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 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

Vandana Verma—Creating Kindness One Wish at a Time

Vandana Verma is the kind of teacher every parent wants for their child—enthusiastic, inspiring and full of kindness. She began her career in 2002 and has been teaching at Prince Of Wales Elementary School in Hamilton, Ontario, since 2003.

Vandana was born in India and immigrated to Canada when she was three years old. She moved from Toronto to Brantford and then finally to Hamilton when she was sixteen. Vandana says she was blessed with a wonderful family, great friends and credits some fantastic, caring teachers, who showed her the meaning and importance of kindness.

In 2013, Vandana started a program at her school called Just One Wish Kindness Program. The goal of the program was to show students that everyone has the power to make a positive difference.

The catalyst for this program came to Vandana in a dream, more specifically a poem she dreamt about. Fortunately, for Vandana when she woke up on the morning of January 2, 2013, the entire poem was still with her.

Filled with excitement, Vandana shared the poem and her plan of how it could instigate a movement of kindness within the school. Her Principal and Vice-Principal at the time completely supported the idea.

An assembly was arranged and Vandana introduced her idea to the school. During the next month, every student wrote a wish on a yellow-coloured paper star. These stars were posted all over the school.

Wishes like these:

Paul

Age: 19

Wish: I wish people would stop racism.

Jesse

Age: 9

Wish: I wish they stop all wars.

Kendra

Age: 8

Wish: I wish kids would be nice to people who are different.

Sheldon

Age: 6

Wish: I wish that the world was cleaner.

Frank

Age: 10

Wish: I wish people would stop cutting down trees so we can breathe better – they need to breathe too!

And Vandana’s wish:

Wish: I wish that people who had influence would think before they spoke or acted.

At the end of the month, they had another school-wide assembly. As a group, they decided which wishes they could make happen. These wishes were then transcribed onto blue-coloured paper stars.

Soon after the assembly, the climate of the school changed.  People were holding doors open, smiling at others, playing with others, and the school was a lot cleaner. Students would tell Vandana how another student was kind to them or how they helped another person. Vandana was thrilled to see how the students themselves were able see the change as well as discuss their efforts to make change happen. Visitors to the school would comment on how the school had a very positive, energized feeling.

For the next several years, the Just One Wish Kindness program continued. Vandana worked hard to think up different ways to carry out the program. From individual wishes, they moved to class wishes. They wished for things that would affect their school, the City of Hamilton, and of course, wishes for the entire world.

In addition to The Just One Wish Kindness program, the school is involved in other kindness initiatives. Prince of Wales Elementary celebrates International Pink Day, a day devoted to raising awareness about bullying. They also have a Mental Health Action Team, comprised of teachers and students.

In 2014, a student from the Mental Health Action Team asked why they only celebrate anti-bullying one day of the year. Vandana took this question to heart. She realized that the student had raised an excellent point and decided that people should live a PINK life every day.

PINK became the acronym for Positive Inspiration Noble Kind.

Vandana even created two super-heroes, Pink Power and Pink Passion. Once a week, students from the Mental Health Action Team would dress up as these superheroes. These wonderful pink-caped, pink-masked students would walk around the school and even go into classrooms, praising other students.

Unfortunately, both these initiatives, Just One Wish Kindness and PINK, were discontinued in 2019. But that didn’t stop Vandana from continuing to bring kindness into her school.

In March of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic forced her school, like many others around the world, into lockdown. Vandana took this time to create puppets based on her PINK initiative.

Over the next two months, she sewed 17 puppets by hand, including Pink Power and Pink Passion. Vandana created seven scripts:

Kindness is Strength

Kindness is Knowledge

Kindness is The Little Things

Kindness is Acceptance

Kindness is Respect

Kindness is Helping

Kindness is Standing up

With friends lending their voices, Vandana has recorded these shows. Each video is approximately six to seven minutes long.

The reception for these videos has been great. They are being used by schools other cities in Ontario, such as Sarnia and Ajax. Vandana has even been asked to do a workshop on kindness for educators in Muskoka.

Vandana’s determination to create a community of kindness and empathy continues to expand. Season two of her puppet show is going to be out in September 2021.  It will have nine episodes focusing on kindness to oneself, others and the environment.  Eventually, Vandana would like her puppet show to address issues such as privilege, identity, racism, etc. 

When asked if there was one thing she could change in the world, Vandana said, “I wish I could change all the negative feelings, words and actions into positive ones.”

To learn more about Vandana and her Just One Wish Kindness Program, check out her website: https://www.justonewishkindnessprogram.com/index.php/about-us/about-vandana-verma/

Vandana has shared the poem that started it all on her YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfGKK5GFMgs

Episode 13: Kindness Is Creating Card Games

In this episode, Anitha chats with Zachary Backman, another young entrepreneur from the Explorer Hop program. Zachary shares his fun story of creating a card game full of mythical creatures. A portion of the proceeds Zachary raised from the sale of his card game went to Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.

As a thank you for sharing his story, Anitha donated to Food For Thought. To learn about this charity and all they do, click on this link: https://www.foodforthought.cafe/

To learn about Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, please click on this link: https://www.cafdn.org/

To learn more about Explorer Hop and the programs they offer, please check out their website: https://explorerhop.com/

Episode 12: Kindness Is Telling Jokes

This is such a fun episode. Six-year-old Callaghan McLaughlin talks about how he spent the summer of 2020.

Callaghan set up a table at the bottom of his driveway and shared jokes with those who passed by. He talks to Anitha about his favorite part of telling jokes and even shares a couple of jokes on the episode!

Callaghan is proof that everyone, regardless of how young or old they are, can bring joy and kindness to others.

Anitha learned about Callaghan from author Erin Silver’s book, What Kids Did: Stories of Kindness and Invention in the Time of COVID-19. To learn more about Erin and the books she writes, please visit her website: http://www.erinsilver.ca/

As a thank you for sharing his story and his jokes, Anitha donated to Wires Wildlife Rescue. To learn more about this wonderful charity, please click on this link: https://www.wires.org.au/

Episode 11: Kindness Is Creating Opportunities

Community service and helping others have always been a part of sixteen-year old, Arhan Chabbra’s life. In 2019 he started tutoring children in a village in India. Though he enjoyed helping these children, he wanted to do more for them. This spurred him to create APPVIDYA, followed by COVIDYA.

In this inspiring episode, Arhan shares details about these two projects, his goals as well as the rewards and challenges of his amazing initiatives.

To learn more about Arhan’s projects, please click on this link—https://www.projectcovidya.com/

As a thank you for sharing his story of kindness, Anitha donated to help purchase a computer tablet for disadvantaged children. This was done through CASP, a charity Arhan has partnered with. To learn more about CASP, please click on this link— https://www.caspindia.org/

Anitha is grateful to author Erin Silver for connecting her with Arhan. Anitha learned about Arhan from Erin’s book, What Kid Did: Stories of Kindness and Invention in the Time of COVID-19. To learn more about Erin and the books she writes, please visit her website: http://www.erinsilver.ca/

Episode 10: Kindness Is Reuniting A Family

Nineteen-year-old, Marcela Kuzma was at her grandmother’s restaurant in Brazil when she heard a Haitian employee talk about going to the airport to pick up his wife, whom he hadn’t seen for four years. Marcela soon discovered that this employee had also left behind a son, who was now five years old. Unfortunately, it was going to take several more years for the son to join his parents in Brazil.

Hearing this family’s plight inspired Marcela to raise funds to reunite them. Marcela shares a heart-warming story of a community coming together to bring the little boy back to his mother and father.

As a thank you for sharing her story of kindness, Anitha donated to LALA: Latin American Leadership Academy. To learn more about LALA, click here: https://www.latinamericanleadershipacademy.org/about

Episode 9: Kindness Is Cooking & Cards

Like many kids, when the pandemic struck, Spencer Burwell found himself stuck at home in much need of something fun to do. A friend introduced him to Explorer Hop. This innovative organization teaches kids about global financial literacy entrepreneurship. But it also teaches them about giving back to society and the importance of helping those in need.

Spencer shares his experience of creating businesses, raising money, and donating that money to CARE and The Canadian Mental Health Association. For more information on these charities, click on the links below:

https://care.ca

https://cmha.ca

In this episode we explore what success really means.

To learn more about Explorer Hop, click here: https://explorerhop.com/

As a thank you for sharing his story of kindness, Anitha donated to the Parkdale Food Centre. To learn more about this charity, click here: https://parkdalefoodcentre.ca/