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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

Running Wild — from Tanzania to DC

Published 05/01/09
By Maggie Graham, Program Assistant

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be one of three things: a farmer, a veterinarian, or an African anti-poaching agent (or an African anti-poaching agent with a veterinary license who farms). I would watch nature shows on the African savannah and fantasize about being there.

At about age ten, I read Richard Leakey’s book Wildlife Wars, and learned all about the devastating ivory trade — about the poaching in the 1980s that had decimated elephant populations across Africa. From 1.3 million animals to less than half that number. Unconscionable.

I also viewed the film Born Free around this time, and after pulling on my mother’s shirt for two weeks to ship me to Africa so I could go find Elsa, my resolve to help save African wildlife was forever solidified.

I finally got my chance to live in Africa six years ago, when I enrolled in a semester-long course in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation in Tanzania. I visited several of the national parks including Tarangire, Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, and Serengeti, and studied several amazing species in their natural habitat. There is no film, picture book, or documentary that approaches the amazement I felt when I saw the animals roaming free there. Lion prides resting under acacia trees; hippos basking in their mud ponds; and elephants swaggering through the bush with an occasional calf trailing under mom. I remember lying awake in my tent at night and hearing zebra on the other side of the canvass, snorting and hoofing the ground to get nibbles of grass. Surely this was nothing more than the greatest dream ever. But is was so very real.

Tanzania showed me what balance in nature looks like — what freedom truly is.

Africa has never left me, even though I had to leave Africa. The idyllic image of animals in their natural place has not left me. The people there who care so deeply for them have not left me. I can’t imagine how anyone who has seen wildlife free, wildlife in the wild, whether personally or through TV or Internet or books, could visit a zoo or circus.

I can’t get back to Africa right now. Not everyone is so lucky to make that trip. But I can act on my dedication to African wildlife. I do that every day as a new part of the Born Free family, working out of the DC office.

And I’m also going to put my passion for wildlife and wild places into action by running for Born Free USA. Every dollar makes a difference. Wildlife belongs in the wild, and I’m proud to be a part of the movement to keep wild animals free.

Blogging off,


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