It’s amazing how much you think about space when do you don’t have any any more. When you’re cramped on a train. Pressed tight in a crowd.
Or peculiarly, when faced with such a wide expanse of natural space, of incredible beauty, that you cannot venture into unarmed.
I felt this way in the shark-infested sea, swollen and volatile beneath the hull of a flimsy boat in The Seychelles.
And now, right now, as I’m typing this out in Kenya I’m overlooking such a magnificent expanse of land, with plucky acacia scratching at the red earth…and yet it’s not safe to step out alone.
I can’t see any right now of course, or else I would not be typing. But I know that they’re out there. And it’s only a matter of space that keeps them from reaching me (plus an armed and responsible team of rangers, my fluttering heart likes to say.)
Despite the hills and the mountains that lead from Sasaab to the lush green gardens at the foothills of the Aberdare mountains, space is a problem here in East Africa.
Space for a growing population. And space for the animals that every school child loves to name name.
Poaching, sadly, is another issue – and one that we’ll return to on another day (except for saying the obvious, folk. Don’t buy animal parts that come from endangered species.)
Rhinos I knew were in trouble. Tigers too. But elephants? And lions? Troubled, perhaps. Wayward even. But on the way to extinction by 2025?
Like the great space before me, it’s hard to take in.
And like the sharks that troubled me in The Seychelles, the survival of these species matters more than just having cool things to look at. As shark conservationist Mike Rutzen explained, the survival of the animals at the top of the food chain reflects the health of the ecosystem beneath it.
In other words, we’re all in trouble without our sharp-toothed friends.
So, I’ve been asking experts across the world what we can do to help.
To donate, I’ve been told. To educate and, in turn, become educated.
And time and time again I hear the same message: go on safari with reputable companies. Ones that treat the environment well, treat people well and treat the animals well.
In other words, make it clear to anyone who takes just the flitter of a passing interest that these animals are worth more alive than dead.
And that they, like everyone else…need space.
I’m in Kenya with The Safari Collection, a company that manages four beautiful luxury safari camps across the country as well as creating bespoke itineraries throughout East Africa.
The message to make animals more valuable alive than dead remains the same, whether talking to safari tour operators, ecologists, locals or the WWF.
Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!
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