Margot Raggett: Determined to Remembering Wildlife

Margot Raggett has worn many hats—Public Relations Director, Consultant, Wildlife Photographer and now the creator of Remembering Wildlife.

Margot grew up in Hampshire, on the South Coast of England. Her father was a keen sailor, so she spent much of her early years on the waters of the Solent as a child. The family never had pets, so apart from the occasional visit to see New Forest ponies, Margot had little exposure to wildlife until her first safari in Africa in 2006.

A young Margot sailing

Even though Margot didn’t grow up with animals, she loved the idea of animals and watched David Attenborough documentaries voraciously.

Similar to her early childhood, Margot’s initial career also didn’t include animals. She followed in her mom’s footsteps and aspired to climb the corporate ladder. She wanted to attain a level of success where she could financially support herself. However, in 2010 Margot found her true passion.

She signed up for a trip to Masai Mara, a national reserve in Kenya. This wasn’t her first safari (that had been in South Africa in 2006) but it was the first time she was exposed to the art of wildlife photography, by the tour leaders, award-winning wildlife photographers Jonathan & Angela Scott. It was on this trip Margot discovered the beauty of photography and wildlife, and how photography can help promote conservation. Jonathan & Angela went on to become mentors to Margot and huge supporters of the Remembering Wildlife series.

When she returned home to the UK, Margot signed up for a course at the London Photography School. Upon completion of the course and armed with a better camera, Margot set off for another safari, just a few months after her adventure in Masai Mara, and thus began an addiction.

With her love of photography growing, Margot left her position as PR Director and started her own consulting business. This switch from employee to self-employed, not only allowed her to choose which projects she wanted to work on, but gave her the flexibility to travel.

One such project was Entim camp in the Masai Mara in 2012. Margot entered a partnership/agreement with the owner of the camp—in exchange for consulting services and help with their marketing, she would be allowed to stay at the camp and build her photography portfolio.

In 2014, while on a safari in Laikipia, a different part of Kenya, she was woken by the sound of hyenas early one morning. The noise was so loud it became clear that something unusual had happened nearby.

At first light, she and a guide went to investigate. They came upon a young male elephant with a poisoned arrow sticking out of him. He was dead and the hyenas had been feeding on his remains. The guide told her the young elephant had most likely suffered for days before he succumbed to the poison. His young tusks were still in him.

Margot was furious. It was at this moment, she went from wildlife photographer to wildlife warrior. She channeled her fury into a promise to do whatever she could to help.

While many ideas churned in her mind, the one that took root was to make a book.

She reached out to Will Travers, the Chairman of Born Free—a charity dedicated to wild animal welfare and conservation, and proposed a partnership. Margot would produce a book of elephant images by world class wildlife photographers, and Born Free would help guide her on how best to spend the funds raised.

The first book was Remembering Elephants. The initial step was to raise enough money to cover the cost of producing the books, so that all the proceeds from the sales of the books would go directly to wildlife conservation projects.

In 2015, Margot launched her first Kickstarter Campaign with the goal of raising £20,000 to cover the production costs for 1000 books.

The tricky part of a Kickstarter Campaign, is that once you decide on your goal, it is all or nothing. If you don’t raise the needed funds to meet your goal, the project doesn’t move forward.

The campaign was to run four weeks. In the first three hours, the campaign had raised £8,000, but then the momentum slowed. Margot reached out to Will and asked that Born Free share the campaign on their social media, he complied and things picked up— the £20,000 was hit that same evening. By the end of the campaign, Margot surpassed her goal and raised £58,000.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t fully celebrate her enormous achievement.  On the final day of the campaign, Margot found out she had breast cancer.

Unwilling to postpone the making of the book, Margot worked on Remembering Elephants while she endured three months of radiation therapy and surgery. Treatment was successful and six years on, Margot is in remission, but the time made a lasting impression on Margot and her approach to life. “I felt that the elephants were looking out for me during that time, just as I was fighting for them. I now never take life for granted and truly believe you should always have one eye on the legacy you wish to leave behind.”

Remembering Elephants came out in 2016, followed by Remembering Rhinos, Remembering Great Apes, Remembering Lions, Remembering Cheetahs, and the newest book, Remembering African Wild Dogs will be published in November 2021.

Margot and the incomparable Dr. Jane Goodall

To date, Remembering Wildlife has raised £848,000 ($1.1 million USD) and has funded fifty-five projects across twenty-four countries.

Some of the projects Remembering Wildlife has been able to fund are:

  • Livestock Guarding Dogs for Farmers. These dogs bark and scare away predators, which means farmers don’t have to shoot or trap lions, cheetahs or other animals who are seen as a threat to the farmers livelihood.
  • Fund salaries and vehicles for ground teams to monitor and protect wildlife from poachers, trafficking and habitat destruction.
  • Fund outreach to local communities to discuss their concerns and come up with realistic solutions so that humans and wildlife can live in harmony.
  • Fund the purchase of tracking collars, cameras, drones, aerial patrol units. These are all key to tracking endangered species as well as poachers.
  • Fund projects to provide employment and income for women in communities. It is known that working women have less babies, which alleviates the issues with over-population and poverty.
  • Fund conservation education within local communities.

In the 15 years since Margot went on her first ever safari, she has accomplished so much to help animals. In particular she has brought together a community of world-class photographers who have generously donated their photos to help these beautiful animals survive.

When asked what the hardest part of creating Remembering Wildlife has been, Margot says,

“In the early days I didn’t actually know 50 photographers – my goal of the number of photographers I wanted to contribute to that first book, so researching and approaching people to take part was a challenge. But once word got around and I had a good number signed up, the test became much easier. We were so successful however, we now often have the opposite challenge – more photographers wanting to take part than we have space for!”

And the best part:

“I always say making the donations, and knowing how gratefully they are received is the best part of the job. It has been curtailed for the last 18 months of course due to the pandemic, but getting the chance to visit some of the projects and see and hear firsthand the difference our funds make, is enormously gratifying for me.”

Margot has made such a positive difference in the lives of so many animals and people, but if there was one thing she could change in the world, she would…

“Stop humans from assuming they have an automatic superiority and right to assert themselves over every other species!”

For more information on Remembering Wildlife, please check out their website: https://rememberingwildlife.com/

I can personally attest to the beauty of the books. The photographs are breathtaking. We have all of them and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Remembering African Wild Dogs. They make a wonderful gift for anyone who loves animals or enjoys magnificent photography.

Episode 30: Kindness Is Transforming Harmful to Beautiful

Natalie McIntosh

Fifteen-year old Natalie McIntosh is doing her best to not only help rid the ocean of discarded fishing gear, she then transforms these ‘ghost nets’ into beautiful items such as bracelets, coasters and baskets. Natalie donates 100% of the proceeds from her sales to charities working hard to remove dangerous fishing gear and plastic from the oceans.

Natalie talks about why these discarded nets are harmful to marine life and why they are called ‘ghost nets’.

To learn more about Natalie and her dedication to helping our planet and the species we are meant to be sharing this planet with, check out her website: https://www.nauticalwaters.com/

You can also follow Natalie here:

Twitter: @NauticalWaters

Instagram: nautical.waters

Facebook: Nautical Waters

As a thank you to Natalie for sharing her story, Anitha donated to London Environmental Network. This charity, situated in London, Ontario, is trying to make London one of the greenest cities in Canada. This group creates programs and projects for the community. To learn more about this charity, please check out their website: https://www.londonenvironment.net/

Simon Jones, A Life Dedicated To Helping Rhinos

Simon Jones is the founder and CEO of Helping Rhinos, a charity he established in 2012. Simon’s love for animals began at a very young age. His home in the south of England was often referred to as the ‘local zoo’ as he had a whole range of pets that included dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, and even a tortoise to name a few. Simon also rode horses as a child and would often spend early childhood family holidays on working farms looking after the cattle and pigs.

It takes a lot of work and dedication to run a charity like Helping Rhinos. A typical day for Simon would start at around 6:30am with checking the emails that have been received overnight (with an international charity there is no off time!). Once the emails have been reviewed each day can be very different. Some days will be focused on raising funds to help support Helping Rhinos’ work in the field and others will be more focused around the actual work on the ground and talking to the teams across Africa. Before Covid-19 travel restrictions were imposed Simon would spend at least one or two days a week in face to face meetings with supporters and sponsors. Typically, his day ends anywhere between 7pm and 10pm with more email work.

A popular night raising funds for the charity.

The goal of Helping Rhinos is to provide secure and sustainable environments for all species of rhinos to thrive for generations to come.

In the field, Helping Rhinos will establish secure rhino strongholds through the creation of innovative protection strategies, sustainable land management operations that ensure a rich, biodiverse ecosystem and inspiring local communities to proactively engage in rhino conservation.

Around the world Helping Rhinos will ensure sustainable long term rhino conservation by developing a community of interested and engaged people and donors through international education programmes. Furthermore, to develop an innovative, entrepreneurial approach to funding rhino conservation.

Simon knows in order for rhinos to have a chance at long term survival it is vital for the local African communities to realize the importance of saving the species. Without the cooperation of the local population, it would be impossible to help rhinos.

Simon and his team balance the need to protect the land for wildlife and to sustain a human population. They educate local communities about the benefits of keeping land for wildlife by offering meaningful incentives to protect wildlife and help eliminate poaching. For example, the communities surrounding Ol Pejeta Conservancy, one of Helping Rhinos field projects, benefits from the conservancy building new schools, medical dispensaries and the provision of business management skills training. This is a huge incentive for these communities to work closely with the conservancy and to help protect and keep safe their wildlife.

They also fund anti-poaching units. This is key to protecting rhinos. Rangers need to be trained and provided with the best technology to keep themselves and the animals they protect safe. This all takes money.

Helping Rhinos also knows it is important to work with Governments at all levels to encourage them to implement enforceable legislation and effective penalties to deter poachers from killing rhinos. Simon and his group also lobby for the protection of habitat.

One of the hardest parts of running an NGO such as Helping Rhinos is the remoteness of the organisation to the rhinos on the ground.  Simon and his whole team have a huge passion to protect rhinso in their natural habitat, but it can be tough when times are busy and stressful and you are half a world away from the animals and the nature you are trying to protect.

That is why when Simon is in the field these are the most memorable times for him. Simon says there are too many memorable occasions to pick just one, but a few that stand out are the first time he saw rhino poaching survivor Thandi after her attack. Simon had seen Thandi a few years before the attack (and before she even had a name), but to see her just a few months after her face had been hacked off, looking strong was very emotional. Similarly, spending time with Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, just weeks before his passing due to age related conditions was also very emotional. Saying goodbye to Sudan, knowing he wouldn’t ever see him again was very tough. And finally, seeing the strength of character of the rhino orphans, who have survived the loss of their mothers, often having witnessed their brutal slaughter at the hands of poachers, really does give Simon huge inspiration and motivation to keep fighting every day for these majestic animals.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on conservation. The sector relies largely on income from nature-based tourism, which was abruptly turned off overnight and is unlikely to recover until well into 2021.

One upside however is that the poaching of species like rhinos actually significantly reduced during the lockdown period. With international borders closed and domestic travel a lot more difficult to undertake without being noticed, the risk of being left with an illegally procured rhino horn was too big a risk. However, Simon says that the rhino conservation world is bracing itself for a poaching spike now the borders have opened again. Managing this spike if it does materialize will be a bigger challenge than ever with a lack of available resources that’s due to the pandemic.

September 22nd each year is World Rhino Day, but for Simon and his team, every day is rhino day. Every day, they do what they can to help save these beautiful animals. If you would like to learn more about Helping Rhinos, check out their website. There are many ways to get involved, including donating, ‘adopting’ a rhino, running your own fundraising campaign, trying out one of the many fun rhino activities they have, such as colouring sheets, info sheets, learning to draw a rhino!

I personally am so excited to be collaborating with Helping Rhinos. I will be donating 10% of all royalties earned from my picture book, A Family For Faru, to this wonderful group. Please check out their shop. They have so many amazing items for sale, including links to purchase books that support rhino conservation like A Family For Faru.

https://www.helpingrhinos.org/

Episode 29: Kindness Is To Keep Writing

Fifteen-year-old Amelia Penney-Crocker returns to the show to continue chatting about her dedication to make our planet a better place for all. Back in episode 3, Amelia shared some of the 53 letters she wrote to Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Her letters which cover the climate crisis, demand the government take immediate action. Though she and Anitha discussed some of the letters, there was still so much left to talk about.

Anitha is grateful to Amelia for generously coming back to continue this important conversation. In this episode, Amelia talks about why climate change affects certain populations more than others.

An incredible episode with an incredible young woman.

To read some of the amazing and impactful letters, visit Amelia’s website: https://ameliapenneycrocker.com/

As a thank you to Amelia for sharing her story, Anitha donated to Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre.

For more information about this organization, please check out their website: https://mymnfc.com/

Episode 28: Kindness Is Seeing Greatness In Small Creatures

Many of us find it easy to care about dogs, cats, whales, elephants. But what about insects? How many of us can honestly say, we’re careful not to step on an ant or a spider?

Fourteen-year old Xander Johnston from Scotland joins Anitha to share his passion for insects. He talks about where his interest in insects came from, his favorite little creature, how he became known as ANT BOY, and so much more, including simple things we all can do to protect insects and wildlife.

Xander will change the way you think about bugs.

This is a wonderful episode for adults, kids, those who are fascinated by bugs, and those who are squeamish!

To hear more from Xander, check out his amazing YouTube videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVnKrXbUga46ABcnwyCEBtw

As a thank you for sharing his story, Anitha donated to Bug Life. This UK based organization is dedicated to “saving the small things that run the planet”.

As Sir David Attenborough said, “If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the world’s ecosystems would collapse.’ 

For more information on Bug Life, check out their website: www.buglife.org.uk

Episode 27: Kindness Is Helping Birds

In Canada, 25 million birds die every year from injuries sustained when they collide into windows. Angela Demarse from Bird Safe Guelph talks about what this organization is doing to prevent this terrible tragedy from continuing.

Angela shares simple tips on what each of us can do to prevent birds from crashing into our windows.

To learn more about Bird Safe Guelph, check out their website and Instagram page:

https://birdsafeguelph.ca/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/birdsafeguelph/?hl=en

As a thank you to Angela, for sharing her story, Anitha donated to Nature Canada.

Nature Canada is one of the oldest national nature conservation charities in Canada. For 80 years, they have helped protect over 110 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada. They have also protected countless species. To learn more about this wonderful charity, click on this link: https://naturecanada.ca/

Correction: During the podcast, Angela mentions that 1/4 of the globe was covered in wilderness. Upon further reading, Angela noted that it is closer to 1/2.

Episode 26: Kindness Is Saving Sharks

Thirteen-year old Finlay Pringle, joins Anitha to share his passion about sharks.

Sharks have been cruelly misjudged and wrongly considered ruthless predators of the sea. Finlay dispels these myths and tells us the truth about sharks. He also talks about the reasons 100 million sharks are killed every year and why it is so important to save them.

An incredibly eye-opening episode!

As a thank you for sharing his story, Anitha donated to Bite Back Shark and Marine Conservation. To learn about the wonderful work this organization does to protect sharks, click on the link: https://www.bite-back.com

To learn more about the wonderful work Finlay does to help sharks, check out his website: https://ullapoolsharkambassador.com

Episode 25: Kindness Is Family

This is a very personal episode for Anitha. Her son, Daniel joins her to celebrate the 25th episode of the podcast. At Daniel’s request, Anitha does her best to hold back her absolute pride as she and Daniel chat about all the kind and wonderful things he has done, from singing at nursing homes to volunteering at a camp for children with and/or recovering from cancer to creating the Sounds of Silence initiative and more.

They share fun family memories and also talk about Daniel’s sister, Alyssa and all the amazing things she has done to help animals and the environment.

A special episode about family and kindness.

As a thank you to Daniel for being kind enough to come on to his mom’s podcast, Anitha donated to Eva’s Initiatives For Homeless Youth. To learn more about this charity, please click on this link: https://www.evas.ca

Episode 24: Kindness Is Childhood Dreams

When she was around seven years old, Olivia Pisano received a huge book all about animals. She loved learning about the animals, especially the whales. This interest in whales continued through elementary school, high school, all the way to her PhD.

Olivia joins Anitha to share her incredible story of connecting her PhD with her passion to help whales.

Olivia talks about her research project to use satellite imagery as a way to keep whales safe. She and Anitha also discuss major threats to the whale population, such as entanglement in fishing gear.

As a thank you to Olivia for sharing her story, Anitha donated to the Canadian Whale Institute. This charity is dedicated to protecting marine mammals and their habitats. To learn more about this group, please click here: https://www.canadianwhaleinstitute.ca

Episode 23: Kindness Is Saving Whales Together

In this very special episode, Jessica Cambell and her fifth-grade class from Mount Madonna School in California join Anitha to talk about their year- long class project to protect whales.

The students take turns talking about why they chose whales for their environmental project, what they have learned, the activities they have organized to spread the word about the plight of whales, and so much more.

These students show how much can be accomplished toward making the world a better place for all species, when people work together.

A truly inspiring episode!

As a thank you to Ms. Cambell and her students for sharing their story, Anitha donated to Save The Whales.

To learn more about Save The Whales, click here: https://savethewhales.org/