Raabia Hawa’s love affair with wildlife

Raabia Hawa posing for the camera.

An interview with Raabia Hawa, a well-known “Kenyan Radio presenter with a passion for people and wildlife, people for wildlife, and wildlife for the people”.

Hi Raabia. Thanks for taking the time to contribute to AfricaFreak. It’s a real honour to have you, and I’m sure our readers out there will be delighted with your story! 🙂

– For people who aren’t familiar with who you are, please tell us a little about your background? I hear you’ve travelled quite a bit when you were younger, correct? Whereabouts in South Africa were you based (I used to live in Joburg)?

My father used to work in the airline industry hence we kept moving around. I have grown up in Ethiopia, Botswana, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and even in Saudi Arabia, but we always had a home base in Kenya.

– If you had to describe yourself in a few words, what would they be?

I am really useless at describing myself! However, what people describe me as and which I resonate with, is a young lady passionate about wildlife and conservation.

Recognize the paw print? Raabia and…? 😉

– When did you first fall in love with African wildlife? Is it something you were born with? Let me guess: you “fell into the magic potion when you were a little girl, like Obelix”? 🙂

In her element.

LOL! Actually I don’t think love has a timeline… It just exists, with no beginning and no end, but only if it is pure and true. So I suppose I have been in a love affair with wildlife since I can remember, and will never fall out of it!

– Among other things, you are a KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) honorary warden. Tell us a bit more about what this role consists of?

Being a KWS Honorary Warden comes with responsibilities and duties. It is a ministerial appointment and you have to apply and really prove yourself. I worked hard to be appointed, it doesn’t come with a pay package, but it does come with the benefit of being able to work closer with the authorities on wildlife and wildlife crime issues, and for me, this was very important as I get a lot of information given my media background.

– Imagine this for a moment: tomorrow I wake up (I, as in Michaël Theys), and out of thin air I have been transformed into a beautiful young Kenyan lady called Raabia Hawa (hard to believe I know, but let’s be creative for once, shall we? ;-)).

What would be expected of me (as Raabia) on that day? In other words, take us through your heavy schedule. After all, one of your goals is to become an MP, so I’m sure your agenda must be pretty busy! 🙂

I have put the political aspirations aside for the moment as I continue to focus on my duties as an Honorary Warden. It is a three year appointment so I really must make the most of it and achieve as much as possible so my renewal is considered! However, a typical day would be in two scenarios – city and bush.

When in the bush, usually on volunteer basis, I’m up at dawn and join a team on desnaring operations. We walk all day and only stop at midday because it really does burn up. We rest for about half an hour or so and then continue on foot patrols and remove any wire snares we see, and also destroy any charcoal kilns we come across.

“Pastor J” disabling another snare.

Sometimes we come across poachers, then we have to book them.

When in the city- a typical day would be meetings discussing concerns in conservation- I tend to network A LOT, and sometimes I do presentations at schools to raise awareness among our youth on poaching. I liaise with people on the field, understand their concerns and try to assist where I can.

Samburu Schoolkids.

Once in a while I go back to my first cause – stamping out plastic bags nationwide, and try to see if any contacts will be useful there. It’s a tough nut to crack, on my own, however I am certain the day will come when Kenya is a much greener city! 🙂

– In a recent talk (at the Global Issues Services Summit), you mention some alarming statistics. For instance, at least 10 000 elephants were lost in Tanzania alone in 2012 (though 30 000 losses is probably closer to the truth). What is the future of African wildlife conservation in your opinion? Is there anything we can do to help?

Yes- if you are in Africa, urge your government to follow the recent advice of Zimbabwe’s Deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara, Africa needs to start dictating its own terms to China- if it is an absolute must to have their loans and aid. The Far East is the root demand for ivory- which makes this a root cause of poaching.

If you have friends in the Far East, urge them not to buy ivory. Every little gesture helps! In the meantime, we continue to support anti-poaching ops on the field, if you can donate, in cash or kind, for rangers, their families, and for the necessary equipment, you will be a part of a solution.

Raabia keeps an elephant’s airway open as KWS is treating it for a poison spear wound.

– Your “Walk for Wildlife” initiative will be taking place on 24th June 2013. What’s the main objective of this walk? Will you be walking alone, or can anyone join the cause?

The walk’s main aim is to bring people together and raise awareness on poaching. However, I have just registered a small charity, George’s Legacy Fund, which will be the portal to raise funds for 3 critical projects:

− The first mobile veterinary unit in Tanzania

− At least 10 predator-proof bomas to avert human wildlife conflict

− The Coastal lions of Kenya census and behavioural study

– You recently left your job on radio, and will most likely also quit your role on TV. What are the reasons behind this, and was it a hard decision to take?

This is actually my final week! The thing with media is it really sucks you in. It reaches a point of ‘no return’ because it really is that much fun, and a wonderful way to meet people. However, in knowing my calling and purpose, I knew I had to get out before it got too late so that I can fulfil my duties and play a greater and more meaningful role in conservation.

Show time! 🙂

– If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for? 😉

…Considering I’m leaving my job- a steady salary! LOL!

Dreaming a better world…?

On a serious note though: self-sustenance for everyone! If we learn how to live on our own without relying on supermarkets and mega-businesses, we will have all we need, and a little extra. We can grow our own food and not worry about pesticides and GMOs. We can live sustainably and then be part of greater harmony with other living beings. No pollution even! It would truly be, a wonderful world.

– Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with the world? How can wildlife lovers get involved (voluntary work, donations, etc.)? Feel free to mention any websites, social media links or projects that you are involved in…

Hugging trees…and doing so much more! 🙂

For those who would like to volunteer in Kenya, I would recommend the Colobus Trust, Local Ocean Trust, Wildlife Works, Care For The Wild Kenya, and Eseriani Wildlife Association.

For those who would like to donate- I would really appreciate the support of my projects via George’s Legacy Fund, especially the mobile veterinary unit, I cannot stress how important it is. With the current trend of poaching in Tanzania, there are a lot of injured elephants, unfortunately due to lack of medical facilities in the region, they are put down. The mobile veterinary units will change this, and will save lives.

To donate for the mobile veterinary unit please use PayPal to [email protected] (Nabil Majid Hawa is a trustee of George’s Legacy Fund), or email me for further details. I just registered the charity and we have no funds for a website or anything yet, so if you would like to make a separate donation for that, it would be great!

A huge thank you Raabia, you are a star! 😉

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