Sunday, May 15, 2011

Back to Africa

After 5 months back in the states my travel bug has led me back on a transatlantic flight on my way back to Africa.  My first trip to Africa began last July when I visited Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa.  I  had dreamed of going to Africa all my life and had spent years reading and studying about the people, the politics and my greatest love- the animals!  You can watch millions of documentaries and view stunning wildlife images, but there is nothing like being there.  I take images to encourage people to help protect the animals and promote conservation in the hopes that they one day too can make it there themselves and see the majesty of the continent where life on this planet started.  This time I am headed to new countries- specifically Rwanda and Uganda.  This trip is incredibly special to me, because this time not only am I going to see wonderful wildlife (including my first time seeing Gorillas in the wild) but I am also going to get to see some amazing humanitarian work being done in Rwanda.  The first week in Rwanda will be spent with UNICEF on a field visit getting to see first hand the amazing life changing work they are doing in the country.  I have been lucky enough to get to learn more about UNICEF through my dads involvement with the US Fund for UNICEF and have been so impressed by them and can't wait to see them in action.  I will write more when I get back and hopefully have some amazing photographs to share with you.

The next two weeks will be spent on a gorilla safari with Volcanoes Safaris in Rwanda and Uganda.  Gorillas are an extremely endangered and can only be found in the East African countries of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Those three countries have had extremely volatile pasts and are still experiencing violent conflict.  Properly conserving an animal in a western country is difficult enough, but conserving wildlife in a country torn by warfare is nearly impossible.  However there are motions being put in place including guards, sanctuaries and national wildlife areas.  I will talk much more about conservation efforts in East Africa to protect the great apes when I get back and have photos to share!

I am particularly excited about this trip because I get to experience both some time out in the jungle with wildlife and some time in the cities with the locals.  Many westerners try and separate conservation issues from humanitarian issues in Africa, but they are intrinsically linked.  I've talked about this many times before in my posts on conservation in third world countries- the only way to get conservation to truly work is to get the locals involved and passionate about it.  Poaching and human encroachment are the biggest threats to the great apes so one of the most important steps to their survival is education and stability in country.  If a new generation of children are raised having their most basic needs met and learning to be proud of protecting their countries natural resources the plight of the ape will soon decrease.

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