When I first visited Zambia's Luangwa Valley as a boy, it was still a stronghold for black rhinos. And then quite suddenly they were all gone. Just like that. Despite the efforts of conservation organisations to protect them, every last rhino in the Valley was killed. This had a huge impact on me. I realised that it was very possible that within my lifetime all the other magnificent animals that I took for granted could be wiped out. It motivated me to become involved in conservation and to play a role in protecting the wildlife that I saw every day.
As a young adult I signed up as an Honorary Wildlife Police Officer, the volunteer division of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) in Zambia and I am still a part of this organisation today. We support DNPW with law enforcement as well as logistical and fundraising services. The organisation continues to grow and we have had encouraging results in reducing poaching in many areas of the country.
Recently I have become more and more interested in conservation areas that are well off the beaten track. The small, relatively unknown and seemingly forgotten National Parks such as Lochinvar in the Kafue Flats where I have been working with WWF. These are the places where wildlife has been almost completely obliterated and there is no longer any income generated through tourism to support it. It is encouraging to see how resilient wildlife can be in these areas. For example, by providing basic protection for the Kafue Lechwe (an endangered species that is endemic to the Kafue Flats), their numbers are now slowly increasing.
Aside from my work in conservation, my photography helps to support it in two ways. The first is by raising awareness of the plight of our wildlife. I do this by providing imagery for a number of conservation organisations in Zambia and abroad, both of their actual work and of the wildlife they support. The other is by raising funds for conservation through the sales of books and prints. I feel strongly that a percentage of sales from my work must go back to protecting wildlife.
Wildlife all over the world is under threat like never before and every one of us needs to play a part in protecting it. If you are not able to donate funds to conservation organisations then get involved in any way you can. Even if it is simply sharing photographs and stories on social media or by signing petitions. The recent success in blocking the construction of a dam on the Luangwa River was because of the public outcry and the petition started by WWF Zambia. It seems that everywhere you turn these days there is a crisis and I think this often makes people feel hopeless. But there is still hope for our wildlife if we all fight for it.