Episode 36: Kindness Is Ella Saves The Oceans

Eleven-year-old, Ella Grace joins Anitha to kick off Season Two of the Kindness Is Everything Podcast.

Ella’s journey to protect oceans and sharks began when she was four years old and has kept growing. In this jam-packed episode, Ella shares her dedication and knowledge about oceans and the beautiful animals who live there.

In addition to her Ella Saves The Ocean project, she has teamed up with a friend to create The Clean Up Kids. This amazing initiative focuses on cleaning up our beaches.

A wonderful episode for anyone interested in conservation.

To learn more about Ella Saves The Ocean- check out her Instagram: @ellasavestheocean

To learn more about The Clean Up Kids and how you can get involved- check out @thecleanupkids and www.thecleanupkids.org

As a thank you for sharing her story, Anitha donated to WildlifeVOICE. This non-profit, started in 2014 by Jim Abernethy, supports the conservation and preservation of all animals and their habitats. To learn more about this group, please click on this link:  https://www.wildlifevoice.org

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.

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 18: Kindness Is Appreciating Your Own Backyard

Alex at ten years of age, taking photos for BBC Wildlife Magazine

Seventeen-year-old Alex White joins Anitha from Oxfordshire, United Kingdom to talk about his passion to inspire people to appreciate wildlife and nature in their own backyards.

When Alex was seven, he was given a camera, and fairly soon after he created a blog to share stories and photographs of wildlife and nature in his Local Patch. His blog has been declared as one of the top 50 wildlife blogs.

Alex also talks about his exciting stint as a journalist for a BBC wildlife magazine and publishing a book he wrote called Get Your Boots On. It’s all about ways to enjoy nature.

To learn more about Alex and his blog, click on this link: https://appletonwildlifediary.wordpress.com/

To check out Alex’s book, click on this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Get-Your-Boots-Alex-White/dp/1909455229/ref=sr_1_8?dchild=1&keywords=Get+Your+books+on&qid=1615061919&sr=8-8

As a thank you for sharing his story, Anitha donated to the Oxfordshire Badger Group Vaccination Project. To learn more about the wonderful work this group is doing to help badgers, click on this link: https://www.oxonbadgergroup.org.uk/

And to help them help badgers, click here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/oxfordshire-badger-group-vaccination-project

Michelle Kadarusman—Author & Animal Lover

It’s always a joy to meet another author. However, connecting with Michelle Kadarusman was an extra thrill, because not only do we share a love of books and writing, we share a love for animals.

Michelle grew up in Melbourne, Australia with her four siblings. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and her mom, now a single mother and raising five kids, didn’t allow the family to have pets.

But this doesn’t appear to have been a hard rule, since Michelle and her siblings still filled their home with strays. To her relief, once the animals were there, her mom fell in love with the new family members as well. Michelle’s menagerie of strays included cats, rabbits and a dog named Charlie.

In 2000 Michelle moved to Canada and adopted her first dog from the Toronto Humane Society. Buddy was a five-year-old beagle mix. Sadly, Buddy died two years later. It happened when Michelle and her children were walking home from school. Buddy saw another dog across the street. He lunged and broke free of his leash, and he got hit by a car.

Devastated by his death, Michelle knew she wanted to bring another dog into their family.

Dogs add colour to our lives,” she says.

In 2003, India, a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, joined Michelle’s family, and then seven years later, they adopted Hannah, a shepherd mix rescued from Aruba.

Given her love of animals, it’s no surprise that in 1996, while living in Surabaya, Indonesia, Michelle’s desire to help animals extended beyond rabbits, cats and dogs. She helped rescue an orangutan.

Her brother, Andre, was also in Indonesia at the time. He was working for an Australian construction company based in Jakarta. His work involved travelling to remote areas. At one of those locations he came upon a captive orangutan, held in a tiny cage, who was being used as an attraction at a restaurant.

Michelle’s brother didn’t know what to do. It is illegal in Indonesia to have an orangutan in captivity. But this was before Google and finding a rescue organization to save the orangutan was very difficult.

Michelle’s brother contacted her, wondering if she could help. Michelle had recently had a baby and belonged to a mom’s group. She told the other mothers about the plight of the orangutan. Luckily, one of the women knew someone who volunteered at an orangutan rescue. She promised to contact her friend at the rescue and get back to Michelle.

A couple of weeks passed and then Michelle received a call from the woman at the rescue. They were in the area that day and needed the location of the restaurant.

Michelle scrambled to contact her brother. Fortunately, she was able to speak with him. Even though he didn’t know the exact address of the restaurant, as it was located in a remote village, he was able to provide enough details for the rescue team to find the orangutan.

Thanks to Michelle and her brother, the orangutan was saved and taken to a sanctuary. Her seven years of being held captive in a tiny cage had finally come to an end.

Michelle never learned exactly what happened to the orangutan, but is hopeful that her life was a lot better having been rescued.

Not only is Michelle an animal lover but she is also an author. This incident with the orangutan has been brewing in Michelle’s mind for almost thirty years. She is now working on transforming it into a fictional story. She plans on telling the story from three points of view: the main character is a girl who is a budding activist, a boy whose uncle owns the restaurant where the orangutan was kept, and the orangutan herself.

As she writes, Michelle is cognisant of the complexities involved in dealing with animal conservation in countries such as Indonesia. She is determined not to vilify the restaurant owners. She says that her brother returned to the restaurant after the orangutan was saved and the owners were relieved she had been rescued. They too, wanted a better life for the orangutan but didn’t know how to make that happen.

Michelle is a gifted writer. Her 2019 middle grade novel, Girl of The Southern Sea was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award. She has written three award- nominated novels. I eagerly await the release of this story based on her real-life experience helping an orangutan.

When asked the question, what is the one thing she would change in the world, Michelle said, “To change the world we have to look at our own actions first. It’s easy to forget to simply be kind. I try and remind myself everyday to lighten my thoughts and just do what I can.

For more information about Michelle, please check out her Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/MichelleKadarusmanAuthor

Episode 7: Kindness Is Wishes For Orangutans

In 2007, the Starlight Children’s Foundation in Australia, granted then ten-year-old Daniel Clarke a wish. They were surprised by his response; he wanted to save the orangutans. Daniel and his brother William talk about their dedication to help one of our closest relatives—the orangutans.

In this incredibly moving episode, Daniel and William, now 24 and 22, respectively, share their story of helping save endangered orangutans from extinction. They even describe the first time they saw an orangutan in the wild.

If you love animals, this episode is for you!

As a thank you for sharing their story of kindness, Anitha donated to The Orangutan Project. This charity was created by Leif Cocks, a world-renowned orangutan expert.

To learn more about Daniel and William and their work to save orangutans, click here: https://tearsinthejungle.com/

To learn more about The Orangutan Project, click here: https://www.orangutan.org.au/

This episode was produced by Stephen Hurley of VoicEd Radio.