Party Time!

Back Home

I am now back in the UK, having been away in Africa for almost 5 months. It was amazing seeing my family again especially Jeff & Nicola my nephew and niece. Nothing like a Big Hug 😍 from them to Warm the Heart and Wet the eyes!

It’s bloomin’ Freezing ❄️ but a nice change from the intense heat of Africa, good to have the cool air on my burnt skin.

My Friend Cosmas! 

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Luckily my return coincided with the TUSK Award ceremony.  You may remember from my September Blog that Sue (my sister) nominated Cosmas Mumba for the 2015 Tusk Conservation Award in recognition of his extraordinary work in remote parts of the Zambian bush.  Cosmas has devoted the past 13 years to ZPP (Zambian Primate Project) and under his leadership over 500 yellow baboons and vervet monkeys, have been rescued from the most harrowing conditions and then given a second chance at life back in the wild.

It’s an extremely prestigious award and he was one of only 3 finalists in his category being Conservation in Africa!!  I was privileged enough to spend 3 months with Cosmas, shadowing the work he does and we became really good mates.

Sue hosted a surprise party for Cosmas at OAT HQ last Friday night and were so lucky to have many friends, supporters and prominent people in the conservation world. Guests included, Virginia McKenna founder of The Born Free Foundation, Cheryl & Manny Mvula founders of ZPP, Sport Beattie (CEO) and founder of Game Rangers International in Zambia and Melanie Shepherd of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

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The morning after the party!

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 Then…off to the Football!

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The Big Night!

Last night was the TUSK Awards ceremony, a black tie event at the Claridges Hotel in London. It was an amazing evening. Cosmas didn’t win the award in his category, but honestly, it felt almost irrelevant.  They are all winners and we are all so proud of Cosmas. He is a very special man indeed!

Below is a picture of Cosmas meeting Prince William at Kensington Palace,  in the afternoon before the big event.

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Event pictures!

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Stuck in the Mud!

Big Life – Chyulu:

Still in Kenya and moving on from Amboseli, we met the legendary Richard Bonham. Last year, at the TUSK awards, Richard received the prestigious Prince William award for conservation in recognition of his life time contribution to wildlife and the Massai Mara community in Kenya. He is the co founder of the Big Life Foundation. Check it out, probably the most impressive and diverse organisation I have come across so far.

Will Travers and I spent a day being shown the fantastic work of Big Life including Elephant, Rhino and Lion protection and human/wildlife conflict & community education.

Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary:

The next and final project we were planning to visit was Ngulia, a well established Rhino Sanctuary partly sponsored by Born Free,  located in the Tsavo West national Park.

Sadly… we didn’t make it!  The rains came, which is great news for Wildlife, but not for us!


Shortly after leaving camp at 8am, we got stuck in the mud and spent the next 10 hours in a swap digging and winching the BFF Land Rover from tree to tree in the rain, heat and sunshine. I ended up with cuts and bruises all over and thorns in both feet.

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Check out the video…

Richard Bonham of Big Life flew over at 11am, circled us and dipped his wing on a really low fly by to suggest he had seen us and possibly to suggest a direction we needed to go in to get out of the swamp. All guesswork at this point.  What we didn’t know at the time was that he had called for a rescue vehicle for us and we found out later that they also got stuck!!

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Anyway at 3pm we eventually gave up as the vehicle just wouldn’t budge any more. We abandon the Land Rover and began our walk to dry land, knee deep in mud with our bags…At 4pm Richard flew over us and dipped his wing again.  Which meant, I don’t know what……..?😜

To add to the drama we spotted three large Bull elephants en route. The biggest I’ve seen so far.

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Dry Land: 

We eventually found Massai Mara villagers who walked us to a hill to find mobile phone signal. We called KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) who eventually rescued us at 7pm.

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606 copyFinally we began a 3.5 hour, very bumpy journey, back to camp on the back of a truck with a Massai Mara warrior.  The Born Free vehicle was left in the swamp overnight and pulled out the following day by a tractor from a KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) base 50km away.

Although it was an exhausting experience and pretty scary at times we still managed to have a good laugh 😀😀👍👍

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Goobye Meru – Hello Amboseli

Currently in southern Kenya visiting more Born Free projects in and around the the Amboseli National Park. The park is located in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro and is home to 1,400 wild elephants!

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First stop was to visit the legendary Cynthia Moss. Cynthia is an American conservationist, wildlife researcher and writer, who specializes in African elephant family structure, life cycle, and behaviour. She is director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Kenya, where she has studied the same population of elephants for over 40 years. Cynthia is Program Director and Trustee for the Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE).

This amazing project has been supported by Born Free from inception. cynthia moss

Boma Village

Our next visit was to see one of the 215 lion proof bomas that Born Free have constructed. This is yet another initiative that addresses human wildlife conflict. The construction of these Boma “fences” enable Masai communities to protect themselves and their livestock from lions and other predators.  Many predators are hunted by avenging villagers when their livestock are killed. So, Bomas are mutually beneficial to both lion conservation and human preservation. Each Boma costs £1,400 and they have proved to be incredibly effective. So much so, that they are now in great demand and the Masai people themselves are becoming ambassadors and promoters of the project. Born Free also ensure buy in and ownership and communities now contribute financially and physically towards the build and maintenance of the Boma’s.   401 copy

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Unexpected Findings…

At one of the Masai villages we visited, the men had all left the village with their cattle to find food and water for them.  Whilst there we discovered 3 young cows that had been left behind by the men as they are too thin & too weak to make the journey. A fourth cow had already died and was being eaten by village dogs. 😱😰

Its so dry here, there is simply no food or water left for the young cows. Everyone very very desperate for the rains to start.  Two of the baby cows were lying flat on the ground completely ‘finished’ they didn’t even have the energy to open their eyes.386 copy

Will Travers and I were holding their heads in our laps trying to comfort them as we both agreed they were about to die any minute.

It’s at this moment the ‘Suzie Ma Twe Twe’ (my sister)  comes out in me and the ‘Virginia McKenna’ comes out in Will. We round up all the kids in the village and send them out looking for any green grass they can find… the kids all scatter on a grass finding mission and believe me there isn’t a lot of green stuff anywhere. We then get the village to load all there water bottles (20 litre) containers into the Born Free Land Rover and Martin from Born Free goes with some of the woman to find water whilst we comfort the cows.  😥😰😒😔😰😔😰.

The kids return with bits of grass and we start hand feeding the cows in our laps as they are so weak, we also had to break up the grass into small chunks as they had very little energy to chew.

The water then arrives so we are pouring water into their mouths. They both start to respond by eating and drinking but very slowly. We then round up everyone and carry one of the cows into the shade to get it out of the hot sun. After much love and attention and stroking their heads and faces, with the help of everyone get them to stand up.

They continue to eat and drink a little at a time. Then we start thinking ahead and ask someone where we can buy some quality hay so they can eat properly until the rains come. We are told the nearest hay is 100kms away but they have no money to buy it or means to transport it. After a few calls we manage to get a guy on a motorbike to agree to go ride 100kms each way and buy and collect 2 bales of hay. We left the 3 cows in the village now standing and looking a little better but they are by no means out of the dark. We followed up later to see how they were doing… two of them made it but sadly the little back one died.
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Animal Compassion 🐂🐐🐘🐕🐂🐐🐘

In my travels I have come across many wildlife issues but also issues relating to general animal welfare. This is something we, OAT, would like to address in the future, particularly on the education front. This wasn’t the original plan, but we feel if we can get people to be compassionate with their domestic animals then we may have a better chance of gaining their sympathy for wildlife. Also, happy healthy cows, goats, donkeys etc will mean better productivity for the owners.

Dogs 🐕🐕

Welfare of working dogs in conservation is something else we have stumbled on….watch this space on this subject! Sue is already planning to upgrade the facility of two working dogs we have come across within a Rhino Sanctuary!

The list in Africa is endless!!!!!!





Team OAT in full force – Kenya

I am now in Kenya and have spent the last week with my sister Sue  (Founder of OAT), her husband Jonathan and Will Travers, President of The Born Free Foundation.

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We spent a day at Born Free’s Kenyan office in Nairobi and then 5 days out in the Meru National Park with the Born Free Team on the ground and various members of KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service).

Needless to say Born Free are doing some amazing conservation work here, both in wildlife protection and other vital components of conservation such as community outreach and education. The following photos will give you an idea of the projects we visited and some of the “hands on” conservation work we were involved in. 

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The grave of Elsa, the Lioness from the Born Free Movie, featuring Virginia McKenna and her late husband Bill Travers who played the part of Joy & George Adamson (wildlife conservationists) in the 1960’s film.

George Adamson’s pool where George is said to have swam with the lions in the evenings… 

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Field Activities in Meru National Park-


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We found 5 snares within the Meru National Park during our 90 minutes of de-snaring activity!  These snares are set to trap animals for the illegal trade in bush meat. The snares are simple in design, metal wire usually taken from fencing, but unfortunately they are very effective.  Trust me de-snaring is very hard work.  Dense bush, very hot and somewhat dangerous considering there are elephants and predators around, not to mention the snakes…. We did however have an armed KWS guard with us.

Born Free carry out de-snaring patrols regularly each week. de-snaring project

Lion Census:

385 copyThis is very scientific, but basically, in order to protect lions you need to know how many you have in a given area and what their movements are. Together with a KWS lion specialist and the Born Free team we spent a few hours in the early morning looking for predator spoor (foot prints) and recording the findings. We didn’t find lion spoor that day but we did find leopard and other small predator spoor.

Another method to count lions is the Lion Call Back which we did one night.   We stopped at a given point and played a recording of a buffalo being killed by lions, from speakers placed on top of the Land Rover. We repeated this 3 times at 5 minute intervals and waited for lions to respond which they can do from a 3km radius. That night three lions responded and came to where we were. We then recorded details of the sighting.

Both census methods are repeated regularly in definitive blocks within the park.

Rhino Sanctuary:

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We visited the Rhino Sanctuary within Meru National Park and KWS updated us on the ongoing challenges they face. These Rhino are very well protected by a large team of rangers who “live” on site with the Rhino’s within their designated 2km square block.



Community Outreach:

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We visited two community villages this week one of which neighbours the Meru National Park.  We were warmly welcomed and the school classroom was packed out with children and parents all keen to see an educational film produced by Born Free on the negatives of wildlife crime. Sue managed to squash into the classroom but the rest of us waited outside!

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The entire village including the chief came to celebrate our visit and the children entertained us with some beautiful dancing .
A lot of work is being done by Born Free to educate local communities and upgrade their general welfare. All of this helps to improve relationships and encourage peaceful cohabitation of humans and wildlife. We, OAT, will be supporting this initiative going forward.


Good bye Malawi & LWC

335Its my last day here in Malawi and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre. A really dedicated, motivated and hugely knowledgeable team! A huge thank you to Johnny & Kate who have made me so welcome and have enabled me to get a great insight into the conservation issues in Malawi and the amazing work they do to combat them.

336Hyena Tracking

I have spent my last two evenings and early mornings with LWC’s vet tracking urban Hyenas with a view to collaring them to study there regular routes and general behavioural patterns. It also enables the team to intercept them if they are heading into areas of human animal conflict.

The president had a small pack in his estate garden last year sometime and contacted LWC and Carnivore Research Malawi to come and relocate them or they would be shot. They were successful in doing this 👍😀

A sad but interesting fact is that one of the food sources of the urban Hyena is stray street dogs, and there is no shortage of these… 😥😥😳😥

Hello Kenya

Off to KENYA tomorrow to meet up with my sister Sue and husband Jonathan. We will be spending a week with Will Travers, President of The Born Free Foundation. Together with the Kenyan Born Free team we will be visiting various Born Free projects.  More Blog on this when I get there!


One of the Worlds GREATEST inventions…….. Condensed Milk for my morning coffee ……. THE BEST way to start the day 👍😀👍😀👍😀

Simba and Bella

Now in Malawi and will be spending a week at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre (LWC).  This is a very special visit for me, as in a way, its kind of where OAT began.

334 copySue (my sister) first came here in Feb 2013 when she accompanied Born Free on a rescue trip which involved transporting a lion, Simba,  from Europe to his new home here at LWC.  Simba spent the first 9 years of his life in a French circus and the last few years in a rusty trailer belonging to the circus trainer due to the circus being run down.

After being rescued he spent 18 months at the Natuurhulpcentrum in Belgium where he was taken care of by a great team of people until Born Free raised sufficient funds to transport him to their sanctuary in Malawi.

Natuurhulpcentrum (Nature Help Centre)

He will now spend the rest of his days here in the company of 11 year old Bella, another Born Free rescue from a Romanian Zoo.  Bella was rescued 7 years ago and until Simba’s arrival, has been here on her own. Her life has been so enriched by the company of the very handsome Simba and as you can see they are now true friends. aahhhh!


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We, OAT, sponsor the lifetime care of Bella and have every intention of supporting LWC in the future.

Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

I have been introduced to all 200 animals here including caracul, hyena, loads of different primates, crocs, birds, snakes, antelope, jackal etc etc. Some will be released back into the wild but not all.  

I will be learning about other areas of conservation work here in Malawi as well and will be meeting various government minsters on anti poaching & anti trafficking policy.  It seems Malawi is the main trafficking hub and exit transport route for the illegal wildlife trade of ivory, rhino horn, pangolin etc from neighbouring countries 😡😡😡😡😡😡