Izzy Hirji wears many hats—wildlife vet, world traveller, photographer, conservationist, vegan, and television celebrity! He joins Anitha to share his incredible adventures as he follows his hero, Dr. Jane Goodall, in making the world a better place for all beings.
Izzy begins the episode by talking about his childhood fear of dogs and how he not only overcame that fear, but now travels the world, treating all kinds of wild animals.
A fabulous episode for kids and adults, alike—packed full of beautiful, touching and often funny stories about the life of a wildlife vet.
As a thank you to Izzy for sharing his story, Anitha donated to Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary. This sanctuary provides healing and recovery for primates who have been rescued from laboratories, roadside zoos and other terrible circumstances. In addition to all the amazing and kind things Dr. Izzy is involved with, he also makes time to donate his veterinary skills to treat and care for these residents.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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/