Smile for the Camera!

How I got into Conservation?

Written by: Simon Palmer | Posted on: | Category:

Well, that’s a challenging question. There isn’t an easy route in. Sometimes it happens through sheer dumb luck (Harry Potter reference!!). That would be my route. To actually work in conservation, you would need to have demonstrable qualifications in the applicable field you want to get in too. Something I regret as I was never academically good and so never went to university, or college! But that is only one route, and the easiest by far (Yes, I know, it really isn't that easy!!).

Let me step back, and tell you how I ended up getting involved. This may give you some ideas.

In 2011, I was married, and my partner and I decided to have a late honeymoon safari. It actually coincided with a request my wife got from one of her horse contacts (she’s a Chartered Physiotherapist). Someone in Namibia was after some help with their horses, and was offering a no pay, but stay deal. It happened to be at Okonjima, the home of AfriCat. Sue and I built a weeks worth of work into our honeymoon. She would sort their horses, and I would enjoy the location and get some good stock images in the process. Sue got kicked in the face by a horse. It was a very sobering experience for all involved. There was no warning that the horse was going to do that, and if it hadn't been for Sue's lighting instincts it would have ended up far far worse! Luckily, it was only stitches and a late night trip to the nearest hospital (about two hours away). When we got back, the owner of the horses said that Sue shouldn’t work with them anymore as they feared a worse outcome as we all did! I sat down with the AfriCat team, and said that they should feel that they could use my photography skills to get what ever they needed so that it could help them out!

The rest, as they say, is history. I ended up spending a week taking portraits of big cats in the wild for people who had sponsored the animals. Anything and everything they wanted, I would try to take pictures off. They would get my images as a thank you for donating to AfriCat.

When we left there. I left a bit of my heart at AfriCat. They are truly wonderful people with tenacity, focus, drive, boundless energy, and the desire to do the right thing by nature. Couple that with the stunning location of Okonjima, and it would be a paradise for a photographer. I resolved to help as much as I could, and when I returned home, I started a dialogue with Donna and her team, and ended up going out each year, paying my way, to cover the annual health checks. They spoilt me rotten in the process. I have no misconceptions about that! I got a whole heap of experience, and also made some wonderful contacts around the world.


Donate to AfriCat:

  1. UK Donations
  2. US Donations 3 Rest of the World Donations

If you are thinking "How can I get in to Conservation?" and like me don't have conservation qualifications here are my thoughts:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask, and have people say no.
  2. Weigh up what you have to “give” against your goals.
  3. Be open to any opportunity, even if it's not in the direction you want. It’s experience, and you never know where it may take you (I can vouch for that).
  4. Be honest with yourself, and those you talk to.
  5. Set expectations for what you can do/achieve, and make sure that if you give a lot, you do get something back. Even if it is a good selection of images that will help you in the future.
  6. Photography skills have a real value.
  7. Always be clear that anything you provide is still yours. Never give away your copyright/moral rights for your images. No matter what, that should cost the other party money. You can always give a charity the right to sell the images if you wish so they can generate money for the cause.

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