Earlier this month I finished a book about one man’s quest to help protect the northern white rhino. It was called “The Last Rhinos” by Lawrence Anthony and at the very end of the book, something happened to me that doesn’t occur very often. I cried. I had listened to his previous book, “The Elephant Whisperer” and had so much respect for this adventurer and conservationist. But at the end of “The Last Rhinos”, his co-author, Graham Spence, shared with listeners how he learned of Lawrence’s death. I had completely forgotten that this great hero of conservation had passed on. From his stories, I came to think of Lawrence Anthony as the Indiana Jones of Conservation. And upon hearing of Lawrence’s death again, I truly felt it.
His first book was one that I listened to on my way to and from Whidbey Island, called “Babylon’s Ark”, which is about Lawrence’s experience at the Baghdad Zoo right after the fall of Baghdad during the Iraq war. The zoo was in shambles and Lawrence went over to help put it back together, and do everything to help the animals. His account of how animals are often voiceless victims of war was touching and heart-breaking, but he was eloquent in providing hope for the listener as well. He saved the several carnivores, including bears, lions, and tigers, helped shut down a horrifying zoo that supported the black market, and brought the zoo back from the ashes to have it open again to the Iraqi people.
Risking his life on several occasions with his stories, I was truly inspired. I know I’ll never own a game reserve in Africa to provide sanctuary to some of the earth’s most endangered animals. I won’t be a world traveler that swoops in to war-stricken areas to save the animals. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be a conservation heroine. I have hopes, and I believe, just as Lawrence Anthony did, that as long as there are people who care, there will always be hope. Extinction means forever, but endangered means we still have time to make a difference.
I am proud that I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most incredible animals on the planet. I’m most proud that I have had an opportunity to share the plight these animals face in their natural environment. Every person counts. Our actions can have a direct impact, if we make our actions count.
I may not live like Indiana Jones, but I can be inspired by those that do, and can share their stories.