A Wildlife Park is Reborn

DSC_1555We’re near the end of a two-hour layover in Paris on February 27 before flying on to Nairobi. Looking out the window is a Kenya Airways jet that we’ll board for the final destination of our journey to Maasai land. The flight crew arrives, the wheels on their compact luggage humming along the marble tiled floor. They greet the attendants at the boarding counter before disappearing into the tunnel.

With the exception of one of the three attendants at the check-in counter, the rest of the crew—from the pilot, co-pilot to the flight attendants—they are all Africans. The last time I was a passenger on an airline with a Black crew was in 1999 when flying to Ghana.

The brothers and sisters are in charge and this is such a sweet gift to witness this Black History Month of  2015!

Unlike many travelers who have no problem sleeping on a jet plane, I cannot! And like many airlines, Kenya Airways has a signature magazine tucked in the pouch of the back seat: MSAFIRI. So…with a long flight ahead I open the magazine, hoping it’ll help me fall asleep. The February 2015 edition features Angelina Jolie on the cover with an article inside about her ambassadorial efforts around the world. Kudos to Ms Jolie on this post written this Women’s History Month of March 2015. Her admirable tasks are happening in many places around the globe and she’s on my list of heroines.

A second article about Meru National Park, a tourist and conservation area 216 miles north of Nairobi catches my interest. Fundraising and awareness are helping this park come back to again become “…a jewel of Kenya’s tourism”. During the 70s and 80s poaching affected 90% of the lions and elephants. Rhinos were gone. Diseases hit the remaining wildlife and the park’s infrastructure “collapsed”.

Since 2000 several companies and organizations are helping the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) bring this park back to its previous status: Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), International Fund for Animal Welfare (FAW), and the Born Free Foundation.

The Born Free Foundation was co-founded in 1984 by the two actors in the 1966 Oscar winning film of the same name: Virginia McKenna who played Joy Adamson and Bill Travers who played George Adamson eventually married each other. Now their son Will leads the charity. In 2013 Land Rover came on board as a partner to the Foundation. The Land Rovers were prominent in the film and are now used to reach wildlife in remote areas of the park.

Small red envelopes with the words CHANGE BRINGS CHANGE are tucked in the back seat pouches, encouraging passengers to deposit coins or bills that are then handed over to a cabin crew member.

It pains me to realize that at  wildlife parks in Africa, elephant tusks and rhino horns are two items aggressively taken from these animals after poachers kill them.  The partners involved with the Born Free Foundation are doing their best to protect these beautiful beasts from landing on an extinct species list, as well as returning other wildlife and reinvigorating the 10,000 plus acres of Forest in the Meru National Park.


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