere and I think this move will just expand Animal Works’ reach into another part of the world. Animal Works now has several projects in the developing world that we support, from the CWRC and its rehabilitation of baby elephants in India to the anti-poaching work in Zimbabwe and our emerging project on snow leopards in Nepal.
I’ll be back in Australia next year in April upon the release of my next book, which I’m working on at the moment. It’s about the joys and challenges of being a zoologist and a mum, when your work takes you to places like Africa and India. I hope you can make it to an event around the book launch in April/May 2013, bound to be as much fun as our two fantastic Imagine Africa dinners were at Ripples, Sydney this year.
In the meantime, I’m off to the Save Valley Conservancy, Zimbabwe in a couple of weeks on Animal Works’ first expedition. I’ll be checking out how their anti-poaching program is going in the fight against the criminal gangs who are putting the last of Africa’s rhinos under so much threat. This is where the almost $20,000 raised at our two Imagine Africa dinners this year will be going. In addition to that, I’m really looking forward to spending some time at Humani Primary School, where our small expedition will be doing some renovations with funds raised from the trip itself. Stay tuned for a video afterwards! We’re also taking over the last of the second hand laptops donated by you all, a total of 12 all up, and looking at building their first ever computer room.
Unfortunately, we needed 6 people to run a second Animal Works’ expedition to Zimbabwe this year in September and as we only had 4 this had to be cancelled. Frank Coates’ expedition to Kenya has also been postponed to June next year.
We are looking at running an Namibian Animal Works expedition next year in September, checking out some of my favourite places like Etosha National Park and Damaraland, so get in touch with me if you’re interested in that one. We are working with the Wildlife Trust of India to develop an Indian Animal Works expedition hopefully by 2013/14, including places like the magnificent Kaziranga National Park and visiting some of the Wildlife Trust’s conservation projects, like the CWRC. If you are thinking of going to Africa or India, please keep the Animal Works’ expeditions in mind as they are not only amazing trips but also help to give back to local communities and conservation.
Stay in touch everyone!