Raabia Hawa is a popular Kenyan radio morning show presenter turned full.-time conservationist awarded status of honorary KWS ranger and featured on the cover page of Animal Welfare magazine. Raabia is aspiring to the Kenyan parliament, to be the change she wants to see in the world, for Kenyans, for Kenya’s natural heritage and riches – the wildlife, the environment. Kenyan born; she is part of the land.
Siddhant Sadangi talks to this “child of the wild”!
Siddhant: Can you walk us through the events and the set up which led you into conservation?
Raabia: Well, growing up my dad always kept us close to nature, whether it was a drive through the national parks, or being grounded at home with nothing but wildlife documentaries to watch! My father loves wildlife, he always has, and I suppose it rubbed off onto me during my formative years when I grew up around wildlife in various parts of Africa. Africa’s magic is something else, it really gets right into your veins, and you suddenly become one with it.
Siddhant: Could you provide a brief outline of your purpose, mission and vision?
Save as many as you can every single day… because you never know when it could be your last!
Siddhant: What is your primary approach to promoting this concept?
Raabia: It’s quite simple really, I have my phone on all day and night and since I am also a radio personality who is well known to be the wildlife lover, anytime an animal is in distress I get a phone call and use my networks to send help. People reach me through facebook and twitter, and so I have a responsibility to make myself knowledgeable on animal welfare legislation so I can advise people accordingly should it involve domestic animal cruelty.
I also have made connections with a lot of vets, and many colleagues within the Kenya Wildlife Service, to enable me to get quick response wherever needed.
The rest are matters such as supporting the teams I send distress calls to, sometimes they are under-resourced so I then offer to cover their costs for the trip they make, be it fuel, or otherwise where necessary. I then use my other friend network to raise funds needed for any operations. At the end of the day we must remember there is always a solution, we just have to be committed to the cause no matter what 🙂
Siddhant: Anybody else in the team? Can you tell us something about them?
Raabia: Well, I work with various teams. I am an honorary warden with the Kenya Wildlife Service so I don’t really have a fixed unit.
I go where I find work and join whoever is there and help out as much as I can.
However, I have to say I give full credits and many thanks to the Wildlife Works team. They are amazing people! The community scouts go on anti-poaching patrol daily, and I join them whenever I can. They are like family to m now, and you can read more about their work within the Tsavo Conservation Area here in Kenya, on www.wildlifeworks.com
Another team I have had the privilege of working with is the Local Ocean Trust, in Watamu along our coastline. These guys are amazing! Such dedicated workers who truly care about turtles. I joined them on one rescue where they rescued no less than 11 turtles in a single day! They have a by-catch release agreement with some local fishermen, and it has been very successful so far. You can also read more about them on www.watamuturtles.com
Siddhant: Playing away from your turf always poses challenges, which were the ones faced by you while establishing and conducting your activities?
Raabia: Well, I’m only doing volunteer work, so I live pretty much a nomadic lifestyle anyway! However, you’re right; it is very much a challenge going to a new area where I have never been before. One memorable experience was the fire-fighting on Mt. Kenya. I’m generally not a fan of cold weather, and let’s just say this was below freezing!
There was simply no amount of clothing that did me justice; however the workout did help keep me warm!
Other challenges are mostly due to a change in terrain. When you’re used to working in thick dry bush, being surrounded by lush greenery can be daunting!
Siddhant: While you battled such challenges, what was the motivation that kept you going?
Raabia: Well, I see these as minor things. If your mind can overcome a fear, then your body can pull you through. So when you focus your mind on work, then you’re done before you know it!
Siddhant: Can you provide us a sneak into the activities conducted by you?
Raabia: While I have conducted several light de-snaring operations, I mostly join teams that are already at work and follow their team leader. My work for wildlife is performed as a voluntary service and as I am flexible, I can move around and go to various areas. I assist in many projects and operations, from school awareness and education to anti-poaching. Basically anything that will help wildlife at the end of the day!
Siddhant: How is this idea different from the others?
Raabia: It is my personal feeling that we must each do as much as we possibly can.
I have skills in education and media, so I never limit myself to just field work.
When I can’t be on the field, I take wildlife awareness to schools, and help people connect with each other so they can further the cause. It must be said, however, that I simply cannot manage a desk job! I’m just not built for it! So I suppose that would be where I draw the line…
Siddhant: Any other interests/hobbies of yours which you would like to share with us?
Raabia: I’m a PADI qualified diver! I love diving and my favourite is swimming with sharks and octopuses!
Siddanth: Is there any moment, incident, or person that has carved a special place in this journey? Our readers will like to hear about this?
Raabia: In many ways I feel connected to wildlife, and I would like to share with you the story of George, whose name is part of my email address, and a lot of people wonder why.
Some people think it is silly, but I assure you once you know why you will (hopefully) come to understand why it is so…
During my tenure at the animal orphanage, I came to work with a lot of lions except one, George.
He was mean!
At feeding time he’d roar and jump on the fence, frightening the daylight out of me! So I stopped feeding him, left it to other keepers, and refrained from visiting that corner of the orphanage altogether.
Then one day while I was crapping a gazelle calf (when they are born they cannot pass urine or stool, you must stimulate bowel movement by rubbing the lower abdomen until the excrement is released), 2 of the keepers walked into the nursery discussing how the vet had made the call to put down one of the animals, when I asked which one, they said George.
I finished putting baby gazelle to bed after putting medicine on her wounds, and went to see George.
He was not the same. He did not roar or jump on the fence; he just sat there, resigned to his fate.
I was heartbroken as I watched him get up to feed. His bones had given in. he could hardly stand, let alone walk. He growled at me, so to respect his feeding space I took a few steps back.
Here I sat, just watching him; and I said to him that I love him, and I apologized for not getting to know him or giving him the time of day. I then went each time I was at the orphanage, inching closer to him every time. I’d sit, and just talk to him, tell him about my day, read some surah’s for him at times, until eventually I could sit right beside the fence without him growling or getting agitated.
One time he just looked me right in the eye, I think I was reciting ayatul kursi I’m not sure, or telling him about my phone… something…
And I stopped whatever I was saying. I looked into his eyes and I could see, he told me he knew his time was coming and that the decision had been made. I started crying and had to leave as I dint want to weaken him.
Our meetings carried on for a while, his health deteriorating, and his pain all too clear. But he still remained tough in spirit! After all, he was a lion!
This one time I was talking to him and he suddenly woke up, fell aft few times, but eventually found his grip and walked over to me, I froze. My heart was beating so fast, and I said, George, I am your friend, I wish no harm unto you, I love you…
(My eyes are welling up now!)
Anyway he walked over to me, I lowered my gaze (you should do this as a sign of respect, direct looks in the eye are confrontational); and I saw these huge golden paws right under my nose.
Something told me to look up at him, and I slowly looked at him. He looked directly into my eyes, and my heart had this urge, like I was being asked to extend my hand to him. I lifted my hand and placed it just on the inside of the wire mesh fencing. He then came closer and I was in this world where time stopped, and my brain was telling me to pull out my hand, but my heart wouldn’t allow it.
George was known by everyone as the most aggressive lion at the orphanage. He was even feared to quite an extent by keepers and even Dave Mascall, who reared him from his cub years.
All this was going through my mind yet my heart was in peace, I felt so calm inside; and he sniffed my hand, and then licked it and grimaced.
I couldn’t believe my eyes! (For lions it’s a gesture of acceptance and love/respect)
I ran around the entire orphanage and safari walk (3KM run!!!) telling all the rangers and keepers! No one believed me- and I sort of expected that, anyone who knew George would find that tough to believe!
Days passed and due to the election crisis I was unable to visit the orphanage until one day I couldn’t take it anymore and as soon as things cooled off for a day or two I went straight there.
I passed by the animal kitchen and asked Dave for my steak treat (I usually did this), and he asked why I needed it… “Hello! George!” I replied…
He said, “Umm… Raabia, dint you know? He’s not around anymore”
I remember that conversation as though it just happened minutes ago…
I said, “What do you mean? Where have they taken him?”
“Raabia, they put him down… he’s gone…”
My heart stopped and my tears started flowing. I ran to his enclosure and it was open, and empty. I went inside and looked for him in every corner, but he was not there. I went into his sleeping quarters and lay on his hay bedding, crying, and praying…
What would I do without him? He was my friend, the love of my life. :'(
And now he was no more…
I know now, that that day was his farewell to me…
Animals know and see things we can’t, he knew I would not see him again perhaps, and maybe he just wanted to thank me, or to show me he loves me too. Whatever it was, it’s been etched deep in my heart and I know in the wild is where my heart lies.
Siddhant: Uff, thank you for sharing this. You truly open our eyes and hearts to seeing wild animals and our planet for what they are – Life in Paradise.
Is there someone that you would give credit for supporting (inspiring) you in this mission?
Raabia: My wonderful father. My mentor, my inspiration, my guardian and friend. My dad is awesome!
Siddhant: Do you have any future road map for your brain child considering the positive response it has garnered?
Raabia: I take every day as it comes, and I’m very spontaneous, my phone is a 24 hour hotline and whenever and wherever I am able to lend assistance, I do. It’s difficult to have a ‘road map’ when your life is so unpredictable, but yes, I do hope and plan to have my own unit someday, an organisation that will protect wildlife and lend support to captive wildlife and sanctuary if possible.
Rangers’ are often forgotten in the struggle to protect wild land, but are no less important.
Less than a handful of grand tuskers are left alive today, under constant protection by land and air
A day we both will never forget.
Our hearts were so sore as we watched the flames go up and witnessed the consequences of man’s greed.
Recommitting ourselves yet again to fight for our elephants until the very end. Because that’s all that matters… just life. ♡
No matter what the critics say about destroying ivory, we stand by it all the way.
It’s not ours to use or trade in or keep.
It is, and always was, and forever will be, for elephants alone.
Our human hands have done enough damage to them.
I just read an “experts” view on the ivory crush and I wonder how many tusks these “experts” (who try so hard to justify how wrong it is to destroy ivory) have had to pull out of dead or dying elephants so they don’t end up in the hands of traffickers and poachers. I wonder :
how many lifeless elephant carcasses they have seen, how many of those lifeless eyes had the visible marks of tears running down their gentle faces in their final moments as their faces were being hacked off.
Until that day comes, I see no one as an “expert” but those of us who have lived and studied elephants, those of us who have felt elephants with our bare hands, those of us who have stepped in the pools of Elephant blood as we track those who killed it for the sake of a trinket.
I support the destruction of ivory now and forever. It will never be ours to hold.
The final salute
“O God of all creation, Bless this, our land and nation Justice be our shield and defender, May we dwell in unity, Peace and liberty, Plenty be found within our borders.”
Kenya Wildlife Service rangers and wardens stood in salute as the national anthem was sang at the Ivory Burn. Guarding the precious ivory and rhino horn that was about to be torched in a show of respect for our fallen wildlife, and as a global message of our intolerance as a nation of wildlife trade.
Bearing the slogan #WorthMoreAlive, banners flickered in the breeze as the skies cleared for this historic moment.
The speeches began as the program took shape, and there I sat in a patch of caked mud beside a tuft of grass silently watching the ivory towers. There was much activity on the other side of the fence, the clamber of jostling journalists each battling to capture as many angles of the moment as they possibly could with high tech equipment and microphones that resembled a white-tailed mongoose in full threat display mode.
I gazed over to my elephants, these thousands of tortured souls who would momentarily be set on their final journey to freedom. I had no idea what to expect, my nerves were a bundled mess within me as my heart pounded uncertain of the impact it was soon to take.
I had felt this before, oddly enough as I was trying to test out a small pair of night-vision binoculars on the rim of a dam carved out by weathering for the animals to quench their thirst. It was late evening when we arrived there, and no sooner had the cover of darkness taken hold, than a herd of elephants clumsily trodded towards the water on the other side.
I could hear them no less than a hundred metres away and was certain my position was at a safe distance. As I tried to focus the binoculars without luck, struggling to make out the hazy green shapes, I saw two bright green dots, getting larger and larger by the millisecond.
I heard the shuffling of the ground near me and immediately sensed what it was. A bull elephant charging towards us! I fixed my gaze on his figure, he was at the bottom of the rim and was coming up when we made a clean break.
In those moments, my heart beat faster than ever before, and we chuckled at the incident as soon as we got to the car below.
I imagined there would be no such light hearted moments at this time, and I was right.
A flock of sacred ibis flew overhead, casting their delicate shadows over these pyramids of tusks, that had been dried well by the heat of the sun by now. It has been a rainy affair over the past days, and the break in the clouds came as quite the surprise to us all. It was time.
The speeches ended, and the ever struggling journalists scurried into place like ostrich chicks keeping up with their gigantic parents, each aiming to get the shot of the Heads of State marching towards the site. Accompanying them were Richard Leakey, the chairperson of the board of KWS, and the Director General Kitili Mbathi, a humble gentleman whose height and authoritative tone of voice commanded respect among the ranks.
As they made their way to the arena, I watched from the other side with the rangers. I had borrowed a camera from a good friend of mine, and as I focused into the lens the torch held by our President, I saw it catch a flame and move towards the ivory inlet. Seconds later, smoke began to bellow out of the spaces between the tusks.
I lowered my camera as my eyes welled up with tears. I was completely inconsolable as I felt my soul get crushed by a pain so great I could hardly bear it’s pressure on my physical form.
This was so much more than a funeral. This was the soul destroying moment, that completely broke me.
I watched the flames beat violently against the ivory, blurred by my oceans of tears, and I knew that one by one my elephants were being set free.
I took solace in this. The rangers behind me were fixed in their gazes, staring at the awe that was the presidential pyre of ivory now conjuring up great torrents of thick smoke, filling the air with an almost ethereal glaze and leaving so many bewildered.
“Tumewakosea ndovu wetu, tusamehe.” I whispered into the air. ‘We have wronged you dear elephants, forgive us.’
I walked away into the service tent wiping away my tears on the sleeve of my jacket.
The rangers didn’t follow me. They understood that I needed to be alone for some time now. They too, stood in silence and kept small distances from each other.
There was no chatting or self-congratulating. Just the sound of crackling fires and clicking cameras from the few journalists who had crossed over the barrier to come to our side.
What havoc we have wrought upon these creatures, I thought to myself as I watched the rest of the pyres being set alight from the seclusion of our small service tent.
No matter how hard I fought back, tears flowed endlessly from what I was at this moment… a broken girl, a broken ranger, in what was evidently to me, a broken world.
The sad cruelty is beyond words.
Here lies Alan.
Once the future of the Marsh Pride of the famous Maasai Mara, now no more.
Lala salama, pumzika simba yetu, Vita vyako vimeisha, na pia maumivu. Bila nyinyi kumetulia sana hapa usiku, Kwaheri simba yetu, alama ya afrika na nguvu.
‘Sleep well now, rest our lion, Your wars are finished, over pain you’ve triumphed. Without you all here, the nights are so quiet, Farewell our lion, symbol of Africa, symbol of might.’
Rest In Peace. Never Forgotten.
Alan, a sub adult male lion was a victim of poisoning by herders in the Maasai Mara over the weekend.
Bibi, a lioness famed for her well documented life on BBC’s Big Cat Diary series, also dies a day before Alan.
Two suspects are in remand and if convicted could face fines of up to 20 million kenya shillings or life imprisonment. Image: anonymous but great friend of conservation in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. United in grief with so many around the world.
Today I saw something so beautiful, even in the stillness of death.
A little genet cat, who had sadly fallen victim to urbanisation.
As I looked into her eyes I could imagine her fear, I will never know what drove her to be here.
Perhaps she had babies somewhere, that she needed to feed, or perhaps she was just full of character with a few simple needs.
I couldn’t bear to see that oncoming lorry smash her face any further, she didn’t deserve that and so I moved her.
I know it’s hard to swerve when we drive, but for the sake of our future, we owe it to ourselves to at least, try…
Ode to a #forest #friend
Rest among the #flowers #sweet #creature of the #Earth,
Fear no more suffering dear friend, fear no more hurt.
From our inhumanity, you are finally #free,
And I hope we meet again someday, under that#green acacia #tree.
Genet Cat, Northern Kenya
To end cruelty towards wildlife, we need to see and feel the truth
The Final Run
Browsing peacefully in the maasai steppe in Kenya under the light of the moon, this giraffe was suddenly ambushed by two men on a motorbike.
Scared, she ran as they chased her several hundred meters to the point of exhaustion. A machete was swiped across her back legs as the poachers caught up with her and got close enough.
Her achilles tendon was severed and she fell hard and fast to the ground.
The two jumped off the bike quickly, holding her down by her long graceful neck, and began their merciless slaughter.
Then one of them walked over to her head, working with a sharp knife to cut out her eyeball. But they weren’t very good at what they were doing, she began to kick, she was still alive!
They held her neck down again, and sliced through it a second time. It was so messy.
Finally she was dead. Now they needed to work fast before first light brought in witnesses.
They hacked through her legs, and tore off her skin, revealing their bounty underneath.
But there just wasn’t enough time, and she was such a huge animal, and- they couldn’t possibly carry all that meat away! So they cut up what they could manage to carry, less than a quarter of what she could offer them, loaded it onto their bike, and off they went.
We read their story in the sands the next day, the sands tell us so much when you understand their language. The language of struggle, footprints, tyre tread marks, and blood.
Some poachers believe that the animal they kill takes a photograph of them when they die, as the last thing the eyes have seen. They believe that if rangers find the carcass, they can take the eyes to a lab and extract the photos of the killers. So they cut out the eyes.
But they left something behind. Something that I found lying not too far away from this majestic being…
As I held her lashes in my hand, mine began to soak with tears.
She couldn’t say a word, but I knew her entire story.
I could do nothing to stop this brutality, to ease her pain, to break her fear.
All I could do was stroke her gently, in all her lifelessness; and quietly say,
Siddhant: Any breakthroughs or achievements which you would like to share?
Raabia: Saved the life of a kingfisher once! 🙂 For me there is no greater breakthrough or achievement. Awards, certificates, honours… these are all human-given things, they are not there to last. But when you help something live, or survive, you have done the greatest service ever imaginable.
Raabia on UN summits.
…and they all flew to London to discuss how they would save our wild friends. They spoke and spoke and pledged a moratorium on ivory. So for 10 years there will be no ivory legally sold by 5 countries, but the poachers can now comfortably continue stocking up on more blood ivory as they lie in wait for the moratorium to be lifted; boy will they be cashing in then!
Sorry elephants, it seems the 10 years you were given on that life support machine will last just as long. The switch will be turned off, and then, we slowly will suffocate with you. For my brothers and sisters whose very air depends on your existence, I weep.
Alas, the big Oriental wallet has proven to have enough to buy our very souls. As for you, my giant friends, what a sight you have become, in your gold embroidered tutus jumping through the loopholes of ‘diplomacy’ and into the very pit of your ultimate, and bloody end. – Raabia Hawa
The Empty Promise.
Please support us as we strive to protect our remaining herds at Walk With Rangers. We need more ground support, and only you can help us get there.
It’s up to us now!
Siddhant: There are people and organizations which want to serve the cause; can you guide them about ways to join?
Raabia: Take initiative. A lot of people approach me and seek assistance, I used to do the same, but organisations only want someone with 5 years experience, or fancy degrees, which I didn’t have. So, I did it on my own, I made my own connections and friends and started volunteering anywhere and everywhere. You have to push your way through sometimes, people are too busy worrying and working for wildlife to start trying to help you sort your life out.
It is your dream, your passion – follow it and MAKE IT HAPPEN! 🙂
Siddhant: What would be your message for the youngsters reading this?
Raabia: Take time out from normal modern day life. Switch off the TV, turn off the radio and pack in your iPods.
Get a backpack, and some good shoes, some cash and essentials. Get on a bus and TRAVEL. See your world, you live in it! Help people and animals along the way.
Live with people who are less privileged than you! Don’t take things for granted! You only live once right? Don’t waste it on endless partying and Hollywood! Take some time to learn your world, party once in a while, you will have deserved it! 😉
You’d have been so proud of me today dad. So proud of us. Today our rangers at @ulinziafricafoundation completed their firearms and field training. Never imagined I would get this far. Never would have if it wasn’t for you. You never allowed me not to believe in myself. You never accepted anything less from me than realising my dream. So, here we are dad. I only wish you were with us. Miss you so much. I’ll keep going.
Boots game strong thanks to @thesockstarproject
Area of operation kipini conservancy
Training officiated by Kenya police and the General service unit
Sisters in spirit, Raabia and Jane Goodall
You bet school students and teachers love meeting with Raabia, in class and via video.
Can you imagine the anecdotes, the outpouring Love and drive to protect what we LOVE?
SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY!
PAY A VIST
Visit Raabia’s Ulinzi Africa Foundation, donate and join the annual highlight – the Walk With Rangers. Connect on social media, like, comment, love and share like a superfan!
Book her as Speaker. Prepare and make the most of it!
Vividly document each step for friends, school newsletter, YL and local news media!
Score a milestone: Train and equip and salarize a ranger troop of 5 for 1 entire year for $20,000€.
Get inspired by Namaste Nepal school student club’s epic 48 hour day & night sponsor run that activates the whole town and generates $40,000€ Will you cover the distance from your home town to Kenya? We believe you can #bemoreawesome
is the ultimate messenger and speaker to shake off dullness induced by data and documenbtaries and re-awaken to Wonder and take renewed genius multiplex efforts to protect African Wildlife for millenia to come.