Raabia Hawa is a woman on a mission. She gave up a successful career in TV to work with rangers in the field in Kenya, and founded the Ulinzi Africa Foundation – East Africa’s first NGO to raise awareness of the challenges faced by rangers in their fight against poaching.
Her motivation is fuelled by the tragic death of an elephant called 60. “I never met 60, but I learnt about her in camp one night,” Raabia explains. “She never had a name, nor was it documented anywhere, but she fought so hard just to stay alive. She was mercilessly riddled with bullets until she fell. Poachers shot her 60 times, mostly in her chest area. After hearing her story, I vowed to never give up my fight against poaching for the sake of all the nameless elephants that roam my lands.”
Raabia now has more than 10 years’ experience in the field – a life that can be incredibly tough, but also immensely rewarding. Foot patrols will start around 8am and last all day, with the team “tracking, listening out for sounds of human activity, chopping or talking, and also taking in and identifying any out of the ordinary smells such as burning or rotting flesh”.
“Every day is different in the bush and we have adapted ourselves to expect the unexpected,” Raabia adds. “In a typical day, depending on the region, we can recover over 20 snares, and possibly rescue wildlife. The rewarding feeling of saving an animal from a poacher is immensely motivating for me, and is worth all the thorn bush scratches and lethargically hot sun.”
Born Free's President and Co-Founder, Will Travers OBE, says Raabia is an "extraordinary person".
"If you have any doubts that this seemingly fragile young lady is anything other than hard as nails, I can tell you she puts herself in some of the most remote, difficult and challenging environments because she cares," he adds. "She is one of my wildlife heroes."
Raabia is keen to pass her motivation on to the next generation of Kenyans. “In 20 years I hope that we will have fostered a new generation to think of wildlife in a different value system – and I believe we are getting there,” she says. “Young Kenyans do not see wildlife as a commodity and I hope that transcends globally where their intrinsic value and ecosystem services are cherished enough to push governments to do the right thing, and to develop and grow sustainably.”
And Raabia will never give up her own fight for elephants like 60, and for all wildlife. “I will continue to do all I can to foster and nurture a love for the wilderness and wildlife as long as I am able to.”