I was taught from a young age that everyone can make a difference if they have the passion to pursue their dreams. At what age can we seriously dive into the pursuit of our crazy big dreams? One little girl decided she would not let her tender age hold her back from saving elephants and joined the fight against ivory poaching. Would you believe me if I told you she started at just 11 years old?
We were so fortunate to have Nellie come stay with us here at Camp Jabulani, for her very first trip to Africa. Nellie has been saving African elephants for the past 5 years of her life, without ever meeting one let alone seeing one! We had quite a surprise waiting for her at Camp Jabulani…
Due to Nellie’s father’s work, her family got the opportunity to travel and live in multiple countries. Nellie and her family were originally from Australia, but also moved to America for a few years and lived in Hong Kong for 7 years. In her time there, she not only became a huge advocate for saving elephants from the ivory trade, but also became fluent in Mandarin! Nellie realised her young age wasn’t hindering her from chasing her dreams, but could actually be used to reach out to more people. “More people were willing to listen to a child talking about these issues than an adult… I was actually able to get the message out to more people because of this!” exclaimed Nellie. Once her first few speeches were made, she gained more confidence to attack some of the biggest retailers of ivory in Hong Kong. She assembled a team of young elephant enthusiasts and marched to the doors of the retailers, holding vivid and gruesome posters of mutilated elephants from poaching incidents. The pictures not only caught the retailer’s eyes, but the eyes of their customers and the people passing by on the street as well. Even when they tried to shut her out and close the blinds, Nellie and her friends surprised everyone and began to chant in Mandarin! They could no longer ignore them and soon the 3 biggest retailers of ivory in Hong Kong were forced to close their gates! This was considered a huge victory for elephants everywhere.
After we heard Nellie’s amazing story, we wanted to make her time here at Camp Jabulani as special as it could be, just to say “thank you for saving the lives of countless elephants”.
The biggest moment for Nellie was seeing an African elephant for the first time. Not only did she get to see one up close and personal, but she got to know Sebakwe, Jabulani and Mambo all personally while giving them a few pellets and hugs in between of course! She got to see her new friends join the rest of the herd at elephant swim, frolicking and playing with one another in the water. I was lucky enough to join Nellie and her family on the tracking of the Camp Jabulani herd in the bush. As we observed the elephants browsing amongst the bush, Nellie was full of questions about the research being done on our herd and the stories of how we saved each one. It was amazing to see someone so young with such a strong curiosity and passion for these animals.
I had to give Nellie and her family the true research experience by handing them each a glove and making them pick up fresh elephant poop of course!
As their time here with us came to an end, I asked Nellie if her time here had inspired a career path for her to follow. Would she continue to save elephants? To my surprise and excitement, Nellie said she was actually thinking about possibly becoming a local dung beetle herself! Who knew making someone stick their hands in poop might encourage them to pursue the crazy (and sometimes gross) life of an elephant researcher?
We were so happy to have you and your family here with us Nellie and we hope to see you back at Camp Jabulani soon!