Since before my career change into the world of animal care, I have always admired and been a little obsessed with people who spend their time caring for, working with and generally promoting the welfare of animals. So when I found out that Saba Douglas-Hamilton was doing a speaking tour I knew I wanted to listen.
Saba was born in Kenya. At just 6 weeks old she met her first wild animal, an elephant named Virgo, who was one of the elephants that her zoologist father, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, was studying. An elephant that Saba spoke of very fondly during her talk.
With this start in life, understandably Saba embarked upon a career in conservation. This included working for her father’s charity Save the Elephants and appearing in many wildlife documentaries. I first began following Saba on instagram after watching her documentary This Wild Life. The BBC show was a behind-the-scenes look at her raising her family in the bush alongside her husband Frank, whilst running a luxury safari camp. The camp, aptly named Elephant Watch Camp, which is in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve and was started by her mother Oria.
In the Footsteps of Elephants
We had tickets for the Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall date and were incredibly lucky that Saba had brought two of her Samburu warrior friends along. Although Bernard and Kennedy didn’t speak on stage, they were happy to chat to the audience and take pictures afterwards.
The talk was a mixture of Saba’s personal stories, such as when she was bitten by a venomous carpet viper. Plus discussing the plight of the elephant and how Save the Elephants have helped to defend them. Knowing that elephants are endangered, some of the sad realities told did not come as a surprise to me.
However, I did enjoy Saba’s telling of how the charity have worked with Yao Ming, a famous Chinese basketball player. Yao Ming became an ambassador for elephant conservation to help combat China’s thirst for ivory products. And his publicity helped!
She also talked about elephants and their conflict with the local farmers in Kenya, with the elephants destroying the farmer’s crops and livelihood. They worked together with the local people to ensure that the elephants couldn’t access the crops. Alternatively, the farmers made their livelihood from crops that the elephants did not want to eat, such as cotton.
All in all, the talk was very inspiring and uplifting. I felt glad that there are people like Saba and the Samburu warriors out there whose mission is to protect these magnificent animals. Of course, Elephant Watch Camp is firmly on my bucket list. What an absolute dream it would be to visit there one day!