21 December 2017

Phoebe Odhiang, Education Officer -

There is a perception by the Kenyan public that Born Free Foundation can solve all problems. It may be a good thing as it could be an indicator of their confidence in us. Conversely, it may also be a pointer of groping in the dark or ignorance on their part. Or just a combination of several factors. Working with Born Free requires wearing many hats and hearts.

Every month, the administration desk receives emails, telephone enquiries and letters seeking assistance for one or the other, mainly humanitarian assistance, and it always starts with the phrase, “I was told you can help me with… paying school fees, providing water and sanitation, improve healthcare, alleviate hunger, rehabilitate habitats and or plan a holiday or safari….”

While perhaps we may wish to do all this, ultimately we have to work within the wildlife sector to meet our specific objectives and the organisational mission and opposed to being a jack of all trades. However, explaining this to people is an uphill task. One of our biggest challenge is breaking it down to the Kenyan audience that we can only consider a project if wildlife and animal protection is the core focus.

The upside to all these expectations is that we have learnt to prioritise what matters to the local communities we work with by considering their views and not imposing projects on them. It has helped us package our messaging on wildlife, the key role of communities and the mutual benefits to both stakeholders. 

Working with Born Free has also given us opportunities to explore the wild. We have visited more areas of the country than most of our peers, oft times gathering knowledge and gaining understanding and tolerance of cultures as we go.

The best part, however, is when you meet a community member who, without much persuasion, believes in and advocates for wildlife conservation.  Such is the scenario where we recently met an official of one of the group ranches in Amboseli and who lovingly described his cow as he would a beautiful woman – long lashes, captivating eyes, glowing skin, the works – and was vouching for the securing of the ecosystem for wildlife conservation and thereby pastoralism as opposed to the ongoing sub-division of the ranches for farming and other human activities. 

Our choice as Born Free Kenya team to speak for the animals – lions, elephants, rhino and all - has its place just as those who choose to advocate for good health, food security, clean water, amongst other goals for our society.  In all these, our numerous objectives and missions converge to a better world for all.


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