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As part of our new series ‘wildlife Wednesdays,’ we’re speaking to travellers from all over the world about their experiences with ethical animal encounters.

We kick off our first one with Angie, whose work we have been following closely through her Instagram and blog ‘boots on the ground’. Angie spends her days working closely with the anti-poaching teams in Africa to help try and prevent some of the precious wildlife over there. Through her photos and videos Angie wants to help raise awareness and hopes that maybe one day, we’ll see poaching come to an end.

We wanted to find out more about her work, what drove her to move to the other side of the world to do it and importantly; How can travellers help support African wildlife conservation. Here’s what she had to say;

I find the work you do very inspiring, as do many of your followers, but what was it that inspired you to change your life and do what you do now?

I always had my foot into conservation- I started out with locally supporting whale and dolphin research every summer by joining a team in Italy, working with sperm whales and different dolphin species, while patrolling the protected area. I am still passionate about these stunning animals but once I set foot into Africa, met some of the amazing people, who are involved in conservation as well as anti-poaching here, I really wanted to help. My friend Clare and I started a photography trip and ended up filming at a private reserve for their rhino foundation.
From there we were invited to join an Anti Poaching course. After that, I stayed, travelled South Africa for a while and ended up flying back to Europe for a break and gathering ideas as I wanted to REALLY do something worthwhile. In January 2016 we started shooting a self-funded documentary, with my amazing photography friends supporting me. The movie took us throughout Africa including the war zone of Mali. We had the honour to spend time with Sudan, patrolled with rangers in Zimbabwe and South Africa, got an insight into conservation in Kenya met the orphans and vets as well as the four paws on the ground that sniff out poachers.
It was also the year I met my now husband, probably filming the worst interview in history because I was busy falling in love with his smile… This journey inspired me to start the non-profit we are running now as I wanted to continue with the support. We are still start up but we have three projects we are supporting as we know them personally.

You moved across the world to do what you love. What advice would you give to someone who’s perhaps struggling to do the same?

Everything you want is on the other side of fear – that’s really, really true. Keep foot at home, make sure you still have somewhere to return to as you never know where the journey will take you. I still have one foot in Europe as Africa is not the most stable place and it is always good to fly back and recharge, away from everything. Don’t start out full- time. Make sure it is for you. Start out volunteering. Study what interests you. And leave fear behind. You don’t want to ask what if but you want to have a story to tell.

Fighting against poaching and seeing how it disrupts the animal kingdom must be hard, what gets you through a rough day?

I am not sure, we will win this war. But knowing that we tried everything within our power and ability carries us through. When I see a carcass I keep detached. Otherwise, it WILL destroy you. I just lost another rhino I knew and just kept myself busy by being an ear for my friend. I also used that rhino, Bella, to raise awareness of what is happening and how heartbreaking it is for the people who guard these animals.

Do you think tourism to Africa, and ultimately more education, could lead to the end of poaching? What else could we, as humans, be doing?

Unfortunately, the South African government is not grasping the importance of wildlife for tourism. What’s needed in these parts of the world is definitely education, not free food and free clothes- but education, schools, books, teachers. And jobs. Poverty is certainly the number 1 reason poaching is happening. Poaching is fast money. Lots of easy money. The thought process of some communities does not encompass the fact that loss of wildlife eventually will mean a loss of jobs (game rangers, lodge personel, guides etc). Unless the government comes to the party, we will only be able to do so much.
Ultimately tourism does support efforts, but the pressure from embassies and other government has to be turned up for South Africa to start waking up. People can support some amazing projects and visit parts of Africa where conservation has taken over a big part of life- Rwanda is one example. Kenya another. There are some really nice projects like Daktari, close to Kruger: Volunteers are educating grade 8 kids, teaching them respecting life and nature. www.daktaribushschool.org Raabia Hawa in Kenya is a stunning personality involved in saving elephants- every year she is organizing “walking with rangers” and it gives a full insight into the frontline work. Not cheap as money will go into supporting these rangers, but well worth it.
The horse project we support in conjunction with the Horse Safari Company is helping with keeping a presence on two reserves and making it more difficult for poachers to cross into Big 5 areas as well as meat poach on said reserves (giraffe, antelope for example). We are working with a wildlife research project that keeps on monitoring rhinos and works with endangered species on a reserve on the garden route. These are some of the ways to support the efforts on the ground.

For anyone looking to visit Africa for its wildlife, what advice do you have? What’s the best way to ensure they are having a truly ethical experience?

Go on Safari. Best and most ethical way. Don’t go during high season. Join a camp in Botswana. Do a self-drive through Namibia and cross over into the Kalahari. Pure magic. Check out Kenya – see if you can’t pop into Mount Kenya Trust and go for a ride with their horse back rangers, stay a couple of nights in Ol Pejeta and do the Mara outside main seasons. Do the “Walk with Rangers” experience with Raabia. Rwanda/Uganda- The Gorillas. It’s ethical. Expensive. No stress on the primates whatsoever and keeps them valuable for the governments – best way to support. And stay in Rwanda- plastic free 😀 and sooo sooo safe. You can do a day trip to Uganda for the Gorillas. Check out the golden monkeys and Chimpanzees 😀 And pop into the Gorilla Doctors headquarters- they are always welcoming. Donate by buying a t-shirt or hat.

If you do decide to head over for an ethical wildlife experience, here’s post that will help you figure out what to pack for an African safari!

It’s often in the news that there are a few lion sanctuaries that sell their captive bred lions to canned hunting companies. Do you have any advice on how travellers can avoid a place?

There are no lion sanctuaries that breed- those are simple breeding farms.

Here is one sanctuary that is worthwhile visiting and one of two to three real places:
Lionsrock – the Four Paws sanctuary. It even has a lodge 🙂
Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary (including monkey land and birds of Eden) is another one, located on the garden route.
Do NOT do cub petting anywhere. Even if its advertised to be ethical.
Do NOT walk with lions. Anywhere.
Do NOT walk with a cheetah

After seeing your heartbreaking post about how reserves are now having to dehorn their Rhinos to help protect them, how do you think tourists can help spread the message that poaching needs to stop? How can travellers help support African wildlife conservation work that yo, and so many others do?

Just spread the word as to what is happening here in Southern Africa. Be interested. Flat out ask rangers in lodges about the poaching crises- you will see most still like to play happy land, confront them with it. They must also start raising awareness. The pressure needs to come from other countries and tourists who would like to see rhino in the next decade. By donating. By joining us on the ground and thus keeping projects going.
For example, I just raised funds for three rhino eye covers to help out with reducing stress during dehorning etc 🙂 The name of the donors will be stitched onto the masks. We are also supporting anti-poaching dogs and the Gorilla Doctors.
You can learn more about the causes Angie and her team support, here.

While you see a lot of heartbreaking things working amongst these beautiful animals, you must have seen some truly amazing things too… does anything particular stick in your mind?

I just love working with the rangers- photographing and filming them, walking through the bush, laying spoor for the dogs, stumbling into buffalo, rhino and the rare wild sable antelope while hiding. At night we would listen to lion roars and hyena calls while patrolling.
One of the most memorable adventures was working with amazing Dr Dave Cooper. You never know what happens when you would like to interview him – I ended up going on game capture – twice in a row. We were collaring elephant and trying to find rhino.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work?

The fun. The sweat. The adventures. The fact that I am able to give a voice to some amazing people.

For someone wanting to make a difference and perhaps do similar work to you, what would you say? What advice would you give?

That’s a tough one. Don’t force it. Do a lot of research as to who you ll support. Find a mentor.
That is something I did not have – I have been learning by doing and that is connecting with a lot of tears, ups and downs, disappointments but at the end it is still worth it – I am still on this particular journey actually – I just figured out who to trust and who not to, Thus I am more than happy to help anyone who needs a bit of support.

Do you know of any work schemes that you would recommend to readers looking to make a difference on their next break from reality?

– For the ones who would like to get an insight into wildlife research: contact me as I am still working on that one on the homepage – I’ll just connect you with Mandy and Arno.
– In Kenya: https://www.facebook.com/africarangers.org/ Or check out Ol Pejeta: https://www.olpejetaconservancy.org/about-us/our-team/volunteer-program/
I can recommend all this warmly. Our partners are a dream and will spoil you rotten while you are helping the efforts on the ground, Raabia who you will walk within Walking with Rangers is just an amazing personality and Ol Pejeta is a magical place where you will learn a lot about conservation and anti-poaching

If you want to keep up with Angie and the team, follow them on Instagram @bogphotography_ and don’t forget to check out their website for the latest updates in wildlife conservation.

Do you have a story you want to share? Send us an email on info@officertravels.com

Hey!Who are we?
We’re Dec + Leah! Welcome to our little slice of the inter-web where we’ll bring you stories straight from the road, plenty of wildlife photography and maybe even a little rant or two.
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